The history of the world is but the biography of great men. - Carlyle
June 6, 2016 8:55 AM   Subscribe

When my mother was a child, she had a book that was 100 short biographies of "great men of history". I am wondering if such a book exists for the modern age.

I'd love to find something like my mother had (and that I read as a child), which was one or two page bios of notable figures from history, but updated for the modern age. Ideally something similar to the Who Was? series of books, but shorter bios, at a higher reading level, and all one volume.

Can you think of anything that might fit the bill?
posted by anastasiav to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"The 100" by Michael Hart

If by "updated for the modern age" you mean "confined only to recent people" then this book is not your answer. But it was written about 1980 and it includes people from the 20th century.

This web page provides Hart's list, minus his own biographies.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:16 AM on June 6, 2016

The BBC's '100 Greatest Britons' had an accompanying book, but it seems to only have biographies for the top ten; there also seem to have been a number of countries which did their own version of the show, though not all of them have books accompanying (the version for the USA doesn't seem to, as that's where your bio says you're from).
posted by Vortisaur at 9:29 AM on June 6, 2016

If by "updated for the modern age" you mean "confined only to recent people"

Sorry, I realize that wasn't clear. It doesn't have to be confined to recent people, but should include a wide variety of people, not just white men from Euro-centric countries.
posted by anastasiav at 9:40 AM on June 6, 2016

Also, FYI, Chocolate Pickle, you may not be aware that the author of The 100 is a white supremacist.
posted by anastasiav at 9:49 AM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

One option is to use the Wikipedia book tool. It lets you choose a selection of articles, and export them as an e-book, or order it as a printed book in colour or black-and-white, softback or hardback. The prices are actually quite reasonable, and it can be an incredibly personalised: you choose the cover image (so long as it's free) and can even write a personalised introduction. Look for "Create a book" on the left hand side of any Wikipedia article.

In the last few years, a lot of effort has gone into improving articles about women and non-Western cultures, and Wikipedia's very conscious of being deficient in these areas. As you show, traditional printed sources are often even more deficient. If you want to make sure the articles in your book are well-written, start with the Featured Articles index, which includes only those articles which have been through very demanding review and are engagingly written. Good Articles have been through less demanding review, but they're still the top half percent of all Wikipedia articles. More effort than clicking on a book in Amazon, I admit, but it's a very personal gift and the selection can be a diverse as you want.
posted by infobomb at 11:07 AM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

The 12 Awesome Women You've Never Heard Of series is worth mentioning, since a Mefite authored one volume, but it seems to be about the same reading level as the Who Was? series, and it's multi-volume. Just browsing Amazon a bit, Extraordinary People: A Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Some of the World's Most Fascinating Individuals seems like a closer match for your criteria.
posted by Wobbuffet at 6:48 PM on June 6, 2016

I quite enjoyed Titans of History.
posted by plep at 10:31 AM on June 7, 2016

Try Clive Jame's Cultural Amnesia, I'm loving it. A wide ranging collection of short biographies that are perfect for bedtime reading.
posted by guy72277 at 1:38 AM on June 8, 2016

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