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Microhistory on The Point!

This morning Melanie, Mindy and I were on WCAI on The Point discussing books focused on microhistory. Basically microhistories explore a specific subject, often providing a different way of looking at familiar objects, products, or events. The best microhistories use their focus on small specifics to reveal a much larger picture. Nancy Pearl has described them as ”one word wonders” ... books like Cod and Salt and Stiff.In the book The Real Story: a guide to nonfiction reading interests by Sarah Statz Cords they are described as “story-driven narratives that give their readers the chance to take in a lot of historical information and provide an excellent way for readers to get a ‘feel’ for historical lives, places, and events.”


Listener Picks

The Captain’s Best Mate : the journal of Mary Chipman Lawrence on the whaler Addison, 1856-1860 / edited by Stanton Garner

The Botany of Desire : a plant’s-eye view of the world by Michael Pollan

And a listener who suggested this title after we went off the air: Medusa and the Snail: more notes of a biology watcher by Lewis Thomas

Another listener suggestion, which came in as a comment on our blog. The Marketplace of Revolution : how consumer politics shaped American independence by T.H. Breen.


Jill’s Picks

Pickett’s Charge: a microhistory of the final attack at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863 by George R. Stewart (written in 1959)

Punch : the delights (and dangers) of the flowing bowl : an anecdotal history of the original monarch of mixed drinks, with more than forty historic recipes, fully annotated, and a complete course in the lost art of compounding punch by David Wondrich

A History of the World in 6 Glasses and The Turk : the life and times of the famous eighteenth-century chess-playing machine both by Tom Standage

The Frozen-water Trade : a true story by Gavin Weightman

Two microhistory children’s titles that I didn’t have time for this morning are An American Plague : the true and terrifying story of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy and The Cod’s Tale by Mark Kurlansky ; illustrated by S.D. Schindler. The Cod’s Tale is based on Kurlansky’s book Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world. He includes a great little sea shanty:

“Cape Cod kids don’t use no sleds,
Haul away,
Haul away,
They slide down hills on codfish heads”


Melanie’s Picks

Tears of Mermaids: The Secret Story of Pearls by Stephen G. Bloom

The Pledge: A History of the Pledge of Allegiance by Jeffrey Owen Jones and Peter Meyer

Coffee Talk: The Stimulating story of the World’s Most Popular Brew by Morton Satin

April 1865: The Month That Saved America by Jay Winik

The History of the Snowman by Bob Eckstein

Fannie’s Last Supper: Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Cookbook by Chris Kimball

Not on show:

Seeds, Sex & Civilization: How the Hidden Life of Plants Has Shaped Our World by Peter Thompson

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt

From Melanie’s list of books she read last year:

Dirt Clean: An Unsanitized History by Katherine Ashenburg

A Secret Gift byTed Gup

The Routes of Man by Ted Conover

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