Nonfiction – Microhistories: One Topic, One Book, Millions of Details

“Microhistories,”  are books that explore one offbeat topic in great detail.

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.

Rust : the longest war / Jonathan Waldman
An environmental journalist traces the historical war against rust, revealing how rust-related damage costs more than all other natural disasters combined and how it is combated by industrial workers, the government, universities and everyday people.

Banana : the fate of the fruit that changed the world / Dan Koeppel
A biological and cultural history of the banana cites the fruit’s role in the development of Central American nations and international business, citing diseases that are threatening the survival of the banana while profiling banana-inspired hobbies and traditions.

Coal : a human history / Barbara Freese
Traces the history of coal from its formation three million years ago through its role in industry and disease, including its part in the establishment of China as a twelfth-century superpower and in the American Civil War.

Milk : the surprising story of milk through the ages : with 120 adventurous recipes that explore the riches of our first food / Anne Mendelson
A food lover’s guide to milk combines a culinary history that traces the popularity of milk in the human diet, the dietary applications of both fresh milk and fermented milk products, and the development of the modern-day dairy industry with more than 120 recipes from around the world, such as Cream of Tomato Soup, Beef Stroganoff, and Pashka.

Salt : a world history / Mark Kurlansky
Explores the role of salt in shaping history, discussing how one of the world’s most sought-after commodities has influenced economics, science, politics, religion, and eating customs.

Soap bubbles, their colours and the forces which mold them / C.V. Boys
An elementary introduction to the scientific principles relating to soap bubbles, includes numerous illustrated experiments

Pepper : a history of the world’s most influential spice / Marjorie Shaffer
A richly detailed chronicle of the history of pepper describes its role in bringing Westerners to Asia, tracing the extraordinary voyages, exotic adventures and brutal violence that marked its early trade.

Cooked : a natural history of transformation / Michael Pollan
Recounts the story of the author’s culinary education and the roles of the four classical elements of fire, water, air, and earth in transforming natural ingredients into delicious meals and drinks.

At home : a short history of private life / Bill Bryson
Explores the ways in which homes reflect history, from a bathroom’s revelations about medicine and hygiene to a kitchen’s exposure of the stories of trade and nutrition.

The Big Oyster : history on the half shell / Mark Kurlansky
Before New York City was the Big Apple, it could have been called the Big Oyster. Author Mark Kurlansky tells the remarkable story of New York by following the trajectory of one of its most fascinating inhabitants – the oyster, whose influence on the great metropolis remains unparalleled.

Bonk : the curious coupling of science and sex / Mary Roach
A whimsical assessment of the science of sexual physiology considers the lighter side of such topics as mythologies about a woman’s ability to experience orgasm and the ineffectiveness of Viagra on female pandas.

Cod : a biography of the fish that changed the world / Mark Kurlansky
A history of the fish that has led to wars, stirred revolutions, sustained economies and diets, and helped in the settlement of North America features photographs, drawings, and recipes, as well as the natural history of this much sought after fish

Color : a natural history of the palette / Victoria Finlay
Examining the physical materials that color the world, a freelance journalist explores the social, political, and cultural implications of color throughout history.

Gulp : adventures on the alimentary canal / Mary Roach
The humorous science writer offers a tour of the human digestive system, explaining why the stomach doesn’t digest itself and whether constipation can kill you.

Stiff : the curious lives of human cadavers / by Mary Roach
A look inside the world of forensics examines the use of human cadavers in a wide range of endeavors, including research into new surgical procedures, space exploration, and a Tennessee human decay research facility.


List created 3/19/15 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Falcone, D. R. (2015). It’s All in The Title. Entertainment Weekly, (1355/1356), 105

Posted in Adult Staff Picks, Reading Lists and tagged , , , .