Micro-History Books

Connected with a link on one of the posts the other day (here), I mentioned that I really enjoyed reading what have been called “micro-history” books (i.e. books about a small and perhaps specialized topic that is then studied to even greater depth). For example, I am reading about Chicago’s Victorian age through the lens of one particular brothel at the time. Fascinating way to learn, I think.

So – I browsed through the link from Goodreads of suggested micro-history titles, and thought it would be fun (in a mildly anal-retentive way) to list which ones from this enormous list that I had already. I thought it would be a few, but actually, it turns out to be a *bit* more than a few…

For those who are similarly curious about such things, here is the list of micro-history books that I have read (taken from the Goodreads list). Those without links were pre-blog. Obvious favs are Winchester and Roach. :

Sin in the Second City (history of brothel in Chicago) – Karen Abbott – DNF.

Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America – Steve Almond. Just OK.

Woman: An Intimate Geography – Natalie Angier. Good.

Necropolis: London and its Dead – Catharine Arnold. OK.

The Great Influenza – John M. Barry (history of 1918 flu pandemic). Good.

The City of Falling Angels – John Berendt. Good.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail – Bill Bryson. HILARIOUS! ETA: Update 02/2017: Not half so funny. Sigh.

At Home – Bill Bryson. Good.

The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way – Bill Bryson. Just OK.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America – Barbara Ehrenreich Controversial and interesting.

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl – Timothy Egan. Fascinating and of regional interest. Fabbo.(Plus he is visiting here soon.)

The Wal-Mart Effect – Charles Fishman (examination of how Wal-mart has changed things). Good.

Watching the English – sociology of UK – Kate Fox. Interesting.

Color: A History of the Palette – Victoria Finlay. Just purchased this one…

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things – Randy O. Frost. OK.

The Dead Beat: History of Obit Writing– Marilyn Johnson

The Ghost Map – Steven Johnson (Victorian cholera epidemic and public health)

The Great Mortality (history of Black Death) – John Kelley. Not bad.

The Devil in the White City – Erik Larson. Good.

Thunderstruck – Erik Larson (he also has a new release out about US diplomat in Hitler’s Berlin). TBR.

Isaac’s Storm: deadly hurricane down south Texas – Erik Larson. Good.

The Children’s Blizzard – David Laskin. Fair.

Women of the Raj – Margaret MacMillan (specialist but interesting if you like British history in India – otherwise probably not!)

No Idle Hands: A Social History of American Knitting – Anne McDonald. (I don’t knit, but surprisingly this was one of the best books I have read this year. Very entertaining and interesting.)

The Library at Night – Alberto Manguel. Good and intellectually challenging.

The Emperor of Maladies (history of cancer) – Siddartha Mukherjee – high up the TBR pile.

The Orchid Thief – Susan Orlean. Good.

Rabbit-Proof Fence – Doris Pilkington (Australian classic about Aboriginal tribes – very moving)

Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine – Roy Porter. Good.

Stiff – Mary Roach. Great.

Bonk – Mary Roach. Good.

Spook: Science Tackles the After Life – Mary Roach. Good.

Packing for Mars – Mary Roach (v. relevant with NASA’s Curiosity right now). Good.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal – Eric Schlosser. Good.

And the Band Played On – Randy Shilts (upfront history of AIDS epidemic).Also, there is a new documentary about the early days of the AIDS epidemic being released soon. Looks very good. (I was an HIV/AIDS Educator at the City Health Department for many years back in the day so am fascinated by the issue.)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot. Good.

Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation – Elissa Stein. FASCINATING.

Flower Confidential (about flower business) – Amy Stewart. This one is good, but not her other stuff.

A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, based on her Diary 1785-1812 – Laurel Thatcher Ulriche. Good.

Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire – Simon Winchester. Good.

The Professor and the Madman – OED history – Simon Winchester

Atlantic – Great Sea Battles and Stories of the Ocean – Simon Winchester (ongoing TBR pile)

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the OED – Simon Winchester

A History of the Wife – Marilyn Yalom. Super-good.

The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain – Barbara Stauch. Excellent.

Hiroshima – John Hersey. Excellent.

The Campaign for Domestic Happiness – Isabella Beeton. Good.

Homeward Bound – Emily Matcher. OK.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End – Atul Gawande. Excellent.

Dishes – Shax Riegler. (Interesting and pretty pics.)

And yet there are sooooo many more…! What a great situation to be in – no lack of reading choices!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s