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Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense…

Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century (2015)

by John Higgs

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This books is fun, broad and provides an important insightful theme to what the 20th century has enacted on all our pillars of certainty. This is a MUST READ for anyone interested in the current Zeitgeist of uncertainty. ( )
  johnverdon | Dec 11, 2018 |
This is an interesting book, but it is in no way a history of the Twentieth Century: it picks up a number of important themes and looks at them from a number of non-standard angles but it is a connected set of essays and lacks a great deal which would be required to make it "a history of the twentieth century"

Just how non-standard may be judged by the fact that it cites Greg Hill (i.e. Malaclypse the Younger) on Emperor Norton and later on in the book drags in the I Ching's Breaking Apart pattern (23); although it contains no reference to giant yellow submarines or golden apples, it does include Illuminatus! in its bibliography.

I would hand this to somebody who was starting out in modern history as a useful primer in themes to be on the lookout for in detailed study, but it told me little I didn't already know (aside from some interesting bits about the genesis of Super Mario). ( )
  jsburbidge | Jul 9, 2018 |
Great writer who I have only just discovered. I have already got some of his other books. ( )
  Matt.Kay | Dec 9, 2017 |
I really expected more from this book, and quite enjoyed parts of it, but just can't rate it any higher.
The author puts a lot of emphasis on artists and philosophers as having a huge influence. Rather more influence than I would have thought, but it is an entertaining way of looking at things, and besides I'm a tech-head so what do I know about arts stuff.
On the other hand, his tech-oriented stuff was interesting but tended to be superficial. Which is fair enough for a general audience I suppose, but took a bit of the wind out of his arguments as far as I was concerned.
Then in Chapter 13 he discuses the book 'The Limits to Growth' as if it were a fantastic and eye-opening revelation. He states that no-one disagreed with the data, only the conclusions. Gotta call BULLSHIT on that one. I'm old enough to have read it when that book was new, and there were a *lot* of technical critiques around. Those critiques ignored the conclusions and focused on the numerous flaws in the model and the way it was done. The model, although interesting, turned out to be so full of flaws that it was useless ... and any conclusions based on the model had to be suspect to the point of being discredited. Besides, the people who payed for the study, the Club of Rome, were a bunch of very rich people who were basically telling everyone else to make do with less. Somehow Mr. Higgs left that part out of the book.
In spite of the books limitations and flaws, I think it is an interesting way of looking at the history of the last century. I'm just disappointed because it could have been better.
( )
  briangreiner | Sep 16, 2017 |
One of the more original history books you can read. Not the classic tale on the 20th century going from WWI to WWII and all the way to the crisis of the 80's but from Einstein over cubism, individuality, nihilims, popart, Super Mario and the network we are all part of today, like here on Librarything.
Higgs is an artist, one that has done a lot of research, but still an artist in my opinion. The way he composes the book, the links between chapters that look unlinked at the start, the very educational (without becoming preachy) style in situating the origin of a phenomenon, explaining it and then giving the effects of the phenomenon provide real insight.
Sometimes easy to recognise, sometimes you need a second look, but always clear, always part of the composition that this book is. It is not 15 stand alone chapters on 15 different things, by coincidence all happening in the 20th century. It is a piece of art, a cubistic one, that gives you the time to reflect on yourself, on the world, on society's past and future.
And it has a positive end. Brace yourself.
Thank you for this wonderful book, Mr. Higgs. ( )
1 vote Lunarreader | Jan 29, 2017 |
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"The twentieth century should make sense. It's the period of history that we know the most about, an epic geo-political narrative that runs through World War One, the great depression, World War Two, the American century and the fall of the Berlin Wall. But somehow that story doesn't quite lead into the world we find ourselves in now, this bewildering twenty-first century, adrift in a network of constant surveillance, unsustainable competition, tsunamis of trivia and extraordinary opportunity. Time, then, for a new perspective. John Higgs steps off the main path and wanders through some of the more curious backwaters of the twentieth century, exploring familiar and unfamiliar territory alike, finding fresh insight on our journey to the present day. We travel in the company of some of the most radical artists, scientists, geniuses and crazies of their age. They show us that great innovations such as relativity, cubism, quantum mechanics, postmodernism and chaos maths are not the incomprehensible, abstract horrors that we assume them to be, but signposts that bring us to the world we live in now. An alternative history of the strangest of centuries. Higgs shows us how the elegant, clockwork universe of the Victorians became increasingly woozy and uncertain; and how we discovered that our world is stranger than we imagine. John Higgs is a British journalist, television writer and producer and author. He is the author of I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary, a biography of the pioneer of psychedelic drugs"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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