I’ve had these two books sitting on a corner of my desk for a couple of months now, waiting for me to post sweet little love notes about them. The first, A History of the World in 100 Objects, while thick, is a quick read on account of both the pictures and the ridiculously interesting subject matter. You gotta love ‘over-view’ books like this. Books where you get a series of glimpses into a vast subject – in this case, world history – and you never get bogged down in detail. In the end, interest intact, boredom successfully staved off, I feel like I want to read the book again just to honor all those humble and gorgeous objects that have survived the ravages of time. What I loved most about the book is that it’s written by someone who obviously has a vast affection for his subjects. The story of each object comes across more as anecdote about a favorite family member than a cold chunk of bloodless history.
The second book, Debt: The First 5000 Years, was another thick read. But I came away from it with my perspective on debt and money completely turned around. The idea is that most histories of ‘money’ are actually histories of surviving coinage, and that debt preceded coinage by well… forever. Debt is normal, debt is personal and always has been. But this modern age of abstract debt, of debt not associated with a face, a relationship, a name, is extremely short and recent. I closed the final pages of this book pretty much incensed at the global banking system. And not for the reasons you might think. Read it and weep. We live in idiotic times.