A Different Sort of History Lesson

history lesson

Want something a little different from your typical history book? Check out one of these titles!
A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell

Goodreads Summary:

In today’s 24-hour consumer society, it is easy to get what we desire to eat. But do we know where these everyday recipes came from, who invented them, and using what techniques? This book provides a colourful and entertaining journey through the history of cuisine, celebrating the world’s greatest dishes.

musicHistory of Music in 50 Instruments by Philip Wilkinson

Summary:

The 400-year story of music told by the instruments that make an orchestra.

The History of Music in 50 Instruments outlines musical history in well-written nuggets of information. Profiling one instrument at a time, it describes the history of music since the 1700s, when orchestras first took the formal shape familiar to us. The concise text explains the role of each instrument in the orchestra and its importance in the development of music in general.

The book lists the 50 instruments chronologically in the woodwind, brass, percussion and string sections of an orchestra. The classic instruments are included — violin, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet, harp and more. Some instruments reflect the musical period or context in which they were most popular, such as the harpsichord in the Baroque period, and the snare drum in military parades. Among the unusual instruments is the otherworldly theremin.

A wide range of modern and archival photographs and paintings show the instruments. Entries outline their historical and country origins and the era in which they were played (e.g. Classical, Modern). Annotated illustrations explain the instrument’s construction, how it is played and tuned, and its musical range. Composers, musical compositions and musicians that highlight the particular instrument are examined. For example, Baroque composer Antonio Vivalidi’s contribution to the violin; inventor Adolphe Sax’s tenacious promotion of his saxophone in the 1840s; and 20th century pianist Glenn Gould’s controversial recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

History of New York in 101 Objects by Sam Roberts

Goodreads Summary:

The vibrant story of America’s great metropolis, told through 101 distinctive objects that span the history of New York, all reproduced in luscious, full color. Unique, sometimes whimsical, always important, A History of New York in 101 Objects is a beautiful chronicle of the remarkable history of the Big Apple that will enrich your mind and rekindle memories.

History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor

Goodreads Summary:

When did people first start to wear jewelry or play music? When were cows domesticated and why do we feed their milk to our children? Where were the first cities and what made them succeed? Who invented math-or came up with money?

The history of humanity is a history of invention and innovation, as we have continually created new items to use, to admire, or to leave our mark on the world. In this original and thought-provoking book, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, has selected one hundred man-made artifacts, each of which gives us an intimate glimpse of an unexpected turning point in human civilization. A History of the World in 100 Objects stretches back two million years and covers the globe. From the very first hand axe to the ubiquitous credit card, each item has a story to tell; together they relate the larger history of mankind-revealing who we are by looking at what we have made.

History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus

Goodreads Summary:

Unlike all previous versions of rock ’n’ roll history, this book omits almost every iconic performer and ignores the storied events and turning points that everyone knows. Instead, in a daring stroke, Greil Marcus selects ten songs recorded between 1956 and 2008, then proceeds to dramatize how each embodies rock ’n’ roll as a thing in itself, in the story it tells, inhabits, and acts out—a new language, something new under the sun.

“Transmission” by Joy Division. “All I Could Do Was Cry” by Etta James and then Beyoncé. “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” first by the Teddy Bears and almost half a century later by Amy Winehouse. In Marcus’s hands these and other songs tell the story of the music, which is, at bottom, the story of the desire for freedom in all its unruly and liberating glory. Slipping the constraints of chronology, Marcus braids together past and present, holding up to the light the ways that these striking songs fall through time and circumstance, gaining momentum and meaning, astonishing us by upending our presumptions and prejudices.

A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton

Goodreads Summary:

A fascinating look at twelve maps—from Ancient Greece to Google Earth—and how they changed our world

In this masterful study, historian and cartography expert Jerry Brotton explores a dozen of history’s most influential maps, from stone tablet to vibrant computer screen. Starting with Ptolemy, �father of modern geography,” and ending with satellite cartography, A History of the World in 12 Maps brings maps from classical Greece, Renaissance Europe, and the Islamic and Buddhist worlds to life and reveals their influence on how we—literally—look at our present world.

As Brotton shows, the long road to our present geographical reality was rife with controversy, manipulation, and special interests trumping science. Through the centuries maps have been wielded to promote any number of imperial, religious, and economic agendas, and have represented the idiosyncratic and uneasy fusion of science and subjectivity. Brotton also conjures the worlds that produced these notable works of cartography and tells the stories of those who created, used, and misused them for their own ends.

grizzlyA Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History by Tim Grove

Goodreads Summary:

For more than twenty years, Tim Grove has worked at the most popular history museums in the United States, helping millions of people get acquainted with the past. This book translates that experience into an insider’s tour of some of the most interesting moments in American history. Grove’s stories are populated with well-known historical figures such as John Brown, Charles Lindbergh, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacagawea—as well as the not-so-famous. Have you heard of Mary Pickersgill, seamstress of the Star-Spangled Banner flag? Grove also has something to say about a few of our cherished myths, for instance, the lore surrounding Betsy Ross and Eli Whitney.
Grove takes readers to historic sites such as Harpers Ferry, Fort McHenry, the Ulm Pishkun buffalo jump, and the Lemhi Pass on the Lewis and Clark Trail and traverses time and space from eighteenth-century Williamsburg to the twenty-first-century Kennedy Space Center. En route from Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic to Cape Disappointment on the Pacific, we learn about planting a cotton patch on the National Mall, riding a high wheel bicycle, flying the transcontinental airmail route, and harnessing a mule. Is history relevant? This book answers with a resounding yes and, in the most entertaining fashion, shows us why.

civilSmithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection by the Smithsonian Institute

Goodreads Summary:

Smithsonian Civil War is a lavishly illustrated coffee-table book featuring 150 entries in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  From among tens of thousands of Civil War objects in the Smithsonian’s collections, curators handpicked 550 items and wrote a unique narrative that begins before the war through the Reconstruction period.  Smithsonian Civil War combines one-of-a-kind, famous, and previously unseen relics from the war in a truly unique narrative.

Smithsonian Civil War takes the reader inside the great collection of Americana housed at twelve national museums and archives and brings historical gems to light. From the National Portrait Gallery come rare early photographs of Stonewall Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant; from the National Museum of American History, secret messages that remained hidden inside Lincoln’s gold watch for nearly 150 years; from the National Air and Space Museum, futuristic Civil War-era aircraft designs. Thousands of items were evaluated before those of greatest value and significance were selected for inclusion here. Artfully arranged in 150 entries, they offer a unique, panoramic view of the Civil War.

timeThe Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

Goodreads Summary:

From the author of The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England, this popular history explores daily life in Queen Elizabeth’s England, taking us inside the homes and minds of ordinary citizens as well as luminaries of the period, including Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Francis Drake.

Organized as a travel guide for the time-hopping tourist, Mortimer relates in delightful (and occasionally disturbing) detail everything from the sounds and smells of sixteenth-century England to the complex and contradictory Elizabethan attitudes toward violence, class, sex, and religion.

Original enough to interest those with previous knowledge of Elizabethan England and accessible enough to entertain those without, The Time Traveler’s Guide is a book for Elizabethan enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

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