World War I: History in an Hour by Rupert Colley (HarperPress, 2012) is just what it says it is: a brief look at the war for those interested in a taste of what it is about. HarperPress provides ebooks in this series for a very low cost (it appears to be a $1.99 or $2.99 price; see here). For people interested in history but that don’t have time for a full-length nonfiction book about it, this series may satisfy your curiosity as it did for me!
True, I felt like names, dates, and places were thrown at me, and yet, even after a brief hour of reading, I do feel a little bit more satisfied. There is a lot of history to be learned and only limited time in which to learn it. I must admit that World War I has never interested me to the same extent that World War II has. This book satisfied my curiosity for now. After I finished, I found a few novels that take place during the World War I era that I want to read from my Classics Club list and started them. I like having the context of the war in mind as I read.
I look forward to revisiting this series in the future! It was very convenient.
Note: I read a digital review copy from the publisher via netgalley.com.
I have been wanting to read a general overview of world history, so without any other ideas I picked up Cracking the AP World History Exam 2012, a general review book for high school students produced by The Princeton Review. I read about 200 pages of world history summaries, timelines, and key terms.
As was my goal, I feel I have received a reminder of the course of history over the past 8,000 years, with a general picture of how world history fits together: the themes of history, the progress of various developments, and the ways technology changed the way of life throughout history. The book is written “to the test,” so in some respects it misses the point of learning history for the sake of learning history. But on the other hand, it helped me recognize my own strengths and weaknesses, and it gave me ideas of what subjects I’d like to study in more depth, such as the following:
- Alexander the Great and Hellenism
- Ancient Chinese and Indian history and the Silk Road
- Ancient African civilizations
- Europe during the years before the Renaissance
- The Renaissance
- History of the Russian Czars
- Very early American colonies
- Napoleon and Waterloo
- Wiemar Republic and the Rise of the Third Reich
- WWI and WWII, especially Japanese Imperialism
- The Cold War (in general)
Cracking the AP World History Exam also has sample tests, practice questions, and descriptions of the AP Exam. I skipped those portions. I’m not learning to pass a test (I’m awful at those) but rather, I’m learning for the sake of knowing. At any rate, I’m sure this book would help those interested in preparing for the tests: it provides a great overview of history and the ways it ties together.
For my part, however I’m interested in any books you can recommend that cover World History in general and/or any of the subjects I mention above. I am certainly interested in continuing to increase my understanding of the history of the world. I’ve only just begun.
When I read a history book geared toward general readers, I always try to remember that it is only one author’s perspective. Although I may not notice it, I’m sure it will contain bias.
Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary (published 2009 by Public Affairs) has the bonus of telling us from the subtitle that it is a biased work. I further appreciate the fact that Tamim Ansary, an Afghan-American and practicing Muslim, admits that this is a history “through Islamic eyes,” that is, his own. He’s not trying to show a history of the world according to all of those in Islam: this is simply his own perspective, based on his research and perspective.
Destiny Disrupted, then, is just what I was looking for right now. I must admit that I do not have a firm grasp of Western world history, and yet reading Destiny Disrupted showed me how one-sided the perspective I do have is. The Middle Ages in Europe (which I’d put at 600-1400 CE) were a time of tremendous growth and expansion in the Middle World (i.e., those lands in which Islam thrived). (more…)
When my son was a young infant in the middle of 2008, and I purchased Professor Seth Lerer’s Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History and spent months reading and rereading chapters, hoping to gain a better understanding of where children’s literature fits in the world history. Although I’ve since finished the book, I still plan on rereading portions and finding children’s literature that I can read to fit the eras Lerer discusses about what children read (see my project page; I haven’t done much with this project lately, but it is an ongoing project).
Then I saw Emily’s review of Professor Lerer’s Inventing English last year. Since I love language, I loved the idea of little episodes of the history of the language. I also read this slowly, simply because the subject of the early development of English is new to me. (Yes, despite the fact that I was an English major in college, I don’t recall much of the historical development of early, Old English.)
In the end, both books are ones I can recommend to fans of language and nonfiction.
In The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel P. Huntington attempts to define the post-Cold War world. His conclusion is that, instead of an “us” and “them” approach to world politics, we must view the world as that of many civilizations, including mainly the West (generally Christian), Sinic (Chinese), Islamic, Hindu (Indian), and Japanese civilizations. Observing the world and predicting future encounters, therefore, revolves around the dynamic political relationships among these civilizations.
While this was an incredibly challenging book for me to get through*, I am incredibly glad I persevered. While I of course was familiar with the Cold War relations between USSR and the USA, I hadn’t seriously considered the state of the world after the Cold War. Huntington’s book is quite interesting, although it is dated. Because it was written in 1995, I found myself wondering many times how 9/11 changed the face of the world in terms of his philosophies. (more…)