• Happy Sea Serpent Day!

Micro-Histories/Biographies of Things



I am currently alternating between two recently published books, both “micro-histories” or “biographies of things” or whatever you call books about a single topic, often a commodity or invention.

Empires of the Sky; Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men’s Epic Duel to Rule the World


Coffeeland; One Man’s Dark Empire and the Making of Our Favorite Drug


I have always had a love for that type of single-topic micro-history. Other recommendations from past reads:

Salt: A World History, and Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell (all by Mark Kurlansky)

A wonderful and memorable read, Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay (William W. Warner). That one, is you haven’t read it, DO, it is mesmerizing.


Any number of John McPhee’s books; The Founding Fish (about shad), or Looking for a Ship (merchant marine) or Uncommon Carriers (freight transportation). Hard to go wrong with McPhee.

Got any favorite micro-histories? The library is open again, at least for curb-side pick up and inter-library loans, and I’ve been starved for months.