Past Books

About ORIAS World History Reading Group books

Books for each year are listed in the order in which the group(s) read them. In early years, the San Francisco book group organized their reading by theme. In more recent years groups have not always followed a theme, so books are simply listed in the order in which they were read. 

Group members selected books each year to fit their own academic needs and interests. Book choices do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government

2022 - 2023 San Francisco and East Bay Books

God's Chinese Son by Jonathan Spence

The Call: Inside the Global Saudi Religious Project by Krithika Varagur

A Fortress in Brooklyn by Nathaniel Deutsch and Michael Casper

The Longest Journey: Southeast Asians and the Pilgrimage to Mecca by Eric Tagliacozzo

To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity by Allan Heaton Anderson

Anatomy of Torture by Ron E. Hassner

How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr

The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World – and Globalization Began by Valerie Hansen

Climate Change in Human History: Prehistory to the Present by Benjamin Lieberman, Elizabeth Gordon

Tunguska: A Siberian Mystery and Its Environmental Legacy by Andy Bruno

Volt Rush: The Winners and Losers in the Race to Go Green by Henry Sanderson

Worn: A People's History of Clothing by Sofi Thanhauser

The Backstreets: a novel from Xinjiang by Perhat Tursun

Podcast playlist and article related to British East India Company.

Climate change podcast playlist

Listen to these:
Then one of these two:
And one of these two:
Optional - sea level rise/groundwater rise/infrastructure: 

Optional - urban planning/extreme weather: 

2021 - 2022 San Francisco and East Bay Books

Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World by Gillen D'Arcy Wood

The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages by François-Xavier Fauvelle

Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz

African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan by Girard and Lockley

Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs by Camilla Townsend

The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf

Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples by Alastair Couper

The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana Alexievich, Richard Pevear

The Other Slavery by Andres Resendez

The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics by Mae Ngai

African Europeans by Olivette Otele

No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal

Playlist of podcasts and online lectures about Ukraine.

2020 - 2021 San Francisco and East Bay Books

How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Women on the Margins by Natalie Zemon Davis

In Search of the Christian Buddha: How an Asian Sage Became a Medieval Saint, by Donald Lopez, Jr.

The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan, by Adam Clulow

The World and a Very Small Place in Africa, by Donald Wright

The Tar Baby: A Global History, by Bryan Wagner

The Woman Who Turned Into a Jaguar, and Other Narratives of Native Women in Archives of Colonial Mexico, by Lisa Sousa

God's Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World, by Alan Mikhail

The Ottoman Age of Exploration, by Giancarlo Casale 

Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire, by Coll Thrush

Tatar Empire: Kazan's Muslims and the Making of Imperial Russia, by Danielle Ross 

Secondhand Time, by Svetlana Alexievich

A Sea of Debt: Law And Economic Life In The Western Indian Ocean, 1780–1950, by Fahad Ahmad Bishara 

Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid

Playlist of recorded lectures in lieu of reading:

Ancient Civilizations of the Americas by Anna Guengerich 2.5.2015 - The Moche
Ancient Civilizations of the Americas by Anna Guengerich 2.12.2015 - The Mississippians
Ancient Civilizations of the Americas by Anna Guengerich 2.25.2015 - The Amazon Basin

2019 - 2020 San Francisco and East Bay Books

Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World by Gregory T. Cushman

India Connected by Ravi Agrawal

The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire by Kyle Harper

Empire of Guns: the violent making of the Industrial Revolution by Priya Satia

Russian Hajj: Empire and the Pilgrimage to Mecca by Eileen Kane

The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empire, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam by Michael G. Vann

The Age of Intoxication: Origins of the Global Drug Trade by Benjamin Breen

The Woman Who Turned Into a Jaguar, and Other Narratives of Native Women in Archives of Colonial Mexico by Lisa Sousa

A Social History of the Deccan, 1300 - 1761 by Richard M. Eaton

Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Mirrorlands: Russia, China, and Journeys in Between by Ed Pulford

2018 - 2019 San Francisco and East Bay Books

Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright

Myanmar's Enemy Within by Francis Wade

The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa

The Return by Hisham Matar

Dear Leader by Jang Jin-sung

Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich

Khaki Shorts Saffron Flags by Tapan Basu et al.

The Global Transformation of Time by Vanessa Ogle

1177: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline

Empress of the East by Leslie Peirce

Tell This in My Memory by Eve M. Troutt-Powell

Inside the World of the Eunuch: A Social History of the Emperor's Servants in Qing China by Melissa Dale

Podcast Playlist

Fall of Rome Podcast -

Tides of History: Natural Disasters and the End of the Roman Empire

Interview: Historian Kyle Harper on Disease, Climate and the Fall of the Roman Empire

Ottoman History Podcast - 

Episode 252: Tracing Plague in the Ottoman Empire

Episode 276: War, Environment, and the Ottoman Habsburg Frontier

Generation Anthropocene - 

A Tale of Two Grain(link is external)s

Climate Change: The Beginning

99% Invisible - 

Episode 239: Guano Mania

2017 - 2018 San Francisco & East Bay Books

The Art of Not Being Governed, by James C. Scott

Seeing Like a State, by James C. Scott

Selections from The Perspective of the World, by Fernand Braudel
(Volume 3 of Civilization & Capitalism 15th - 18th Century)

China's Asian Dream, by Tom Miller

In Search of the Christian Buddha: How an Asian Sage Became a Medieval Saint, by Lopez and McCracken

Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, by Christian Parenti

Africa's Discovery of Europe, by David Northrup

A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore

Little Soldiers, by Lenora Chu

2016 - 2017 San Francisco & East Bay Books

The Little Ice Age, by Brian Fagan

Prisoners of Geography, by Tim Marshall

Family, by Ba Jin

Paradise in Ashes, by Beatriz Manz

The Myth of Continents, by Martin W. Lewis & Kären Wigen

The World and a Very Small Place in Africa: A History of Globalization in Niumi, the Gambia, by Donald R. Wright

Famine, by Cormac Ó Gráda

Where the Jews Aren't, by Masha Gessen

Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China, by Alec Ash

Migration and Diasporas & Cross-Cultural Interactions

Chinese Cubans: A Transnational History, by Kathleen Lopez

Migration: A World History, by Michael C. Fisher

The End of Empire: Attila the Hun & the Fall of Rome, by Christopher Kelly

Slavery and Abolition in the Ottoman Middle East, by Ehud R. Toledano

A Commonwealth of Thieves: The Improbable Birth of Australia, by Thomas Keneally

After Expulsion: 1492 and the Making of Sephardic Jewry, by Jonathan S. Ray

Immigrants in the Lands of Promise, by Samuel L. Baily

City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp, by Ben Rawlence

Carbon Democracy, by Timothy Mitchell

The Modern World

Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul, by Charles King

Pink Sari Revolution: A Tale of Women and Power in India, by Amana Fontanella-Khan

The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century, by David Reynold

A History of Future Cities, by Daniel Brook

Religion and the State

From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia, by Pankaj Mishra

Gathering Leaves and Lifting Words: Histories of Buddhist Monastic Education in Laos and Thailand, by Justin McDaniel

The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future, by Vali R. Nasr

Shinto and the State, 1868-1988, by Helen Hardacre

The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti, by Kate Ramsey

Travel Narratives

Disorienting Encounters: Travels of a Moroccan Scholar in France in 1845-1846, Susan Gilson Miller, (trans. and ed.)

An Area of Darkness, by V. S. Naipaul

Drifting Toward the Southeast: The Story of Five Japanese Castaways, by Junya Nagakuni and Junji Kitadai

Travel Writing 1700-1830: An Anthology, Elizabeth A. Bohls & Ian Duncan, eds. 

Shadow of the Silk Road, by Colin Thubron

A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People, by Zhou Daguan (author), Peter Harris (trans.)

The Hye Ch'O Diary: Memoir of the Pilgrimage to the Five Regions of India, by Hye Ch'O, Jan Yun-Hua, Iido Shotaro, Yang Han-Sung (authors) and Laurence Preston (ed).

Trade, Finance & the Global Economy

Conspiracy of Paper, by David Liss

The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith

Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chunking Mansions, Hong Kong, by Gordon Mathews

Debt, The First 5000 Years, by David Graeber

Before European Hegemony: The World System 1250 - 1350, by Janet Abu-Lughod

The Middle East in the World Economy, 1800 - 1914, by Roger Owen

Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean: Seas in History, by Michael Pearson

The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma, by Thant Myint-U

Maritime SE Asia to 1500, by Lynda Shaffer

Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh

East Africa and the Indian Ocean, by Edward Alpers

Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History, by Giles Milton

Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, by Robert D. Kaplan

Transnational Transgressions

Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age, by Marcus Rediker

McMafia : A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld, by Misha Glenny

Smuggling: Contraband and Corruption in World History, by Alan Karras

The Great Hedge of India, Roy Moxham

Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States Along a Southeast Asian Frontier, 1865-1915, Eric Tagliacozzo

The Looming Tower, Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright

No Boundaries, Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement, by Tom Diaz

Central America and the Caribbean

A Brief History of Central America by Perez-Brignoli

Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution by Laurent Dubois.

BANANAS: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World, by Peter Chapman.

Black Shack Alley by Joseph Zobel

Confronting the American Dream: Nicaragua under US Imperial Rule, by Michel Gobat

After Fidel, Updated Edition: Raul Castro and the Future of Cuba's Revolution by Brian Latell