Sometimes we like the grand scope of history, the patterns and trends that show up in history class and make things look as though there's some great plan or at least a reasonable pattern in the things people do. Sometimes, though, it's enjoyable to look at very specific bits and pieces of the great kaleidoscope of history. You get a new perspective this way, and see things that don't come up in most history books or classes.
From the delicate and difficult specialty of chefs to a delivery device for weird combinations of cottage cheese and canned goods, gelatin has come a long way. The story is presented in this book with wit and lots of pictures,
This book has a central point about how economics and history mix and mesh, and illustrates it with deep examination of some things you thought you knew -- but you were wrong. Me, too.
See the full review, "A book to open your mind".
You might not immediately think of this book as a history, but it looks at occasions in recent history when design flaws had extremely serious consequences, so it gives a view of how technical design affects our history. You'll see the world differently after reading it.
Human waste isn't a pleasant dinner table topic, but you'll be tempted to share what you learn from this book -- from the marketing miracle that made Japan the world leader in futuristic toilets to South Africa's sanitation crisis, Rose George tells all the most interesting and important things about this basic human issue.
There was a time when travel meant finding new and surprising regional candies. What happened, why, and what difference does it make? This book tells you, along with evocative descriptions of the manufacturing, marketing, and enjoyment of candy bars of all kinds.
The author travels to meet interesting people and relive the amazingly emotional controversies over the way we spell words -- in the U.S. and in Britain.
See the full review, "A history of spelling. Really.".
The story of how we went from cooking ordinary plants and animals to a diet made up largely of chemical derived from corn and palm is a fascinating one, with insights into the role of women and how technology leads to unintended consequences.
Finish up with a history of the future: what the visionaries of the 20th century thought the 21st century would bring, and how completely wrong they were. The really interesting question may be why they were so wrong, and this book offers some penetrating insights into that question.
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