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Brief Histories of Everyday Objects

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  369 ratings  ·  83 reviews
Hilarious, entertaining, and illustrated histories behind some of life's most common and underappreciated objects - from the paperclip and the toothbrush to the sports bra and roller skates

In the tradition of A Cartoon History of the Universe and, most recent, Randall Munroe's What If? comes Brief Histories of Everyday Objects, a graphic tour through the unusual creation
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Picador (first published 2016)
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Robin Rockman My 6th grader read it and enjoyed the book. There is some implied cursing (asterisked out) and some more mature concepts, but nothing all that…moreMy 6th grader read it and enjoyed the book. There is some implied cursing (asterisked out) and some more mature concepts, but nothing all that inappropriate. (less)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  369 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
So right up my alley. Short comics with bits of history about the development of all kinds of mundane objects. I absolutely love this kind of thing, and all the more so because it's funny as well.
Stewart Tame
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Short comics that tell the stories behind the invention of, or simply associated with, various everday objects, i.e. paperclips, potato chips, sports bras, beer cans, etc. Warner has an eye for an interesting anecdote and tells his stories with economy and good humor. He also does good research, not just accepting the first version of the story he happens to encounter. He does repeat some bogus stories, but makes it clear that they are just that: stories. Each tale is rounded out by a few one ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
A slightly deeper and funnier book than I first expected. A simple, basic idea: short factoids about the origins and development of everyday items like the pencil or the safety pin or tea or the sports bra. And while it reads quick, the stories have a bit more substance to them. They focus on the role of non-white-European men in the development of most of these products. There is an honest look at those who weren't fast enough for history or the examples of western inventions that had been in ...more
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was fun, light nonfiction. The research, comics, and humor were a great combination.
Emily (Obsessed Reader)
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was so interesting learning the history of all of these objects that we use all the time! Also, I laughed multiple time, very funny.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fun random trivia, aka totally my jam. I especially like all the shade rightfully thrown at all the racist and sexist aspects of the histories.
Dakota Morgan
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I had so much fun with Brief Histories of Everyday Objects. If you have a short attention span, are interested in fun facts, appreciate diversity and inclusion in your mini-biographies, and are willing to stomach a huge number of (often hilarious!) comic asides, this book will be right up your alley.

Brief Histories of Everyday Objects reminds me strongly of the excellent Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series. Similar art, similar jam-packed design, similar comic leanings. As a Hazardous Tales
Joseph R.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Many common objects have interesting and unexpected histories and legends attached to them. This volume tells the stories of forty-five such items. Most tellings have some authentic history, though many items like tea and dice are so ancient as to have no definitive origin story attached. Many cultures have come up with common objects. Making a claim for uniqueness or originality is not always possible. Author Andy Warner has managed to find common threads and running gags to tie items together. ...more
Paweł Ornowski
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
At first I thought this book might just be a fun and quick read...but it was so much more. I often forget about how crazy even the smallest histories are, especially concerning inventions. When you can create something that people want--God Lord--is the history behind it exciting, tragic and whatnot. Andy Warner, the author, inserts his quirky humor into things and it is a real treat. This is an excellent coffee table book and one I could easily read again.
Short, silly, fun, and fast. Andy Warner has taken a large collection of everyday items, from the toothbrush to Monopoly, and created brief, three-page graphic depictions of bizarre or interesting information about their creation. For example, paper spurred the development of the Arab Golden Age, and was acquired when Arabic forces captured two Chinese papermakers who swapped the ability to make paper (at least in their style) for their lives. Warner depicts this and other tales in an engaging ...more
Amy Beth
This could have been so much more. I was expecting some social history of the objects, but instead it was almost completely about the inventors or related inventions. The focus was often on the bizarre and funny instead of the meaningful. Case in point: when talking about the bicycle, Warner mentioned Susan B. Anthony's quote about how influential bicycles were for women's independence. However, he didn't follow it up with any evidence and instead only talked about bizarre bike riding clothes ...more
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lots of fun with a great sense of humor and exhaustively researched, this can wear on the reader after a bit, but this is, I suspect, not the fault of Mr. Warner. History can have a kind of bleak view when one backs up and looks at it, and there is a fair amount of cheating, avarice, theft and oppression in this book which even when handled amusingly, can try a person's very soul. I wouldn't have this material presented any other way, but this is a pretty sword with a sharp edge, in my opinion.
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novel
Irreverent and informative graphic novel micro-histories about everything from Velcro to paper clips. Fun factoids and odd details about various inventors' hard-luck lives and/or good fortune. Entertaining and imaginatively done.
Cheshire Public Library
Brief Histories of Everyday Objects by Andy Warner is a hilarious non-fiction graphic novel that describes how many of the items that we take for granted have interesting, unusual, and sometimes downright silly origins. The author guessed when it came down to deciding what people looked like and what they said (unless they were quoted), but the facts are all true! Once you read this book, you will never look at the things you use on a daily basis in the same way again. The next time you go to a ...more
Beyond Book'd
Wow, I wish all histories could be presented in this manner to kids. As an adult, I loved learning about the histories of everyday objects. I've learned so many strange and interesting little-known facts (some speculative findings). Some of these findings can be hard to back up with evidence. I would've loved it in color.

Bathroom-toothbrushes, shampoo, razors, toilets, tubs, kitty litter
Bedroom- shoes, silk, velcro, sports bra, safety pins
Living Room - vacuum, monopoly, dice, yo-yo, slinky
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Did you know that Lillian Gilbreth, noted efficiency expert and the mom of the real-life Cheaper by the Dozen family, invented the step (pedal-operated) trash can? Or that the guy who invented Tupperware fired the woman who invented Tupperware parties and then bought himself an island? This book was a wonderful blend of charming, fact-filled stories about the history of everyday objectssome, like silk, probably known to readers already, and some, like the safety pin, not so much. A fun, ...more
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Andy Warner, frequent contributor to The Nib, delivers a well-researched and highly entertaining serious of short histories of objects you have probably used many times without much thinking about before. The toothbrush, the paperclip, safety pins, bottle caps, paper bags, flush toilets, sports bras and many more get their tales told here. The number of inventors mentioned in this book who forgot to file for patents will probably also surprise you!
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Would have given the book another star but for the curse words used in the text. This book should be geared toward pre-teens along with adults. It does give a brief history of how somethings we use everyday came to be. But the unnecessary use of curse word to be cute rules out pre-teen readers. Sure they hear the words everyday, but the author obviously has a great many words at his disposal, and his declining to use other, better words could be put down to laziness. Just my opinion.
George K. Ilsley
Tries to take a humorous look at the origins of everyday objects. Where did kitty litter come from? For example. There are some surprises (tooth brushes in North America only became popular after WW2). In other matters, such as barbed wire, the origins are skipped over in order to relate a bit of Texas history. The humour is not consistently appealing, especially if the reader is really interested in the facts and not the author yelling Look at me!!
Mitzi Moore
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
When youre in the mood for a humorous historical graphic novel about trivia, this book is perfect. I can imagine it getting enthusiastically passed around by nerdy middle school boys. Its tempting to skip to chapters about certain inventions, but you should definitely start at the beginning to appreciate all the recurring jokes. ...more
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Funny and packed with historical trivia, with a snarky feminist tone (many sarcastic references to men discounting "tiny lady brains" whose innovations changed the world) - what's not to love?

Give to kids who have outgrown Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales - it has the same mix of facts and irreverence.
Marge Shaffer
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really wish the author had left the swearing and a few of the objects out so that middle school kids would have access to this fascinating read. The humor and running jokes were fun - just what many a middle schooler would enjoy. I learned lots, including that many inventors were taken advantage of, especially the women.
David Thomas
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love useless trivia, which is a good thing for this book, because it's full of it. Ever wondered the origins behind stuff like kitty litter and coffee filters? Grab this book! The art is competent and the writing is humorous.

The same author has another book about micro-nations that I'll probably pick up. I'll have to watch what he puts out in the future, because I loved this.
Erik Barkman
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The fascinating stories behind every day objects we take for granted, from sports bras to paper clips. Warner has a pleasing cartooning style, a knack for conveying information succintly, and a keen eye for funny or absurd details. If you like podcasts like 99% Invisible, you'll like this. 10/10 would read on the toilet!
Kate Stericker
Really delightful! The graphic novel format and Warner's strong sense of humour made this book easy to plow through in a couple sittings. I appreciated that Warner featured a large proportion of women and POC and didn't gloss over the role that factors such as racism, sexism, and religious persecution played in the stories.
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pretty Interesting book. However, if you are looking for complete histories you will be dissipated since these are more like how things were popularized in the US. Overall I think it was well written and drawn with good use of running jokes to link some of the stories. I would definitely recommend to a history buff.
Amber Ray
Jun 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Fun graphic novel. Not high level....reads like a kid's book a bit but enjoyable. Did have a good bit of interesting information in it.

Bill Bryson's "At Home" is a deeper book on the subject of everyday items.
May 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
misleading in that dealt more with how some people being inventors or business people were mistreated. sometimes focused more on a connection to an invention instead of the invention itself. for example the part concerning bicycles was more about the invention of bloomers.
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Andy Warner's comics have been published by Slate, Fusion, American Public Media, The Nib, Symbolia, Medium, KQED,, The Showtime Network's Years of Living Dangerously,, The Center for Constitutional Rights, UNHCR, UNRWA, UNICEF, and Buzzfeed.

He is a contributing editor at The Nib and has taught cartooning at Stanford University, California College of the Arts, and the Animation

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