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Stranger Than We Can Imagine

Making Sense of the Twentieth Century

List Price: $16.95

November 10, 2015 | Paperback | 6 x 8.9, 356 Pages | ISBN 9781593766269

“Full of unexpected linkages and brightly written, this is an absorbing tour of the 20th century.” —Kirkus


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.

JOHN HIGGS created the long-running BBC Radio 4 quiz show “X Marks the Spot” and has directed BAFTA-winning episodes of animated pre-school British TV. He is the author of KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band that Burned a Million PoundsI Have America Surrounded: A Biography of Timothy Leary, and Our Pet Queen: A New Perspective on Monarchy.


“[O]ffers 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

“This unique and decidedly nonacademic approach allows readers to recount the mostly familiar events of the 20th century through a refreshing lens… a breezy and enjoyable read…” —Library Journal

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