Book blog

The Twitter History of the World: Book Review

Ever wonder what world history would look like through Twitter? If the major events in human history (skewed ever so heavily towards creationism) had occured through social media, perhaps they would look something like this:


If you’ve thought how easy a project like this might be, think again. Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of the Sun, and journalist Chas Newkey-Burden have attempted to reduce the whole history of the world into 100 key moments and downsized once more to fit witticisms into the 140 character restrictions for Twitter. It’s hard to please everyone, especially with what transforms into historical one-liners, so you have to appreciate the challenge accomplished by condensing the whole world into a mere 288 pages.

It’s one of those books that should have worked but doesn’t-it sounds like a good idea in principal- but it’s just not funny enough in practice.  When reading it, I got the same sensation as when someone tells you an in-joke ending with ‘well, you had to be there’. It’s true that being funny in less than 140 letters and spaces can be a terrible challenge to undertake, but the comedy value is so scarce, laughs are non-existent. 

Let’s get to the juicy bit: the plot. I’ll skip over the glaringly obvious fact that the first few parts of the book are exclusively biblical (which completely voids the whole title of the book itself) and take the high road. The authors skillfully narrate tweets from God during the creation of the world, Adam and Eve, and the banishment from the garden of Eden. In fact, this section takes up longer than any other part of ‘history’ in the book, which include Noah and the Ark, the end of dinosaurs, the parting of the Red Sea, Queen Elizabeth and the discovery of America, Einstein’s eureka moment, World War II and the invention of the Atomic Bomb, 9/11 and the war against Al Qaeda. The good news is that they have chosen most of the well known parts of “history” in each section, as well as providing some kind of explanation at the end of each chapter (which helps if you don’t get the joke the first time around).

It’s an entertaining piece of fiction in small doses, perfect for reading whilst waiting for a train, on the toilet or when ignoring someone unbearably boring in a tremendously obvious way (meaning, whenever you’d normally be scrolling through Twitter more discreetly). Reading the whole thing in one sitting can be enough to take the Hitler and Napoleon tweets far too seriously.

Have you read this book? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Featured image: Creative commons photo Shawn Campbell


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