Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World


Today's nonfiction post is on Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson. It is 322 pages long including notes and it is published by Riverhead Books. The cover is light blue with different cut-outs showing different toys from different times on it. The intended reader is someone interested in history of how the modern world came into being. There is no foul language, no sex, and no violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- This lushly illustrated history of popular entertainment takes a long-zoom approach, contending that the pursuit of novelty and wonder is a powerful driver of world-shaping technological change. Steven Johnson argues that, throughout history, the cutting edge of innovation lies wherever people are working the hardest to keep themselves and others amused.
Johnson’s storytelling is just as delightful as the inventions he describes, full of surprising stops along the journey from simple concepts to complex modern systems. He introduces us to the colorful innovators of leisure: the explorers, proprietors, showmen, and artists who changed the trajectory of history with their luxurious wares, exotic meals, taverns, gambling tables, and magic shows.
Johnson compellingly argues that observers of technological and social trends should be looking for clues in novel amusements. You’ll find the future wherever people are having the most fun.

Review- Johnson is back and covering another interesting topic about the modern world. He moves from computers to the creation of public spaces. The research, as usual for Johnson, is top notch. The stories that he uses to pull the theme for this book are interesting and strong. We spend time with many different people from Spanish Conquistadors to Arabic mathematicians. It does get a little bogged down with all the details about how things got made or how the person got the idea. But that said this is a really good book about an interesting topic. I had a good time learning about how we got from toy dolls who blink to computers that can play chess.

I give this book a Four out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.