big history books

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John Dean has an interesting post about his late friend Ron Silver, who continued reading (amid spending time with family and friends) while slowly dying from esophageal cancer. Silver enjoyed "big history" books, which helped him "place his interest in government and politics in better perspective." As Dean writes, "Big history is a relatively new approach which examines human history in wide frameworks:"

Big history was introduced in the late 1980s by scholars like David Christian, who make a powerful case that to understand human history, we must look beyond our borders and our species and our planet to "the whole of time." Accordingly, many big history writers begin with the Big Bang, tracing, examining, and compressing the historical record from the beginning to the present as they probe for insights.

Dean listed a few "big history" books (Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, among others) and asked readers to email suggestions of books that belong in that company to him. I glanced over my shelves looking for a appropriate contributions. Buckminster Fuller's Critical Path has a similar scale and scope to the books Dean lists, and perhaps Julian Jaynes deserves a spot on the list for the implications of his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind; I might also include Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence, although it only covers five centuries of history.

I've read good things about various books from historians William McNeill, Paul Johnson, and Daniel Boorstin--but just haven't gotten to them yet.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on August 11, 2009 9:12 PM.

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