Adult Book Lists: Histories of the Everyday

[Printable book list]

Paul Levinson / 303.4833 LEVINSON
Cellphone: The Story of the World's Most Mobile Medium and How It Has Transformed Everything!
Not only does Levinson cover how the cellphone came about, but he also covers the history of mobile things, such as a cameras, radios, or books, and how having all these things come in one device has transformed our everyday lives (from issues like transportation to romance).

Elizabeth Royte / 363.7285 ROYTE
Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash
Royte discusses what happens with our trash from the time we throw it into the can. There are also discussions on different groups who recycle or work with disposed of items and how the way we dispose of our trash impacts how we live.

Katherine Ashenburg / 391.64 ASHENBUR
The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History
Throughout history, the concept of being clean (or personal hygiene) can be very different to different groups of people. Romans believed you needed to soak for two hours, while French aristocrats in the 17th century thought it meant just changing your shirt every day. Ashenburg also discusses how these methods related to things like plagues, spirituality, and even historical events.

Tom Standage / 394.12 STANDAGE
A History of the World in 6 Glasses
Standage notes that six beverages have "helped shape human history," by doing more than just quenching the thirsts of people everywhere. He discusses history with respect to: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola, and the ways that these beverages have influenced cultures, impacted foreign policy, or simply stimulated intellectual dialogue.

Tom Standage / 394.1209 STANDAGE
An Edible History of Humanity
Standage discusses hunger, and the ways that food has impacted the development of societies, social status, population, industrialization, and even war.

Simon Winchester / 423 WINCHEST
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
The piecing together of the Oxford English Dictionary took seventy years and thousands of people submitting entries to complete. One of the contributors had a very complex history. Dr. William Chester Minor, a surgeon in Connecticut and in the Civil War, sent thousands of entries to add to the work. However, he never took up Professor and Editor James Murray's offer to visit him at Oxford, only corresponding with him through letters. Curious as to the reason why, Murray decided to visit the doctor. He found out that Dr. Minor was a patient in the Broadmoor Asylum. Winchester unfolds their history together.

Charles Seife / 513 SEIFE
Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
Seife looks into the history and meanings of the number zero. Invented by the Babylonians, the number zero has been both worshipped and banned. Seife also looks into the research of others to figure out the true meaning of a number that signifies nothing.

David Ewing Duncan / 529.3 DUNCAN
Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year
Since the beginning of "time" as a concept, humans have tried again and again to perfect a calendar system. Duncan looks at the different systems and cultures that have helped create the current calendar system that we use. There is also a "Calendar Index" that allows you to compare the major calendar systems.

Victoria Finlay / 535.6 FINLAY
Color: A Natural History of the Palette
Finlay traces the history of colors: where they were originally created, how they defined certain aspects of culture, and how certain colors (especially those important to history) were made. Each chapter is organized by color.

David Bodanis / 537 BODANIS
Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity
Electricity has always been around us, in one form or another, but it was not until the late 1700s that scientists really started to understand what it was and how to use it. Bodanis writes about the different individuals who worked within the "electric universe," their contributions, and even their colorful pasts and personalities.

Barbara Freese / 553.2 FREESE
Coal: A Human History
Freese, discusses the formation of coal, its historical significance and uses, the harmful effects that come from its use, and her suggestions on other fuel sources or methods that do not cause as much damage as coal.

Mark Kurlansky / 553.63 KURLANSK
Salt: A World History
Since salt is so plentiful and used so much in our daily life, it is hard to believe that it could be a powerful enough substance to have affected history and influenced cultures. Kurlansky writes about salt's surprising influence over things like trade routes, wars, and even the kinds of food eaten throughout history and now.

Joel Levy / 609 LEVY
Really Useful: The Origins of Everyday Things
There are objects that are used every day, such as Post-It Notes or the refrigerator, but have you ever wondered what the stories of these "useful" objects are? Levy looks at the history of these objects, how they came to be household items, and how they impact our everyday lives.

Diarmuid Jeffreys / 615.783 JEFFREYS
Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug
It's a difficult concept to grasp that a little pill that millions of people take on an everyday basis could have made such a huge impact on the world with its creation. Jeffreys tells us the history of this "wonder" drug, which traces its roots back to Ancient Egypt, and all of the benefits that have been discovered that come from taking one.

Sophie D. Coe / 641.3374 COE
The True History of Chocolate
Almost everyone enjoys a good piece of chocolate every now and again, but did you ever wonder where that piece of chocolate came from or how it got to you? Coe helps us answer these questions with the history of chocolate, how it has influenced whole cultures, and even how it's made.

Sue Shephard / 641.4 SHEPHARD
Pickled, Potted, and Canned: How the Art and Science of Food Preserving Changed the World
Food preservation is not something that we tend to think a lot about, but without it, explorers could not have gone exploring and selections would be a lot more limited when it comes to meal times. Shephard writes about the major developments in food preservation, who came up with them, and the many issues they faced.

Bill Bryson / 643.1 BRYSON
At Home: A Short History of Private Life
While living in a Victorian parsonage in England, Bill Bryson started contemplating the idea of what the private lives of the families were like that lived in his home before his own family moved in. So Bryson gives readers a tour of his home, moving from room to room, discussing the history of the rooms, what happened within them, and what the objects in them mean.

Bee Wilson / 643.3 WILSON
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat
Where would we be without our forks or knives, or what would we do if we didn't have a spatula to cook with or a pot to boil water in? Wilson discusses the history of cooking technology and how technological innovations (and cultural customs) have changed the way we eat.

Neil MacGregor / 930.1 MACGREGO
A History of the World in 100 Objects
Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, writes about the history of the world with regards to 100 items. These are items that humans have created through innovation (from an Olduvai handaxe to the solar-powered lamp), He also discusses what these items say about the people who created them, and how they have impacted the everyday lives of people.