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Chronicle of the World
Of all the books I've read, this is, by far, the absolute best. Published in 1989, and now out of print, if you can find a copy...BUY IT! (The dustjacket was lost on our copy, so if you see a different cover that would explain it). It told the entire known history up to that point, told in the style of newspaper articles, if they had existed. (Newspapers, naturally, dating only to the 1600s) All countries, empires, tribes known then, everything! Photographs and drawings abound, and it's due to this book that my love of history was rekindled, and history books began. (It was always my favorite subject in school, even though at least 1/3rd of what they taught us was outright wrong). Before I read this book- it took me two years to read, there's so much to it- my interest in books was mainly limited to Star Wars novels and NASCAR publications. This opened my eyes to the greater realm of history and catapulted ancient Rome to be the only thing that's ever challenged, and at times, superseeds, NASCAR as the most important thing in my life.
It covers the whole world, and best of all, it's generally unbiased. (My personal pet peeve is when an book author forces his own opinions down a reader's throat- to me a good author presents the facts as they are known at the time of publication and lets the reader determine how to feel about said subject)
There are some drawbacks- #1 is the book's weight. It's 12 pounds. I stood it on end next to my bed during the two years it took me to read it, and the weight of the book actually ripped off the cover. #2 is that, the 1900s are basically glossed over. However, I found out later that was because there was a companion volume that covered the 1900s in great detail, I still would have liked to have seen the book continue on in the same style to cover the 1900s, even if only a small number of things were covered. The 1900s were covered by essays, not the newspaper style articles of the preceeding thousands of years. Also, at the very end, each country has a profile covering it's makeup, population at the time, primary religion and languages, and so forth. Some of them don't exist anymore so it's interesting to read about countries that I barely remember hearing about or didn't understand the significance of at the time- IE, East Germany.
And the third, as is the case with any history book and this one can NOT be faulted for, is that new information has been discovered so some of it's a bit out of date. However, the book's publication date being 1989, what was known then is covered in detail. I'm not sure when it 1989 but it's before the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is not covered...and clearly hadn't happened yet from the text of the book.
Like I said above...if you can find this book...BUY IT! It's NOT a common book...I've been looking to replace it after the cover accidentally ripped away from the pages...and I've not been able to find another yet, although I don't really look often, but that was in 2008 that I finished it.