Stranger Than We Can Imagine

Making Sense of the Twentieth Century

Publisher: Signal
The extraordinary story of the 20th century, as told from the furthest fringes of science, art and culture. For readers of Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.

     Before 1900, history was an account of great discoveries that actually made sense. People understand innovations like the steam engine, agriculture, or electricity. The twentieth century, by contrast, gave us quantum entanglement, cubism, relativity, psychedelics, postmodernism, chaos maths, and the Somme.
     This is the story of that confusing century as told through the ideas produced at the furthest fringes of our sciences, arts, and culture. Its cast includes well-known geniuses such as Albert Einstein, Francis Crick, and Pablo Picasso, lesser known geniuses like Edward Lorenz, Sergey Korolyov, or Shigeru Miyamoto, and infamous but influential ne'er-do-wells like Timothy Leary, Aleister Crowley and Keith Richards. In this company we take a tour through ideas as strange as general relativity, DNA, the subconscious, Gaia theory, and Dada.
     In this brilliantly written and original book, John Higgs explores, with great clarity and wit, the extremes of twentieth century thought, and in doing so shows how a world of empires became a world of individuals. You will never see the twentieth century in the same way again.

From the Hardcover edition.


“An illuminating work of massive insight…. Stranger Than We Can Imagine informs us exactly where we’ve been and, by extension, where we are. I cannot recommend this magnificent work too highly.”—Alan Moore, author of V for Vendetta
“A beautiful, erudite, funny and enlightening tour of the widening boundaries of uncertainty revealed in the twentieth century.” —Robin Ince
“Hugely entertaining and thought-provoking.” —Scott Pack
“To paraphrase Colonel Kurtz, reading John Higgs is like being shot with a diamond. Suddenly everything becomes terrifyingly clear.” —Mojo
“In Stranger Than We Can Imagine, John Higgs broadens his intellectual reach to encompass modernism, situationism, chaos theory, indeterminacy and almost every other byway of that epoch…. A fine example of learning worn lightly.” —New Scientist

From the Hardcover edition.