Nonfiction November- Ask the Expert/Become the Expert

I have decided to participate in Nonfiction November! Here is a link to the announcement if you want to join.

Katie @ Doing Dewey is the host for this week and here is the prompt:

Three ways to join in this week! You can share 3 or more books on a single topic that you’ve read and can recommend (be the expert); you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you’ve been dying to read (ask the expert); or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert)

I have always loved the idea of reading microhistories, I even own a few, but I just never seem to actually get around to reading them! So, I have decided it might be fun to share the microhistory books that are on my TBR and to ask you if you have read any that you would recommend!

Here is a definition of “microhistory”:

Microhistory is the intensive historical investigation of a well defined smaller unit of research (most often a single event, community of a village, family or person). In its ambition, however, microhistory can be distinguished from a simple case study insofar as microhistory aspires to “[ask] large questions in small places”, to use the definition given by Charles Joyner.

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

2715In his fifth work of nonfiction, Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.  Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Salt by Mark Kurlansky is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece.

I do not know what it is about the idea of this book that is so fascinating to me. I think I just love the idea of something as simple and common as salt having such an impact on the world. I mean salt inspired revolutions?! That is something I need to know more about! Mark Kurlansky seems to be the king of microhistory- he has also published books about Cod, Paper, and the year 1968.

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett

22822881Rain is elemental, mysterious, precious, destructive.

It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of the world’s water. Yet this is the first book to tell the story of rain.

Cynthia Barnett’s  Rain begins four billion years ago with the torrents that filled the oceans, and builds to the storms of climate change. It weaves together science—the true shape of a raindrop, the mysteries of frog and fish rains—with the human story of our ambition to control rain, from ancient rain dances to the 2,203 miles of levees that attempt to straitjacket the Mississippi River.It offers a glimpse of our “founding forecaster,” Thomas Jefferson, who measured every drizzle long before modern meteorology. Two centuries later, rainy skies would help inspire Morrissey’s mopes and Kurt Cobain’s grunge. Rain is also a travelogue, taking readers to Scotland to tell the surprising story of the mackintosh raincoat, and to India, where villagers extract the scent of rain from the monsoon-drenched earth and turn it into perfume.

Now, after thousands of years spent praying for rain or worshiping it; burning witches at the stake to stop rain or sacrificing small children to bring it; mocking rain with irrigated agriculture and cities built in floodplains; even trying to blast rain out of the sky with mortars meant for war, humanity has finally managed to change the rain. Only not in ways we intended. As climate change upends rainfall patterns and unleashes increasingly severe storms and drought, Barnett shows rain to be a unifying force in a fractured world. Too much and not nearly enough, rain is a conversation we share, and this is a book for everyone who has ever experienced it.

This book just sounds so brilliant and fascinating! There is something magical about rain in the way that it can inspire people and affect our emotions. It can be both comforting and sad in such a unique way. I hope that I love this one and that it inspires me to pick up more books about weather! If you have any recommendations I would love to hear them.

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed the World by Mark Pendergrast

8598379Uncommon Grounds tells the story of coffee from its discovery on a hill in ancient Abyssinia to the advent of Starbucks. In this updated edition of the classic work, Mark Pendergrast reviews the dramatic changes in coffee culture over the past decade, from the disastrous “Coffee Crisis” that caused global prices to plummet to the rise of the Fair Trade movement and the “third-wave” of quality-obsessed coffee connoisseurs. As the scope of coffee culture continues to expand, Uncommon Grounds remains more than ever a brilliantly entertaining guide to the currents of one of the world’s favorite beverages.


These days, coffee is such a big part of my life. I do not think a day goes by where I don’t think “Man, I need a coffee ASAP?” Even though it is a part of my everyday life, I know next to nothing about the history of coffee or how the Fair Trade movement came to be. I would love to educated myself and Uncommon Grounds seems like a good place to start.


I am sensing a common theme here. I think what I love about the idea of microhistories is that they take one small everyday object and explore how it changed history and its impact on the world at large. I find that so fascinating!

If you have read any of these three titles I would love to know what you thought! Also, please send me any recommendations you may have!


24 thoughts on “Nonfiction November- Ask the Expert/Become the Expert

  1. I love this topic!! Uncommon Grounds especially sounds intriguing, for something I feel like I can’t live without I know very little about its background.

    I’m reading a new book, The Seine by Elaine Sciolino, right now and it’s a sort of microhistory of the river. I love it! Another good one that reminds me in concept a bit about the Mark Kurlansky one on the year 1968 is One Day by Gene Weingarten. It’s a microhistory of a random day in December 1986, it ended up being so fascinating, with lots of connections to the present.

    Looking forward to your reviews when you get to the ones you featured, they all sounds really interesting!

  2. Mark Kurlansky also wrote a microhistory on Paper that is supposed to be good. I hadn’t heard of Uncommon Ground. I’m adding it to my libraries wishlist and my own personal TBR. Great list!

  3. The only microhistory (I like this word…new to me) I have read is Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World. It is filled with fascinating stories about the impact of jewelry on the world.

  4. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a microhistory, but these sound really interesting. I enjoy reading about food, so I think salt and coffee would both be fascinating topics. Thanks for the recommendations!

  5. I have to admit that I found Salt rather dry (no pun intended, haha) but I do love microhistories and the rest on your list sound fascinating! I’d also recommend Brilliance and Fire, about diamonds, and The Perfectionists, about precision engineering. And if you’re looking for other food-related microhistories, I’ve heard fantastic things about Sugar by Elizabeth Abbot and Butter by Elaine Khosrova 🙂

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