Knowing What We Know

Knowing What We Know by Simon Winchester

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Knowing What We Know:

What I know is that I don’t know much.

Quick synopsis:

A look at knowledge and how our understanding and interaction with the world has changed through history.

Fun Fact for Non-History People:

Language was born in 4 different places all over the world around 3400 B.C. and over 2000 years led to writing.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Until the 18th century, shoes didn’t have a right or left. They were all straight.

My Take on Knowing What We Know:

I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall when the wonderful Simon Winchester told his editor, “I think I’d like my next book to be on human knowledge. All of it.” I assume a flurry of questions followed, mainly asking what would that book even look like.

As expected, the book is named Knowing What We Know, and it is a wonderful walk through the major people, places, and events of human history. To be clear, there are philosophical questions presented but the book is not a philosophy book. Winchester wants to ruminate on these questions by chronicling history and its major leaps in knowledge. Aristotle is in here, but so is Google. Gutenberg makes an appearance as well as the atomic bomb. The book is fun because you can feel how much fun Winchester is having writing it. As with most of his books, it feels like a conversation. I half expect each chapter to end with, “what do you think?”

This is a safe book to recommend to anyone, even those who avoid non-fiction. There is too much covered for there not to be something someone will find interesting.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Harper Books.)


Great book for everyone. Read it. Buy it here!

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