Looking for books about different world cultures
June 21, 2015 7:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books that: 1. List different beliefs and practices of many different world cultures, both contemporary or historical cultures. 2. Are accessible, as in not needing an anthropology degree to understand them. 3. Preferably have pictures. 4. Are non-fiction, NOT a narrative with characters. I just want the facts. 5. Can be for kids or adults. 6. Preferably not internet resources because I want to minimize screen time.

Example of the kind of thing I'm looking for: "The _ peoples of _ are polygamous, except for the priests"; "The _ peoples of _ have a day of silence every 10 days for fear of their spirit escaping".

The goal is to get a better sense for which parts of my own (American) culture are constructed, versus which things are universal/cross-cultural to all humans.
posted by TheOptimizer to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
The closest match I can think of is Culture Sketches by Holly Peters-Golden. Running through your criteria: it's a solid match if 15 societies are enough; it's aimed at college freshmen with no anthropology experience; it has about one map and one B&W photo per society; it's non-fiction; and I'd say maybe age 14-15+ might work, if it's going to work at all. It's organized systematically, covering similar topics for each society, but it also goes into unique aspects of each society; so that's a decent match to your further examples. But it may have more detail than you're looking for, because that's been sort of the major finding of cultural anthropology: context usually matters more than classification, and a statement like "___ are polygamous" can get really, really complicated in its "except for ..." section. If you need something that's definitely appealing to kids, I dunno.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:11 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Culture Shock and Culture Smart series are pretty good, although each one only covers one culture at a time.

For your purpose, you might just benefit from reading books about US culture written for foreigners because they will specify the things about American culture that are considered weird or at least non-obvious to people from other cultures. Here are some in that genre:

CultureShock! USA

USA - Culture Smart!

What Foreigners Need to Know About America From A to Z
posted by Jacqueline at 9:46 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was just in a bookstore, browsing the Anthropology section, and ran across an illustrated encyclopedia of world cultures. It was organized by society, rather than cultural practice, but it might still be useful. If I can figure out what it was called, I'll come back and post. Otherwise, if I were you, I would go to a used bookstore in a college town and browse for a 101-level textbook on cultural anthropology--one that's relatively recent but cheap. They tend to be organized by cultural practice and generally have lots of full-color pictures.
posted by wintersweet at 11:30 AM on June 21, 2015


Try some wide-ranging travel books. The Lonely Planet series comes to mind. The introductory sections in particular go over a place's food, customs, history, culture, and so on.
posted by Leontine at 7:47 PM on June 21, 2015


The anthropology of childhood fits all these criteria except lots of pictures.
posted by aetg at 1:25 PM on June 22, 2015


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