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The Gift of Hindsight: Blinkist’s Favorite History Books from 2017

Explore history’s most important events with these nine books about the past, present, and possible future.
by Michael Benninger | Dec 20 2017

With news stories elapsing into each other at a rate of knots, it’s going to be interesting to see how 2017 will be remembered. The gift of hindsight will allow historians to trace patterns and comprehend happenings in a way that we’ll never be able to see. So, while you’re waiting for 2017 to be assessed, why not check out some of the history books that were published this past year?

Blinkist's Favorite History Books from 2017

Whether you’re looking for the ideal book to buy the history buff in your life, or if you’re simply searching for the next nonfiction title to tackle yourself, here’s a glimpse of the year’s best books about the past, the present, and potential future.

1. Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman

by James Gleick

Chronicling the life and career of genius Richard Feynman, this book delves into the life of one of the 20th century’s greatest physicists. Born in 1918, the Nobel Prize-winner changed the way scientists look at the world and played a pivotal role in the Manhattan Project, which led to the development of the atomic bomb. A truly original thinker, his method of visualizing problems created lasting contributions that have forever transformed modern science.

2. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

by Jack Weatherford

Offering a fresh look at the life of Genghis Khan, this title explains how the 12th-century Mongol leader was a genius who, contrary to his popular perception as an uncivilized barbarian, was actually the victim of a smear campaign who advocated education and human rights in addition to establishing a code of laws to govern his empire. The quintessential conqueror, Khan based his rule on equality, free trade, and meritocratic ideals that all played an essential role in molding modern civilization.

3. Fear: A Cultural History

by Joanna Bourke

Discover the long and fascinating history of fear and panic, which have shaped everything from engineering to parenting tactics to modern architecture. From the role of fear in war and illness, to its impact upon the design of public buildings and its role in the response to nuclear threats, Fear offers a little-known understanding the nature of fright and its influence upon contemporary societies.

4. Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets

by Svetlana Alexievich

Immerse yourself in an oral history about Russia’s transition from Stalinism to capitalism as recounted by individuals who were actually there. Based on interviews conducted from 1991 to 2012, this book shows how people who lived in the Soviet Union struggled to survive in a society governed by a Communist regime that presented its oppressive ideology as though it were religious doctrine.

5. The Wright Brothers: The Dramatic Story Behind the Legend

by David McCullough

If you’re itching to start your own entrepreneurial venture or tackle any type of new challenge, the story of the Ohio-born Wright brothers is an ideal source of inspiration. This behind-the-scenes look at the pioneers of invention and aviation reveals how their shared fascination with birds evolved into a mission to achieve human flight. And despite numerous challenges and setbacks, they managed to pioneer and perfect the art of flying, becoming idols for generations of innovators around the world.

6. The Evolution of Money

by David Orrell and Roman Chlupatý

From shells to bank accounts to digital currencies such as Bitcoin, money occupies an unusual space in our society. Offering an insightful look at the history of currency throughout civilization, The Evolution of Money shines a lights on how monetary systems function like religion and uncovers why economists continue to argue over its unique nature. This in-depth look the uncertain future of money further underscores how the quality of a civilization’s economy directly affects its likelihood of success.

7. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

by Yuval Noah Harari

Humans are the planet’s most dominant species now, but that might not be the case much longer. The rapid rise of science and technology may soon render us subservient to computer algorithms, putting us in the position to embrace—or eschew—our inevitable robot overlords. In Homo Deus, the acclaimed author explains how mankind became the Earth’s most powerful race and reveals bold predictions for the fate of our civilization.

8. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians who Helped Win the Space Race

by Margot Lee Shetterly

Learn the untold story of the trailblazing black mathematicians who left their teaching jobs in the segregated South and worked with NASA to send the first American into orbit around the first man to the moon. By breaking into the upper echelons of science, technology and math, these incredible women pioneered many of the 20th century’s greatest achievements.

9. Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans

by Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.)

Our planet’s violent waters have done more to shape our world than many might believe, and this book authored by a decorated naval officer reveals the role Earth’s oceans have played throughout human history. From early explorers to the countless commercial ships traversing the globe each day, bodies of water occupy a central role in the realm of political power, and by examining their characteristics through the eyes of an admiral, we can identify the mistakes of the past and avoid unpleasant situations in the future.

If you’re intrigued by any of these titles, take a deeper dive into them today by launching the Blinkist app. With more than 2,200 books in more than a dozen categories, there’s nearly no end to what you’ll learn. So whether you want to discover the secrets of ancient societies or find out about the potential fate of mankind, Blinkist grants you access to ideas from the world’s best history books.

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