Microhistory focuses on a single specific place, person, or event, and uses that to explore larger historical themes. Try these microhistories out!
Updated September 19, 2022
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Salt : a world history
Kurlansky, Mark.
Homer called salt a divine substance. Plato described it as especially dear to the gods. Today we take salt for granted, a common, inexpensive substance that seasons food or clears ice from roads, a word used casually in expressions ("salt of the earth," take it with a grain of salt") without...
The emperor of all maladies : a biography of cancer
Mukherjee, Siddhartha.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a documentary from Ken Burns on PBS, this New York Times bestseller is "an extraordinary achievement" (The New Yorker)--a magnificent, profoundly humane "biography" of cancer--from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the...
Cod : a biography of the fish that changed the world
Kurlansky, Mark.
The codfish. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been spurred by it, national diets have been based on it, economies and livelihoods have depended on it, and the settlement of North America was driven by it. To the millions it has sustained, it has been a treasure more precious than...
A history of the world in 6 glasses
Standage, Tom.
New York Times Bestseller * Soon to be a TV series starring Dan Aykroyd "There aren't many books this entertaining that also provide a cogent crash course in ancient, classical and modern history." -Los Angeles Times Beer, wine, spirits...
Consider the fork : a history of how we cook and eat
Wilson, Bee.
Award-winning food writer Bee Wilson's secret history of kitchens, showing how new technologies - from the fork to the microwave and beyond - have fundamentally shaped how and what we eat. Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw...
Empire of cotton : a global history
Beckert, Sven.
WINNER OF THE BANCROFT PRIZE * A Pulitzer Prize finalist that's as unsettling as it is enlightening: a book that brilliantly weaves together the story of cotton with how the present global world came to exist. "Masterly ... An astonishing achievement." --The New York...
Paper paging through history
Kurlansky, Mark
A New York Times Bestselling AuthorTracing paper's evolution from antiquity to the present, the bestselling author of Cod and Salt challenges common assumptions about technology's influence, affirming that paper is here to stay. Paper will be the commodity history that guides us forward and...
Coal : a human history
Freese, Barbara.
Prized as "the best stone in Britain" by Roman invaders who carved jewelry out of it, coal has transformed societies, powered navies, fueled economies, and expanded frontiers. It made China a twelfth-century superpower, inspired the writing of the Communist Manifesto, and helped the northern...
Banana : the fate of the fruit that changed the world
Koeppel, Dan.
Growing out of a Popular Science feature article, this work combines a pop-science journey around the globe with a fascinating tale of an iconic American business enterprise that takes readers into the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes.
The dirt on clean : an unsanitized history
Ashenburg, Katherine.
The question of cleanliness is one every age and culture has answered with confidence. For the first-century Roman, being clean meant a two-hour soak in baths of various temperatures, scraping the body with a miniature rake, and a final application of oil. For the aristocratic Frenchman in the...
The immortal game : a history of chess & its consequences
Shenk, David
Why has one game, alone among the thousands of games invented and played throughout human history, not only survived but thrived within every culture it has touched? What is it about its thirty-two figurative pieces, moving about its sixty-four black and white squares according to very simple rules,...
Rain : a natural and cultural history
Barnett, Cynthia
Rain is elemental, mysterious, precious, destructive.   It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of the world's water. Yet this is the first book to tell the story of rain. Cynthia Barnett's Rain <...
Land : how the hunger for ownership shaped the modern world
Winchester, Simon
"In many ways, Land combines bits and pieces of many of Winchester's previous books into a satisfying, globe-trotting whole. . . . Winchester is, once again, a consummate guide."--Boston Globe The author of The Professor and the Madman, The Map That Changed the World, and ...
The mosquito : a human history of our deadliest predator
Winegard, Timothy C.
**The instant New York Times bestseller.** *An international bestseller.* "Hugely impressive, a major work."--NPR A pioneering and groundbreaking work of narrative nonfiction that offers a dramatic new perspective on the history of humankind, showing...
Nine pints : a journey through the money, medicine, and mysteries of blood
George, Rose
An eye-opening exploration of blood, the lifegiving substance with the power of taboo, the value of diamonds and the promise of breakthrough science Blood carries life, yet the sight of it makes people faint. It is a waste product and a commodity pricier than oil. It can save...
Stoned : jewelry, obsession, and how desire shapes the world
Raden, Aja
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER As entertaining as it is incisive, Stoned is a raucous journey through the history of human desire for what is rare, and therefore precious. What makes a stone a jewel? What makes a jewel priceless? And why do we covet beautiful things? In this brilliant...
White bread a social history of the store-bought loaf
Bobrow-Strain, Aaron
The story of how white bread became white trash, this social history shows how our relationship with the love-it-or-hate-it food staple reflects our country's changing values In the early twentieth century, the factory-baked loaf heralded a bright new future, a world away from...
Butter : a rich history
Khosrova, Elaine
"Edifying from every point of view--historical, cultural, and culinary." --David Tanis, author of A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes   It's a culinary catalyst, an agent of change, a gastronomic rock star. Ubiquitous in the world's most fabulous...
Sugar : a bittersweet history
Abbott, Elizabeth
The book explores the hidden stories behind this sweet product, revealing how powerful American interests deposed Queen Lili¹uokalani of Hawaii, how Hitler tried to ensure a steady supply of beet sugar when enemies threatened to cut off Germany¹s supply of overseas cane sugar, and how South...
Tea: The Drink that Changed the World
Laura C. Martin
This book is a fascinating history of tea and the spreading of tea throughout the world. Camellia sinensis, commonly known as tea, is grown in tea gardens and estates around the world. A simple beverage, served either hot or iced, tea has fascinated and driven us,...
Crude : the story of oil
Shah, Sonia.
Crude is the unexpurgated story of oil, from the circumstances of its birth millions of years ago to the spectacle of its rise as the indispensable ingredient of modern life. In addition to fueling our SUVs and illuminating our cities, crude oil and its byproducts fertilize our produce, pave our...
Drunk : how we sipped, danced, and stumbled our way to civilization
Slingerland, Edward G.
An "entertaining and enlightening" deep dive into the alcohol-soaked origins of civilization--and the evolutionary roots of humanity's appetite for intoxication (Daniel E. Lieberman, author of Exercised). While plenty of entertaining books have been written about the history...
Candy : a century of panic and pleasure
Kawash, Samira
For most Americans, candy is an uneasy pleasure, eaten with side helpings of guilt and worry. Yet candy accounts for only 6 percent of the added sugar in the American diet. And at least it's honest about what it is--a processed food, eaten for pleasure, with no particular nutritional benefit. So...
"A book that draws us in to the strange beauty of what we so often run away from." -- Robin Ince, author of The Importance of Being Interested In this eye-opening and entertaining work of popular science in the spirit of The Mosquito, Entangled Life, and The Book of Eels, a...
Ten tomatoes that changed the world : a history
Alexander, William
New York Times bestselling author William Alexander provides "an entertaining, broad-ranging history of the tomato" (Mark Pendergrast) in this fascinating and erudite microhistory. The tomato gets no respect. Never has. Lost in the dustbin of history for...

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