A big book can be a mind expanding journey. The very best big book I have read in a long while is Peter Watson’s IDEAS A HISTORY OF THOUGHT AND INVENTION, FROM FIRE TO FREUD. It is loaded with facts, concepts, and explanations. Here is a very small sampling:
• Christopher Columbus’ personal library pretty much survives intact to this day and Columbus wrote lots in the margins. From this kind of direct evidence Watson reconstructs Columbus’ worldview.
• The city of Rome was sacked in 1527 by German troops. Murder and destruction reigned for eight months ending when “the food ran out, there was no one left to ransom and plague appeared.”
• In 1551 printer Robert Stephanus of Geneva introduced the practice of numbering biblical verses.
Although I haven’t read Diderot’s Encyclopedia, Francis Bacon, or Galileo, getting to know their ideas enlightens. I aspire to rereading Watson’s book in ten years or so, when I am a lttle smarter and can appreciate it more.