A History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor
This book is the result of a joint project of BBC Radio and the British Museum, from a 100 part radio series presented by British Museum director Neil MacGregor. It’s the history of humanity in 100 objects made by human hands, from cooking pots to sculptures, from mummies to spear points. It’s not just a jumbled list of stuff, though. MacGregor explores questions such as “What happened as people moved from villages to cities? When did societies begin to express themselves through myth, math and monuments? How did people seek pleasure 2000 years ago?”
When you open this book, you’ll find yourself spending time with The Rosetta Stone and the Head of Augustus, a Chinese bronze bell and the Sphinx of Taharqa. It’s a fascinating trip back in time. You’ll be glad you took the time to make it.
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr
Nicholas Carr has something he wants us to think about: is the internet changing how we think, even to the level of our internal brain activity? If you’ve ever spent an hour (or a day) surfing the web, and walked away from your computer wondering about the deleterious effects on your mind, you won’t want to miss this book. A Finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction, a Finalist for the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Award, and an international bestseller translated into 22 languages, The Shallows explores how human thought has been shaped through the centuries—from the alphabet, to maps, the printing press, the clock, and now the computer—and questions how information can literally reroute our neural pathways.
His point? We are becoming better at skimming, but we may be losing our capacity for concentration and reflection. If you read it, I’d love to know what you think.
Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv
A good book to accompany The Shallows is Last Child in the Woods. Author Richard Louv links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired children (kids with a nature-deficit, in his words) with the rise in obesity, attention disorders and depression. He presents a new and growing body of research that indicates that direct exposure to nature is imperative for healthy childhood development, and the physical and emotional health of children and adults alike. This powerful book will inspire you to think in new ways about how to incorporate more nature into your life, and the lives of the children you love.