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25 February

Book Review: A Little History of the World


I have been reading A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich. I wasn’t able to finish it. It was just too boring. It reads like a children’s bedtime story. So, while this may be a great children’s book, I don’t think it speaks to adults as well.

I wanted to like this book so much. It has great reviews on Amazon, 75 with an average of r 4.5 out of 5 stars. On goodreads, a social book readers website, the book has 755 ratings with an average of 4.01 out of 5. It is clear that people love this book. I just couldn’t get into it. First of all, it’s a book for children. It was originally published in German 70 years ago. It has been translated into many different languages. Also, Gombrich was never a historian. This is revealed in the story of how he came to write this book, which is in the introduction. It says that he was reading something from a publisher friend of his that was about to be published as a children’s history book, and he thought it was terrible. His friend the publisher challenged him to do better. He accepted the challenge and this book is the result of that wager.

As a children’s book I think this might be good. Hard to tell, since my little girl is only 2, I think it is too soon to regale her with this kind of content. But I will keep my copy and see how she responds to it in the coming years. There are lots of comments from amazon reviews like, “Wonderful Book for Homeschoolers” or “Bedtime Stories of History”. Some of those reviews say it is great for adults too, but I just can’t agree. To me there just is not enough there to keep me engrossed. I’m not looking forward to reading this when I’m away from it.

I think the goodread’s reviewer David Giltinan summed it up best in his review:

I can’t bring myself to jump on the warm and fuzzy bandwagon of approval of this deeply flawed book. It is what it is – a condensation of all of human history into sequential “stories” suitable for “children“. [my emphasis] Supposing for the moment that this is not an inherent recipe for disaster, what is baffling is the number of reviewers who claim to see something in this work “for adults”.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Please share your review in the comments section below. Better yet, if you have kids do you read this to them and what do they think about it?


2 Responses to “Book Review: A Little History of the World”

  1. TM says:

    The reason I liked this is because I spent so many years dipping into little bits of history while helping my children study. After so many (very, very many) years of just tidbits here and there, it was nice to read it all through as a story. It was quick and easy, not like I needed to go back to school or through an entire section of the library. My kids are adults but I’m giving it to one of my boys for his children pretty soon.

  2. Jason says:

    Thanks for the response TM. I’m keeping it for my kids in case they like it more than I did.

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