Wonderland

How Play Made the Modern World

3.9 based on 92 ratings & 18 reviews on Goodreads.com
Macmillan

Publication date: 01.12.2016
ISBN: 9781509837281
Number of pages: 0

Synopsis

'The book is a house of wonders' The New York Times

'Steven Johnson is the Darwin of technology' Walter Issacson, author of Steve Jobs

What connects Paleolithic bone flutes to the invention of computer software? Or the Murex sea snail to the death of the great American city? How does the bag of crisps you hold in your hand help tell the story of humanity itself?

In his brilliant new work on the history of innovation, international bestseller Steven Johnson argues that the pursuit of novelty and wonder has always been a powerful driver of world-shaping technological change. He finds that 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 colourful 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.

In the media

Johnson entertainingly shows how appetites for spices led to international exploration and colonial empires and how the ornamentation of fashion and jewelry spurred technological innovation and industry. He tells of the social revolutions that were hatched in taverns and coffeehouses, public spaces distinctly different from those where one worked, lived, or worshipped, and he suggests that commerce and consumption were not byproducts of the Industrial Revolution but driving forces. Johnson also shows the darker sides of colonial empires built on spices and of the shopping mall, which catered to consumption while threatening the inner city. There’s an infectious spirit of delight in the prose, which matches the themes in a book that will engage even those not entirely convinced by its thesis to take a look from a different perspective.
Kirkus Review
Johnson is an engaging writer, unable to bore the reader
The Guardian
There is a fabulous amount here to be surprised by and interested in. It’s a book about delight that is itself delightful
The Spectator