A Good Place to Hide

May 1, 2015

In A Good Place To Hide: How One French Village Saved Thousands of Lives During World War II, Peter Grose describes how a population with its own experience of religious persecution and two charismatic pastors with unlikely international connections turned isolated community in the upper Loire Valley into a haven for Jews and other refugees […]

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And speaking of road trips on the grand scale…

August 29, 2014

In Round About the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit, historian Joyce E. Chaplin describes around-the-world voyages as geodramas in which travelers present themselves as actors on a global stage–a metaphor that she extends by dividing her history of circumnavigation into three “acts”. Chaplin begins with the fearful sea voyages of early modern man, when […]

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The Nile

June 22, 2014

In The Nile:A Journey Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present, popular Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson leads the reader on a historical travelogue that moves from Aswan, home of the river’s First Cataract, to Cairo’s Gezira Island, from Paleolithic rock drawings to the Arab Spring. The voyage that shapes The Nile is not simply metaphorical. Wilkinson floats […]

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History of the World in 12 Maps

January 14, 2014

This post is about a book, a book review, and the discussion that the review sparked. As I’ve mentioned before, I review books for Shelf Awareness for Readers. Mostly history, a little reference–and the occasional cookbook because writer does not live by history alone. Some of the books I receive for review are on subjects […]

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On Paper

November 5, 2013

Self-confessed bibliophiliac Nicholas Basbanes is the author of several volumes on book collecting and book mania. In On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand Year History, he moves beyond the world of books to consider the material from which they are made. On Paper is not another history of the discovery and spread of the […]

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A History of Britain in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps

October 29, 2013

I love Big Fat History Books, full of footnotes (no endnotes, please) and academic caution.  But I also love small, idiosyncratic books about history: books that look at the past through one person’s obsessions and interest. Chris West combined an uncle’s Edwardian stamp collection with his own interest in history to create a quirky and […]

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The Riddle of the Labyrinth

June 6, 2013

In The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest To Crack An Ancient Code, Margalit Fox adds a new layer to the story of how the ancient script known as Linear B was deciphered. In 1900, archaeologist Arthur Evans uncovered a cache of clay tablets in an unknown script on Crete. For fifty years, scholars across […]

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Children of the Days: a Calendar of Human History

May 21, 2013

Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, who reached a wide American audience in 2009 with Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, has built his career on a genre-defying blend of history, fiction and political analysis that he describes as “obsessed with remembering”. In Children of the Days: A Calendar of […]

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The Year Without Summer: “Eighteen hundred and froze to death”

March 11, 2013

Historian William K. Klingaman and meteorologist Nicholas P. Klingaman combine forces in The Year Without Summer: 1816 And The Volcano That Darkened The World And Changed History. Working in a vein similar to Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map, the Klingamans weave together modern scientific explanations, nineteenth-century scientific (and religious) speculations, and historical events into a […]

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The Birth of the West

March 5, 2013

Several weeks ago I mentioned a Big Fat History Book that had me gasping at my own ignorance. I left you dangling, but now that the review has appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers, I can share the details with you. The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in […]

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