Stranger Than We Can Imagine

Making Sense of the Twentieth Century

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9781593766269 | Paperback 6 x 9 | 356 pages Buy it Now

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Book Description

“An illuminating work of massive insight” on the complex ideas and events that initiated the historical shift between the 19th and 20th centuries (Alan Moore, author of V for Vendetta and Watchmen).

“An always-provocative view of an era that many people would just as soon forget . . . an absorbing tour of the 20th century.” —Kirkus Reviews

In Stranger Than We Can Imagine, John Higgs argues that before 1900, history seemed to make sense. We can understand innovations like electricity, agriculture, and democracy. The twentieth century, in contrast, gave us relativity, cubism, quantum mechanics, the id, existentialism, Stalin, psychedelics, chaos mathematics, climate change and postmodernism.

In order to understand such a disorienting barrage of unfamiliar and knotty ideas, Higgs shows us, we need to shift the framework of our interpretation and view these concepts within the context of a new kind of historical narrative. Instead of looking at it as another step forward in a stable path, we need to look at the twentieth century as a chaotic seismic shift, upending all linear narratives.

Higgs invites us along as he journeys across a century “about which we know too much” in order to grant us a new perspective on it. He brings a refreshingly non-academic, eclectic and infectiously energetic approach to his subjects as well as a unique ability to explain how complex ideas connect and intersect—whether he’s discussing Einstein’s theories of relativity, the Beat poets’ interest in Eastern thought or the bright spots and pitfalls of the American Dream.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

"[Higgs] offers an idiosyncratic, always-provocative view of an era that many people would just as soon forget... Higgs crafts of disparate facts and anecdotes a story all his own. Full of unexpected linkages and brightly written, this is an absorbing tour of the 20th century."
Kirkus Reviews

"It was formerly held that a comprehensive history of the last century would never be written, by virtue of the fact that we knew too much about that frenetic and eventful period. Now, with the era's ink barely dry, John Higgs demolishes this assumption with a breathtakingly lucid and coherent map of the tectonic shifts which drastically reshaped the human psyche, and the human world, within a hundred thrilling, terrifying years... An illuminating work of massive insight, in Stranger Than We Can Imagine, John Higgs informs us of exactly where we've been and, by extension, where we are. I cannot recommend this magnificent work too highly."
—Alan Moore, author of V for Vendetta, Watchmen, and Lost Girls

"A beautiful, erudite, funny and enlightening tour of the widening boundaries of uncertainty revealed in the twentieth century, and who doesn't need a book that explains quantum behaviour with a boxing bout between Putin and a kangaroo?"
—Robin Ince, actor, comedian, and author of Robin Ince's Bad Book Club