Friday, February 5, 2016

5 Strange Facts from Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century by John Higgs

To compose a history book about a period so filled with cultural, political, and scientific paradigm shifts as the 20th century would be a Herculean task for any writer. John Higgs, who previously wrote a highly praised book on The KLF and a wonderful biography of Timothy Leary, has tackled the tumultuous 20th Century in his newest book, Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century, and succeeded wildly.

Higgs writes with an enviable lucidity, encapsulating the key themes that shaped mankind in the 1900s through concise chapters composed of fascinating stories about significant topics of the century like Relativity, War, Science Fiction, Sex, Postmodernism, etc all weaved together neatly into a coherent argument. The prose is so clear and the stories so intriguing that this history book reads like an entertaining page-turner. I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to reading it again.

It seemed to sneak its way into every conversation I had around the time I was reading it. I learned so much from it. Befitting the title (a paraphrasing of geneticist J.B.S. Haldane's statement on the universe being "not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose") there is a wealth of strange facts littered throughout this book.

Here are 5 of the strangest facts I encountered in my reading of Stranger Than We Can Imagine.