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Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World Hardcover – November 15, 2016
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“A house of wonders itself. . . . Wonderland inspires grins and well-what-d'ya-knows” —The New York Times Book Review
“A rare gem. . . . Our illogical, enduring fascination with play remains one of life’s great mysteries. That is precisely what makes the subject so fascinating, and Wonderland such a compelling read.” —The Washington Post
“The parade of humanity Johnson presents in this lively (and generously illustrated) work leads us to the reassuring conclusion that history is often made not by nerds in lab coats, but by ingenious humans hankering for more intriguing ways to pass the time.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“Johnson’s writing derives its appeal from his ability to illuminate complex ideas in unpretentious language . . . Johnson’s prose is nimble, his knowledge impressive . . . Wonderland is original and fun, as well it should be, given the subject.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
“Wonderland brims with. . .tidbits, memorable moments, and bits of information that light up the mind. . . .[Johnson] surprises and delights as he traces the path of how various objects of fun and fancy—mechanized dolls, follies, and music boxes—drove advances." —The Boston Globe
“Mr. Johnson’s narrative is crammed with elegantly told vignettes from the history of ideas. . . . The book is full of excellent facts.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Johnson . . . provides a compelling counterintuitive argument that the Industrial Revolution, democracy, and the computer age were all driven by diversions and appetites that historians too often ignore.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“In an entertaining and accessible style, he takes tangents that arrive at sometimes startling conclusions, like a magician practicing misdirection…Johnson connects the dots in a way that sheds new light on everyday concepts.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Johnson is a master storyteller, weaving disparate elements together into a rich and seamless tapestry of technology and human history.” —Booklist (starred review)
“An engaging survey full of unexpected connections that readers of a historical or sociological bent will find particularly riveting.” —Library Journal
Praise for How We Got to Now:
“[Johnson’s] point is simple, important and well-timed: During periods of rapid innovation, there is always tumult as citizens try to make sense of it. . . . Johnson is an engaging writer, and he takes very complicated and disparate subjects and makes their evolution understandable.” —The Washington Post
“An unbelievable book . . . it’s an innovative way to talk about history.” —Jon Stewart
“What makes this book such a mind-expanding read is Johnson’s ability to appreciate human advancement as a vast network of influence, rather than a simple chain of one invention leading to another, and the result is nothing less than a celebration of the human mind.” —The Daily Beast
“The reader of How We Got to Now cannot fail to be impressed by human ingenuity, including Johnson’s, in determining these often labyrinthine but staggeringly powerful developments of one thing to the next.” —San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of ten books, including How We Got to Now, Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You. The founder of a variety of influential websites, he is the host and co-creator of the PBS and BBC series How We Got to Now. Johnson lives in Marin County, California, and Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and three sons.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book looks at shopping, music, taste, illusion, games and public space. The chapter on shopping looks at how the development of shopping fed growth. When looking at music the fact that humans like music and the importance of automatic players is described. Taste concentrates on the importance of the spice trade. Illusion looks at spiritual shows and finally Disney. Games looks at Chess and early computer games. Public space describes pubs and other public spaces.
Johnson is a fine writer and a lot of the information in the book is fascinating. His descriptions of the mechanical works of Iranian engineers is amazing. However, the book is undermined in that the main thesis running through it is oversold. The book is worth reading for a well written and interesting diversion though.
At times, it's hard to follow just why the author is saying what he says; throughout the book, I had to keep reminding myself that this was a book about the history of fun and its effects on humanity, since it isn't always clear from the examples he gives (rebellions at taverns, etc. etc.).
At the worst moments of this book, it reads like a very long poem, with lots of academic jargon and some haha-not-that-funny jokes smattered throughout to try and keep the reader's attention.
I was hoping to learn how I could incorporate more fun into my life to create something innovative and possibly lucrative (through history's examples).
And all I got was a very long essay that doesn't really tell me anything new.
Seriously, if you read the first two pages of this book, you're done with the major lesson of it. Actually, it's great for college students to read because they can use many of the author's examples to beef up their essays.
But for grown adults in the workforce? Don't waste your time.
It's not even entertaining.
Part way through I came across a reference to "Michelangelo's son". Michelangelo did not have any children, so I was really bothered by this. Such an obvious inaccuracy about a man whose life is very well documented made me question the quality of all the research in the book. I quickly tracked down the original reference, which referred to "Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger." That person was Michelangelo's grand nephew. It's clear how the mistake was made, but a careful researcher would not have made it - less than 5 minutes on the Internet is all it would take to clarify who "the Younger" was. Now I wonder what else is incorrect here.