The best part of teaching Big History is that we’re always learning right alongside our students. As the year winds down here in the US, many BHP teachers are looking for books to take with them to the beach, the mountains, or wherever they choose to unwind this summer.
We asked our teacher leaders for their favorite books related to Big History and this list is what they came up with.
Want to talk more about these books? Got other suggestions? Join the BHP Teacher Community on Yammer and visit the Big History Book Club group. And while you’re there, let us know what you think.
Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat
by Kay Frydenborg
Chocolate hits all the right sweet—and bitter—notes: cutting-edge genetic science whisked in with a strong social conscience, history, and culture yield one thought-provoking look into one of the world’s most popular foods.
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World
by David W. Anthony
Roughly half the world’s population speaks languages derived from a shared linguistic source known as Proto-Indo-European. But who were the early speakers of this ancient mother tongue, and how did they manage to spread it around the globe?
Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality
by Max Tegmark
Max Tegmark leads us on an astonishing journey through past, present, and future, and through the physics, astronomy, and mathematics that are the foundation of his work, most particularly his hypothesis that our physical reality is a mathematical structure and his theory of the ultimate multiverse.
The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality
by Brian Greene
Space and time form the very fabric of the cosmos. Yet they remain among the most mysterious of concepts. Is space an entity? Why does time have a direction? Could the universe exist without space and time? Can we travel to the past? Greene has set himself a daunting task: to explain non-intuitive, mathematical concepts…with analogies drawn from common experience.
Big History and the Future of Humanity
by Fred Spier
[T]he new edition of Big History and the Future of Humanity presents an accessible and original overview of the entire sweep of history from the origins of the universe and life on Earth up to the present day. Placing the relatively brief period of human history within a much broader framework…Big History is an innovative theoretical approach that opens up entirely new multidisciplinary research agendas.
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
by Steven Pinker
Believe it or not, today we may be living in the most peaceful moment in our species’ existence. In his gripping and controversial new work, author Steven Pinker shows that despite the ceaseless news about war, crime, and terrorism, violence has actually been in decline over long stretches of history.
Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived
by Chip Walter
Over the past 180 years scientists have discovered evidence that at least 27 species of humans evolved on planet Earth. … Chip Walter tells the intriguing tale of how against all odds and despite nature’s capricious ways we stand here today, the planet’s most dominant species.
Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
by Mark Kurlansky
Mark Kurlansky has written a fabulous book—well worth your time—about a fish that probably has mattered more in human history than any other. The cod helped inspire the discovery and exploration of North America. It had a profound impact upon the economic development of New England and eastern Canada from the earliest times.
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
by Sam Kean
The periodic table is a crowning scientific achievement, but it’s also a treasure trove of adventure, betrayal, and obsession. These fascinating tales follow every element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, and in the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.
Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present
by Cynthia Stokes Brown
Extend the human story backward for the five thousand years of recorded history and it covers no more than a millionth of a lifetime of the Earth. Yet how do we humans take stock of the history of our planet, and our own place within it?…Big History interweaves different disciplines of knowledge to offer an all-encompassing account of history on Earth.
Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History
by David Christian
An introduction to a new way of looking at history, from a perspective that stretches from the beginning of time to the present day, Maps of Time is world history on an unprecedented scale. Beginning with the Big Bang, David Christian views the interaction of the natural world with the more recent arrivals in flora and fauna, including human beings.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah Harari
From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”
The Oldest Living Things in the World
by Rachel Sussman, Carl Zimmer, and Hans Ulrich Obrist
Over the past decade, artist Rachel Sussman has researched, worked with biologists, and traveled the world to photograph continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older. Spanning from Antarctica to Greenland, the Mojave Desert to the Australian Outback, the result is a stunning and unique visual collection of ancient organisms unlike anything that has been created in the arts or sciences before.
The Big Bang to Now: All of Time in Six Chunks
by Terry Sissons
If you are among the many who think of billions, or a hundred thousand, or tens of millions of years ago as all just “a very very long time ago,” The Big Bang to Now: All of Time in Six Chunks will be an enlightening surprise. Terry Sissons divides time into six chunks—fewer numbers than are in a telephone number —to create a review of the 13.7 billion years of all of time.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
by Elizabeth Kolbert
Over the last half-billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us.
This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity (This World of Ours)
by David Christian
A great historian can make clear the connections between the first Homo sapiens and today’s version of the species, and a great storyteller can make those connections come alive. David Christian is both. This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity makes the journey a fascinating one. Christian takes us from the Big Bang to the earliest foraging era to the present Anthropocene epoch.
A Short History of Nearly Everything
by Bill Bryson
From primordial nothingness to this very moment, A Short History of Nearly Everything reports what happened and how humans figured it out…. Bill Bryson uses hundreds of sources, from popular science books to interviews with luminaries in various fields. His aim is to help people like him, who rejected stale school textbooks and dry explanations, to appreciate how we have used science to understand the smallest particles and the unimaginably vast expanses of space.
Seveneves: A Novel
by Neal Stephenson
What would happen if the world were ending? A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.