Books: A History of Knowledge: Past, Present and Future

Books: A History of Knowledge: Past, Present and Future by Charles Van Doren

Well … my friend Doug Kilponen has done it again … another stellar recommendation. Doug, the same guy who recommended Generations and the same guy who recommended Against the Gods (two of my favorite books) has topped himself again …

A History of Knowledge is just that — a history of humankind and our quest for knowledge. Van Doren, the former editor of Encyclopedia Brittanica writes this like a mini-encyclopedia — everything you need to know about history in 412 pages.

I must confess … I could not put this book down … people on the plane were looking at me funny as I stumbled to me seat because I insisted on reading this book while walking the aisles … no, it is not a novel with an original plot — but it does plot out human history and makes some extremely interesting observations along the way. Van Doren not only tells us what happened, but gives us his view on why it happened and links events to past and future events. He does all this with a lot of wit and humor.

Van Doren, you may remember, was the former Columbia professor that got cheating on “Quizz Show.” That happened well in the past.

This book, written back in 1992, is a must read for anyone who forgot the lessons of Aristotle, Newton, Napoleon, and the Ming Dynasty.

Summation: Read this book.

1 thought on “Books: A History of Knowledge: Past, Present and Future

  1. Brian Lawrence

    I checked out and am picking up a couple of your recommended books- The Tipping Point and A Brief History of Knowledge. I already picked up Master of the Senate, but have not had a chance to start it yet.
    Here are a couple of my suggestions that I did not see on your list:
    The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt- Edmund Morris- Great biography of one of our most fascinating Presidents. The scope of Roosevelt’s life before he becomes President is amazing- writer, cowboy, soldier, legislator, naturalist. I’ve always been dazzled by the talents of three Presidents – TR, JFK and Jefferson.
    What it Takes- Richard Ben Cramer- An incredibly thorough and insightful look at the 1988 Presidential race. On the GOP side he looks at Bush and Dole. The determination and decency of Dole is especially poignant. The failures of Hart, Biden and Gephardt result in Dukakis winning the nomination almost by default. Makes you realize the lengths that these people will go to in order to win the Presidency.
    Dinosaur in a Haystack- Stephen Jay Gould- This collection of essays superbly illustrates Gould’s ability to take important scientific theories and relate them to every day life. A quick and easy read that is informative and entertaining.
    A Hope in the Unseen- Ron Suskind- The Pulitzer prize winning newspaper stories are expanded in to a book that tracks Cedric Jenkins from the horrendous public schools of DC to an Ivy League education. It is supposed to be an uplifting and inspirational tale and it achieves this on some levels. However, it also left me both angered and saddened by the horrible state of our public schools system.


Leave a Reply