Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A History of Just About Everything: 180 Events, People and Inventions That Changed the World, by Elizabeth MacLeod and Frieda Wishinsky (illustrated by Qin Leng)

A History of Just About Everything:
180 Events, People and Inventions That Changed the World
Authors: Elizabeth MacLeod and Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrator: Qin Leng
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: August 1, 2013
Source: Edelweiss and NetGalley
View on Amazon

This book is like a cheat sheet of world history. It's a chronological listing of important dates and events that changed human history. And yes it's Eurocentric and Americentric, and yes it is very brief and therefore not at all comprehensive, and yes it omits all kinds of important things. But overall it's quite good. I like the timeline format that allows for quick comparisons between disparate events that took place around the same times. It's not a bad starting point for kids of all ages who are interested in history.

Some of the interesting facts that I learned in this book:

  • George Washington Carver did NOT invent peanut butter, contrary to popular belief (I'm not sure how I DIDN'T know this, considering I read an entire biography of Carver...though I then went back and re-read the part about his invention and it never mentions peanut butter one way or the other...weird)
  • The first "smartphone" was released in 1993 (this one seemed suspect, but apparently it's true, though the term smartphone wouldn't actually be coined until several years later)

And as I mentioned there are certainly some facts missing. I read a "list post" on a blog recently that was prefaced with, "Your favorites have been omitted deliberately just to annoy you, as always." Genius! Here are some important facts that did not get their own page:

  • Martin Luther's 95 Theses in 1517 (actually the entire Protestant Reformation and much of religious history is conspicuously absent from the book)
  • The American Civil War and the abolition of slavery (though it is referenced briefly earlier in the book)

My favourite part: The timeline format

Magda's favourite part: The parts about space. Actually, she would have been happy if the entire book was just a history of space exploration.


A Little History of Science
Brilliant Blunders
10 Plants That Shook the World
Seeing Red: The True Story of Blood

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