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The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game Hardcover – February 17, 2015
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“Highly entertaining . . . Like Monopoly itself, the book unfolds in interesting directions, probing into lost Quaker communities, the early history of Atlantic City, and how a game originally invented to critique capitalism became its most diverting simulacrum.” ―The Boston Globe
“[A] fascinating history . . . The Monopolists lucidly weaves together a multifaceted story . . . [It] builds to an intense pitch--while highlighting several fundamental issues of capitalism.” ―Los Angeles Times
“A legal, corporate and intellectual whodunit . . .The tale, like the game, becomes a parable for American capitalism, with powerful players stamping out competitors and fortunes being made or destroyed at the roll of the dice . . . anyone who grew up playing Monopoly will have a hard time resisting The Monopolists.” ―Washington Post
"The tale is as infuriating as it is fascinating." ―Carlos Lozada, Washington Post, "The whiniest, funniest, creepiest and most memorable books of 2015"
“With more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie mystery, reporter Pilon reveals the tumultuous history of Monopoly . . . More entertaining than the game itself.” ―starred review, Publishers Weekly
“Pilon takes us on a jaunt through turn-of-the-century America, where we learn about such far-flung things as the origins of the price tag, the founding of Atlantic City, and the fact that one of the most coveted addresses in the game was home to some of the earliest gay bars in America. This is a must read for anyone who loves the game, and really, who doesn't?” ―Erik Larson
“Briskly enlightening . . . [Pilon] has woven a plush, often humorous tapestry of board-game and social history. Even passages devoted to sick children during the Depression fail to deflate the book's buoyancy.” ―New York Times Book Review
“What enormous fun this book is! Clever, engaging, finely crafted, and endlessly surprising--and revealing in passing much about the ghastliness of American corporate greed. Much like the game itself, indeed.” ―Simon Winchester, author of THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN
“Mary Pilon has discovered an enthralling story behind Monopoly, as much a history of our country as of its favorite game. She writes with the assurance and energy of a historian who knows she has struck gold.” ―Gay Talese
“Mary Pilon's page-turning narrative unravels the innocent beginnings, the corporate shenanigans, and the big lie at the center of this iconic boxed board game.” ―Stefan Fatsis, author of WORD FREAK
“Thanks to Mary Pilon's meticulous reporting and mellifluous prose, we now know the real story of the corporate greed and relentless cover-up that scars Monopoly, one of the most beloved and successful board games of all time. Finally, the truth is out.” ―William D. Cohan, author of THE LAST TYCOONS
“The book abounds with interesting tidbits for boardgame buffs but treats its subject seriously. After reading The Monopolists--part parable on the perils facing inventors, part legal odyssey, and part detective story--you'll never look at spry Mr. Monopoly in the same way again.” ―Booklist
“Pilon invests this surprisingly contentious chronicle with a dynamic mix of journalistic knowledge and subtle wit . . . A fascinating, appealingly written history of an iconic American amusement.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Thoroughly researched and deftly paced, this fascinating narrative is at once legal thriller, folk history, underdog story, and exposé of corporate greed, and deserves a wide readership among fans of Monopoly, critics of monopoly, and all who enjoy a good story well told.” ―Library Journal
“This past November, a New Hampshire woman was charged with domestic violence for slapping her boyfriend during a game [of Monopoly]. The British royal family, Prince Andrew said in 2008, isn't permitted to play it at home because ‘it gets too vicious.' All of these people, and my own family, and anyone else who has threatened to eviscerate a loved one over their income-tax accounting, should be required to read Mary Pilon's enthralling new history of the long, pitched battle over the origins of the game.” ―Slate
“[A] dive into the real Monopoly.” ―Flavorwire, "10 Must-Read Books for February"
“The true--and downright bizarre--origin story of one of the most popular games ever made . . . A brisk read, and the readability is considerably heightened throughout by the author's sense of outrage . . . Fascinating.” ―The Daily Beast
“Few books can be said to have a transformative effect on the way readers look at a particular subject. Those that do often concern big subjects--books like Charles Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species' or Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring.' While Mary Pilon's The Monopolists does not deal with matters like evolution or the environment, it nonetheless fits the bill. Irresistible . . . On the basis of this terrific book, Pilon . . . might just have a monopoly when it comes to writing on pop culture in a consistently enlightening, completely absorbing way.” ―Christian Science Monitor
“A fascinating history . . . There's plenty of turmoil in this readable book. Read it, and the next time you're circling the board with your Scottish terrier you'll have a deeper understanding of Monopoly's enduring popularity” ―Booklist
“Pilon's research is deep, and it makes for a solid caper about corporate greed.” ―Bloomberg
“[An] intriguing history . . . Pilon is a prodigious researcher, and delves into great detail about the intellectual and business roots of Monopoly.” ―Financial Times
“Excellent . . . Mary Pilon revisits the sordid story of Monopoly . . . . in glorious detail.” ―Mental Floss
“Engaging . . . there is plenty in The Monopolists to hold one's interest--not least, tips on how to win at Monopoly . . . it passes Go.” ―Wall Street Journal
“That history is interesting even if you don't love the game . . . The Monopolists is a quick, enjoyable read that takes less time than a game of Monopoly.” ―Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A deep dive into industrial and pop culture apocrypha . . . riveting . . . The book is superlative journalism.” ―Paste
“Smart and revealing . . . Pilon's refreshingly direct prose and ample storytelling skills make for a breezy, enlightening inquiry into the plight of an under-appreciated innovator.” ―The Rumpus
About the Author
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It turns out that it was, in fact, just a little to perfect. Darrow, the man credited with creation of the game did little, if anything, other than to bring it to Parker Bros. and talk them into marketing the game. It had actually been invented years before and had been refined and tuned by various players over a 30 year span.
This book follows the creation of the game, who played it when, and how Darrow came to appropriate it as his own. The story is mingled in with the legal battle of an individual who was being sued for copyright infringement in the 1970s. What comes out is a lot of lying, cheating and a subterfuge. Parker Bros. was willing to do almost anything to keep the trademark on its most lucrative game.
The book is a good read, although there are some places where it bogs down a bit. If you have ever played Monopoly, it will give you a better understanding of how it was created, why, what rules have been changed and how to play the game so that it ends in a reasonable amount of time. An interesting look at a small piece of Americana.
As Monopoly has gone, so has America: built by silent, marginalized people, exploited by power players, marketed with a Depression-era Horatio Alger myth, and expanded by corporate sprawl. Pilon’s book takes us through this story, focused on the characters that made it happen. None more so than our rumpled hero, Ralph Anspach, a Berkeley professor who dared to stand up to the giants at Parker Brothers when they tried to shut down production of his educational game, “Anti-Monopoly.” Thus begins more than a decade of legal struggle and personal agony underscored by an admirable persistence. The back half of this book reads like a Michael Mann movie.
So, come for the gaming whimsy, but stay for the unique look into an untold part of American history that bears as much importance as those stories in our history books. THE MONOPOLISTS may be about a trivial board game, but it’s really about the struggle over America’s soul.
Top international reviews
Hopefully Lizzie Magie will get the recognition she deserves one day, if I had the money i'd approach the family myself and offer to change that gravestone, glad the Quakers and the people that helped shape the game at least have a plaque in place. Nothing but contempt for Darrow and Parker brothers what scheming little lice they were. A lot of people to admire here, some real life heroes and villains, a fantastic story wonderfully told.