Microhistories

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
Mark Kurlansky
"Kurlansky finds the world in a grain of salt." - New York Times Book Review An unlikely world history from the bestselling author of Cod and The Basque History of the World Best-selling author Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common...
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
Siddhartha Mukherjee
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, adapted as 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. Physician, researcher, and award-winning science...
Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox
Victoria Finlay
In this vivid and captivating journey through the colors of an artist's palette, Victoria Finlay takes us on an enthralling adventure around the world and through the ages, illuminating how the colors we choose to value have determined the history of culture itself. How did the most...
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat
Bee Wilson
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
Sven Beckert
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR WINNER OF THE BANCROFT PRIZE PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST The epic story of the rise and fall of the empire of cotton, its centrality to the world economy, and its making and remaking of global...
Paper: Paging Through History
Mark Kurlansky
From the New York Times best-selling author of Cod and Salt, a definitive history of paper and the astonishing ways it has shaped today's world. Paper is one of the simplest and most essential pieces of human technology. For the past two millennia, the ability to...
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History
Cynthia Barnett
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 <...
The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History
Kassia St Clair
From colorful 30,000-year-old threads found on the floor of a Georgian cave to the Indian calicoes that sparked the Industrial Revolution, The Golden Thread weaves an illuminating story of human ingenuity. Design journalist Kassia St. Clair guides us through the technological advancements and...
Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World
Simon Winchester
"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
Timothy C Winegard
**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
Rose George
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
Aja Raden
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...
Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World
Catherine E. McKinley
For almost five millennia, in every culture and in every major religion, indigo-a blue pigment obtained from the small green leaf of a parasitic shrub through a complex process that even scientists still regard as mysterious-has been at the center of turbulent human encounters. ...
White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf
Aaron Bobrow-Strain
How did white bread, once an icon of American progress, become "white trash"? In this lively history of bakers, dietary crusaders, and social reformers, Aaron Bobrow-Strain shows us that what we think about the humble, puffy loaf says a lot about who we are and what we want our society to look like....
Butter: A Rich History
Elaine Khosrova
"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...
Face Paint: The Story of Makeup
Lisa Eldridge
The "exquisite and richly illustrated" New York Times bestseller from the renowned makeup artist, "a retrospective written for all women, everywhere" (Vogue France).Makeup, as we know it, has only been commercially available in the last 100 years, but applying decoration to...
The Age of Wood: Our Most Useful Material and the Construction of Civilization
Roland Ennos
A groundbreaking examination of the role that wood and trees have played in our global ecosystem--including human evolution and the rise and fall of empires--in the bestselling tradition of Yuval Harari's Sapiens and Mark Kurlansky's Salt. As the dominant species on...
Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization
Edward Slingerland
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...
About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks
David Rooney
For thousands of years, people of all cultures have made and used clocks, from the city sundials of ancient Rome to the medieval water clocks of imperial China, hourglasses fomenting revolution in the Middle Ages, the Stock Exchange clock of Amsterdam in 1611, Enlightenment observatories in India...
Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure
Samira Kawash
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...
Plucked: A History of Hair Removal (Biopolitics)
Rebecca M. Herzig
Uncovers the history of hair removal practices and sheds light on the prolific culture of beauty From the clamshell razors and homemade lye depilatories used in colonial America to the diode lasers and prescription pharmaceuticals available today, Americans have used a staggering...
Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall
Alexandra Lange
Longlisted for the Porchlight Business Book Awards "A smart and accessible cultural history."-Los Angeles Times "A fantastic examination of what became the mall ... envision[ing] a more meaningful public afterlife for our shopping centers."-...
The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration
Sarah Everts
Sweating may be one of our weirdest biological functions, but it's also one of our most vital and least understood. In The Joy of Sweat, Sarah Everts delves into its role in the body--and in human history. Why is sweat salty? Why do we sweat when stressed? Why do some people produce...
Endless Forms: The Secret World of Wasps
Seirian Sumner
"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
William Alexander
A WASHINGTON STATE BOOK AWARD FINALIST  New York Times bestselling author William Alexander provides "an entertaining, broad-ranging history of the tomato" (Mark Pendergrast) in this fascinating and erudite microhistory. ...

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