Entering into 2012, I can think of no other book to recommend for a new year than Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of The Universe! "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it"; a quote of Irish Statesman Edmund Burke, rings true from the beginning of time until now and until humanity ceases to exist. This book; the first in a 3 volume series, explores history from the Big Bang to Alexander The Great's conquests.....and is the most informative, most entertaining, most easy-to-learn-&-remember history book I've ever read!!
Larry Gonick is a Doctor of Math from Harvard University who loved history, so read...and read....and read....and read some more, and put together volumes of history written on a middle-school/high-school level, and drawn in a way that is factual and entertaining at the same time. With a sense of humor; and sometimes irony, Gonick has provided mankind with what may be one of it's greatest works.....rivaling Plutarch, Josephus, or any other historian that has existed down through the ages.
What is most interesting to me, is the amount of exposition on historical events that I NEVER learned in any other format....not high school, and not college. I am a long-time history buff....I've read lots of books, taken every course that my high school and college offered....and I've still learned more from Gonick's Cartoon History than all of them combined!
This and the other 2 volumes that continue the Cartoon History up till Christopher Columbus' landing in the Americas, are perfect for the young man or woman who is interested in history. A perfect gift for any parent to purchase for their child, or teacher for their students, it is inexpensive and readily available online or at any bookstore.
Note: It is important to realize that Larry Gonick's extensive writing and artwork does NOT "pull any punches".....he unfolds history in the most realistic fashion possible, so those that are brainwashed by government or religion may find parts of this volume leading them to question some things they have been told......NOT that he bashes any Government or Religion, he simply writes history as it happened.
There is some nudity, sexual situations, etc. done in fun and for accuracy.....but historic in their setting and purpose. There are shocking moments in history, great exploits, fun side-stories, and a great many events that you'll learn no where else outside a boring university lecture....
What is also interesting and impressive about this and the other volumes of Larry Gonick's history series, is that his unfolding in history is not just of one culture, one civilization, one point of view, etc......but rather he goes in a giant circle around the world showing what's going on in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, & the Americas. It is quite illuminating to learn about Jews in India, the Inca and Mayan Empires in the Americas BEFORE Columbus and the Europeans landed (What? They had a history? YES!)
The only criticism I have of Volume One (I have NO criticisms of the other 2 volumes, or the 2 volumes of The Cartoon History of The Modern World, or the C.H. of The United States), is that it spends an inordinate amount of time explaining the evolution of man from primate to homo sapien......which I do not believe in or think is scientifically or historically accurate. I do NOT fault Gonick for his opinions, I only note it for more "conservative" Christians/Jews/Muslims who may take offense. If you are offended, I would still recommend that you buy this for it's great historical value, and just rip out the pages on evolution.
By far the greatest History Book and series of history books that can be "connected" to the comic book genre, I recommend this to everyone who has even the slightest interest in history, or has children that are nearing middle-school age, or older.....There are 3 volumes of The Cartoon History of The Universe, 2 volumes of The Cartoon History of The Modern Age, and an extra volume of The Cartoon History of The United States. Larry Gonick has written/drawn several more volumes of work on a variety of topics and subjects. His website is at the bottom of this page under "Writer's & Artist's Websites".