Recently the idea of reading books, re: the history of photography, come up on TOP. I was tempted to post a comment but I didn't.
That written, I have given thought to, given my truly vast and comprehensive knowledge of the medium and its apparatus, writing a history of photography. However, I have rejected that idea inasmuch as finding a publisher interested in publishing a 1 page book would be probably be a difficult task. Although I could break it up into chapters but there would still be only 5 sentences....
THE HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Photography was invented.
People started making pictures.
People continued making pictures.
They are still making pictures.
Look at the pictures.
.... it's brilliant, concise and gets right to the meat of the matter.
That written, I have several books, re: the history of photography, such as, PHOTOGRAPHY ~ from 1839 to today, published by the George Eastman House, aka: Eastman Museum. It's 800 pages and, coincidentally, I have read less than 5 sentences although I have looked at a lot of the pictures.
That book, like all of the others like it, present the history of photography almost exclusively from the standpoint of the great and lesser known "masters" of the medium. You might think that an 800 page book with 1 or more pictures on every page would have a fair number of surprises, picture wise, but that is not the case. There's a lot of same-o, same-o seen that before.
AND, here's my main gripe about such books ... they, at best gloss over, at worst ignore completely, the greatest movement of the medium, the history of snapshot making. Which, iMvio, is ridiculous inasmuch as there have been more-by an unfathomable multiplication factor-snapshots made over the course of the medium's existence than all of the picture making genres (fine art, journalism, advertising, et al) put together. This fact is understandable since most, if not all, photography histories are undertaken by academics.
Fortunately, there is one book (that I know of) that addresses that omission, THE ART OF THE AMERICAN SNAPSHOT-1888-1978. The book has 294 pages, 250 pictures (drawn from the collection of a single individual) and is divided into 4 sections-determined by era-each with an essay written by a different author. It is chock full of surprises and delights, picture wise, and the essays address the interdependence of snaphot making with each era's culture. The essays are a kinda chicken or the egg exercise inasmuch as they posit the question, did the cultural paradgm of each era dictate what people made pictures? of or did the pictures people made help influence and change the cultural paradgm of that era? The book is facsinating no matter how you look (or read) at it.
In my picture making life, there have been only 2 books which greatly influenced my picture making thoughts and activities. The first was the new color photography (by Sally Eauclaire published in 1981), which surveys the work of then-emerging modern photographers and compares and analyzes their use of color. Long out of print but considered a classic. Used copies are generally available and one bonus of owning the book is that you can read my name in the acknowlegements. The second book is the ART OF THE AMERICAN SNAPSHOT.
If I were to be banished to a desert island (with internet and wifi / cell connections), those are the 2 books I'm bringing with me along with, of course, my iPhone, my iPad, a BOSE wireless speaker and a lifetime supply of Cheez•its. Both books are highly recommended.