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Micro-Histories
January 23, 2011 - 7:00pm

The micro-history that started it all was Mark Kurlansky's 1998 Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World.

From Cod, I was hooked. My brain understands the world best through a narrow lens.

If a micro-history is released as an audiobook (unfortunately not always a sure bet), then I'm a reliable consumer.
Great Audio Micro-Histories That I Loved:

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg

Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent by John Reader

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

Salt: A World History and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell - both by Mark Kurlanksy

Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock That Shaped the World by Tom Zoellner

E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis

The Immortal Game: A History of Chess by David Shenk

Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese

A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable John Steele Gordon

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife

The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History by Jason Vuic

The Hamburger: A History Josh Ozersky

The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread by Maria Balinska

The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness by Steven Levy

Micro-Histories Not On Audio That I Will Not Read (But Want To):

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel

Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan

Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner

Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization by Iain Gately

Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber by Stephen Yafa

Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty by Robert D. Friedel

Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, and Pyrotechnics : The History of the Explosive That Changed the World by Jack Kelly

One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw by Witold Rybczynski

The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee by Stewart Lee Allen

Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird by Andrew Blechman

Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug by Diarmuid Jeffreys

The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski

The Toothpick: Technology and Culture by Henry Petroski

Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum

Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire by Roy Moxham

Beans: A History by Ken Albala

The Story of Corn by Betty Fussell

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast

The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History by Katherine Ashenburg

Glass:: From The First Mirror To Fiber Optics, The Story Of The Substance That Changed The World by William S. Ellis

Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World's Favorite Flavor and Fragrance by Patricia Rain

Looking at this list, I'm amazed at how many books I'm denied due to a lack of audio format. Marshall McLuhan is of course correct, the medium is the message.

What books would you add to this list?

What are your favorite micro-histories?

What are you reading?

 

 

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