Microhistories, or as I usually call them here, cultural histories of a noun, are studies of history on a very small scale. They take a close look at the history and cultural impact of a seemingly small or isolated thing (salt, the color mauve, fortune cookies, the Segway, death). It’s easiest to understand them through examples, but a hint is that they usually have subtitles and usually contain the words “story” or “history.”


“Hair Story: The History of Black Hair in America,” Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps
“Code Name Ginger,” Steve Kemper
“The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair,” Marion Roach
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” Rebecca Skloot
“The Mother Tongue,” Bill Bryson
“Twinkie, Deconstructed,” Steve Ettlinger
“The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food,” Jennifer 8 Lee
“Stiff,” Mary Roach
“Bonk,” Mary Roach
“The Hamburger: A History,” Josh Ozersky
“Don’t Eat this Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America”, Morgan Spurlock


Compiled from various lists, including
LibraryThing, Library Book Lists, Lake County Public Library, ID

“Harvest of the Cold Months: The Social History of Ice and Ices,” Elizabeth David
“The Cloudspotter’s Guide,” Gavin Pretor-Pinney
“The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World,” Ken Alder
“Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” Robert Sullivan
“Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, And Pyrotechnics: The History Of The Explosive That Changed The World,” Jack Kelly
“Vanilla: the cultural history of the world’s most popular flavor and fragrance,” Patricia Rain
“Mosquito: A Natural History of Our Most Persistent and Deadly Foe,” Andrew Spielman
“Home: A Short History of an Idea,” Witold Rybczynski
“The Burning of Bridget Cleary,” Angela Bourke
“Blind Eye: How the Medical Establishment Let a Doctor Get Away with Murder,” James Stewart

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