Book Review: Mankind: The Story of All of Us

Do you totally geek out, like I do, when thinking about the incredible way humans have made it from the time of the hunter-gatherer, overcoming one obstacle after another? Do you love when a puzzle piece falls into place, or when a seemingly impossible set of connections make themselves apparent? Pamela D. Toler, Ph.D., in her book, Mankind: The Story of All of Us, sets out to dispel certain myths, shed insight into little known events, make connections between apparently unrelated developments and people throughout history, and she knocks it out of the park. This is most definitely not your grandfather’s history book. This isn’t some dusty tome abandoned on the shelf, just begging to give up some of its dry, date-riddled, tedious facts to anyone ill-fated enough to open its cover. But I digress…Mankind – like history itself – is storytelling on a grand scale. At once intriguing, inspiring, funny, appalling, and thoroughly engaging, this volume accomplishes what so many others have tried – but failed to do – with the subject of history: it answers the questions, “How does this relate to me? Why should I care about something that happened five thousand years ago?”. If you’ve ever uttered these phrases, then shame on you. (Just kidding.) If you’re looking for a piece of recommended non-fiction, maybe it’s time you had a peek at what history could mean for you.

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The book is not always laid out in a linear timeline , but rather spans the globe, comparing and contrasting, showing milestones of human achievement. The good, the bad, triumphs and atrocities, the West, the East, and in between – all are revealed in the unbiased light of examination. The book closely parallels The History Channel’s program of the same title, and is full of short vignettes with amazing photography. The events of millennia past are portrayed by brilliant modern-day actors in stunning realism. Charts, maps, diagrams, explanations – the how and why – make it simple to read short sections of the book at a time and not lose your place.

 

 

 

 

As a teacher, historian, and writer, I couldn’t agree more with this excerpt from the book’s dust jacket: “Our story is all about connections – why some ideas take hold and spread around the world and how the lives of people in one part of the world are shaped by events in another.” Toler’s ability to show these connections, to captivate the attention and imagination of her readers, is a gift worth sharing.