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Summary

The 20th century should make sense. It's the period of history that we know the most about, an epic geopolitical narrative that runs through World War One, the Great Depression, World War Two, the American century and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

But somehow that story doesn't quite lead into the world we find ourselves in now, this bewildering 21st century, adrift in a network of constant surveillance, unsustainable competition, tsunamis of trivia and extraordinary opportunity.

Time, then, for a new perspective. With John Higgs as our guide, we step off the main path and wander through some of the more curious backwaters of the 20th century, exploring familiar and unfamiliar territory alike, finding fresh insight on our journey to the present day. We travel in the company of some of the most radical artists, scientists, geniuses and crazies of their age.

They show us that great innovations such as relativity, cubism, quantum mechanics, postmodernism and chaos maths are not the incomprehensible, abstract horrors that we assume them to be but signposts that bring us to the world we live in now.

John Higgs brings us an alternative history of the strangest of centuries. He shows us how the elegant, clockwork universe of the Victorians became increasingly woozy and uncertain; and how we discovered that our world is not just stranger than we imagine but, in the words of Sir Arthur Eddington, "stranger than we can imagine".

©2015 John Higgs (P)2015 Audible, Ltd

Critic 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)

What members say

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Howard
  • Long Eaton, Derbyshire, United Kingdom
  • 07-09-15

Tour through our times.

Higgs has done an excellent job of making sense of the last Century from a Western perspective. Insightful, fun and thought provoking. I recommend you listen, learn and above all enjoy.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • J
  • 24-02-17

Not to be missed

I loved this book from start to finish. It's educational and thought provoking. By providing a comprehensive account of significant changes in politics, economics, science, power, philosophy, music and more during the twentieth century, the reader is provided with new perspectives and a fascinating insight into our own place on the planet and in the timeline of recent human history during a period of strange and significant change. Do yourself a favour - read (or listen) to this book!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating, clear and amusing

The interaction among science, culture and the arts. I have read much of his source material but it was very useful to have it all brought together in one book with all the parallels and interactions pointed out.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Awesome!

Great book, adds a much needed more 'in touch' take on how we got to where we now are.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Exceptional view point

This book works wonders on the mind, if you already enjoy looking at things differently and not buying into the programming of society and history then you will love it. If however you are not used to that mode of questioning the World yet would like to change the way you seek and find answers and interpret things this will be a most suitable starting place.

If you are a bit Greyface it might be best to step away in case you get a bit shaken from exposure to a unique and fantastically written book laden with humour and insight.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Couldn't finish

The first five chapters were enjoyable but then it just became monotonous. I tried on different occasions to finish this book but after ten minutes I just got bored. I'm not into science and I think the narrator is. So I switched off.

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I can't stop listening

I have really enjoyed listening to this book. The voice is calm and reasonable. The content is vast and interesting. I also recommend John Higgs kfl the burning of a million pounds. Both are well worth listening to several times.

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A new perspective on history

A history of the 20th century in the form of ideas. From the Einstein's complicated revision of the physics which surround us, to the the influence of the ' net, and Social Networking. Simply told and easily understandable. A good listen- I'll look for more from the author.

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Not what I expected

This book was not what I expected as it is a much round of you of the 20th century then I thought it might be. Wow not sure of it in the beginning I'm really glad I stayed with it right to the end.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Utter balls

Narcissistic twaddle about art and its supposed importance to understanding the 20th century. Couldn't tolerate more than the first half hour.

1 of 7 people found this review helpful