Monthly Archives: November 2011

1493 by Charles C. Mann


I found this book the old fashioned way: I saw it in the window of a bookshop! And then…I bought it on my Kindle because that thing was like five hundred pages long and I was taking it to China.

This is a wonderful book that will turn you into a totally obnoxious jerk every time you read it with someone else in the room, because you'll be compelled to shout out interesting facts. The thing is, they're interesting in context, but probably not to someone sitting across the room trying to read Murakami's new book? Watever, boyfriend, you needed to know that there were exiled Samurais in colonial Mexico, because everyone needs to know that.

The book essentially covers the rise (so far!) of what the author calls the "homogecene era", and which you and I better know as "kudzu". Basically, since Columbus sailed across the ocean sea and everyone in the world became involved in a single economic system, our distinct cultures and ecosystems have been on an inexorable march towards uniformity. Did you ever wonder whether malaria and yellow fever are inextricably linked to the rise of chattel slavery in the Americas? You should! Did you know there were no earthworms in America before 1492? I mean, RIGHT? That's super-weird. Did you know there was a confederate colony in Brazil, at one point? They didn't put that in my American history book!

So, it's full of obscure little bits of fascinating history and also tells an important (crucial) story that helps make sense not only of what is happening to us environmentlly, but politically and culturally. I can't recommend it enough if you're looking for some historical non-fiction that's broad in scope and will make you feel like a smarty-pants.