11/17/2011 04:38 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

TIME Books Lists 100 'Great Places Of History' (PHOTOS)

A new book from TIME explores 100 of the places where the course of world history has changed -- or one day will. Herewith, an excerpt from the editors of the new book and a look at 12 of the noteworthy destinations.

Each year the editors of TIME select a Person of the Year-the individual who has done the most in the past 12 months to influence world events, for better or worse. The choice inevitably sparks debate, and that's the idea. After all, TIME'S mission is to help readers engage with the news, to care passionately about the events that shape history and our lives.

In this book TIME surveys history through a different lens. Rather than focusing on individual people who have influenced the news, we've looked at the specific places where the news was made. The result is a list of Great Places: 100 of the most influential locations in the course of civilization.

You've heard of a whodunit; this book is a wheredunit, a GPS approach to the human saga. It aims to orient readers to the places where discoveries were made and revolutions were born, where cultures clashed and crucial battles were fought, where radical ideas took flight and great artists worked their magic. The entries span centuries and continents to include ancient temples and futuristic opera houses, skyscrapers and polar research stations. Many of our choices can also be found on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites, an admirable United Nations effort to celebrate, protect and preserve the most significant locations in human history.

As with TIME'S Person of the Year selection, no one is going to agree with all our choices. But if we start a few arguments, spark a few ideas and inspire readers to care about the forces that shape our cultural heritage -- if, in short, these pages move you -- that seems like the sort of orienteering that both TIME and its readers enjoy.

TIME Magazine's Great Places Of History