Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Weird book fad.

Lately there has been an odd fad going on in the history section at bookstores. It started with histories of inanimate objects. Tea: A History. Gold: A History. Coffee. Phosphorus. Salt. Stuff like that.

Now it's branching out into intangible concepts. I'd picked up Honor: A History earlier, but set it down only a couple chapters in to finish off the Vorkosigan Saga. Now I'm back to read it through, and it is fascinating. In the on-deck circle is Doubt: A History.

18 comments:

7.62x54r said...

This is weird. Look for my new book next year. "Bullshit, A History".

Robb Allen said...

Do they have a history of history?

triticale said...

An interview with the author of the book on how salt influenced history was one of the last things I ever listened to on "public" radio. When I checked the online library catalog for it, I found another book specifically on the role of salt in the American Civil War. The lack of it was one of the issues which doomed the Confederacy.

Anonymous said...

Ack! robb beat me to the punchline...

Dr. StrangeGun said...

I have the 13'th element. Extremely well written book, very interesting stuff.

Breda said...

In that genre, I've read Jewels: A Secret History and Color: A Natural History of the Palette, both by Victoria Finlay. I enjoyed them both.

comatus said...

And of course there's Hawking's "A New History of Tam."

Matt G said...

I kind of like 'em, when they're well-researched and well-written. The best ones are written in that familiar essay style.

Jay G said...

I'm still waiting for Procrastination: The History...

Billy Beck said...

Off my shelves recently: "The Devil's Details -- A History of Footnotes", Chuck Zerby, 2002.

GeorgeH said...

The first of them was "The Pencil" by Henry Petronski in 1992.

It is a great story of the development of technology.

It also punctures the pretensions of a lot of back to nature liberals by pointing out that Henry David Thoreau was an engineer, an engineer at his families pencil factory to be exact.

He was about the last 'intelectual' as the term is used today with enough scientific training to tell shit from Shinola.
Plato's academy accepted none that did not know mathematics. He would have left almost all of todays elites in the dirt at the side of the road as not just uneducated, but unfitted to learn.

Diamondback said...

No history of Blogs yet?
Salt shouldn't be taken lightly in importance. There is good reason why it was used as currency for thousands of years. Wars were fought over it. Most people would die within a short time if it wasn't available from their local grocer.

comatus said...

Good point George: Thoreau thought the railway and the telegraph were the absolute shit. Funny how just teaching the excerpts changes things.

"Gold: History of an Obsession" was a lot screedier than I expected (Ron Paul!). Bernstein says gold would never have had value without the bottomless pit of demand that is the Chinese jewelry trade. Makes you wonder about Goldfinger...

Kevin said...

I picked up a copy of Honor: A History shortly after it came out. The author was on one of CSPAN's book programs giving a speech about the book, and I was fascinated. Of course, no book store around here carried it, so I had to order a copy.

Interesting book. I look forward to hearing your take on it.

LabRat said...

Not only do I think there is material for "History: A History", but I would read that.

Anonymous said...

History of history is called historiography. Properly defined historiography is "the writing of history especially the writing of history based upon the critical examination of sources." We might say that it is the principles, theory, and history of historical writing. Not too many moons ago I did a dissertation that delt with ancient Near Eastern warfare and how it was remembered in historiography.

Just my .02 cents for the day.

Dr. Joe

comatus said...

Among the Greeks, there were these account-passers, story-tellers, reporters if you will, who more or less recorded what was said and what went down. They got the nickname "histors." Then some other guys came along and tried to lay meaning on the accounts. They got to be called historians. This distinction was drawn by the first historiographer, Aristotle.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Keep an eye peeled for my forthcoming intergalactic blockbuster:

SUBTITLES: The Abuse Of The Colon.

(Soon to be a minor motion picture.)