May Books 15) A History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor
Telling history through things is what museums are for.
This brilliant book accompanies the brilliant series of podcasts which I listened to a couple of years ago. It is the same hundred objects from the British museum's collection, but this time in dead tree format. The individual talks, which were 11-14 minutes on the radio, are down to 5-7 pages here, so I think quite substantially cut; but what we get in return is pictures of the actual objects, which radio cannot give. Actually in most cases I felt I actually had got a fairly good impression of the objects' appearance from listening to the audio version, but there were a couple where the picture does make a big difference - the sexually explicit Warren Cup, and the extraordinarily detailed mechanical galleon of Augsburg. Anyway, it is all very nicely done (though I did notice as I browsed the maps at the end that none of the objects is from, er, Ireland).