Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy

Narrated by: Roger Davis
Length: 9 hrs and 16 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (247 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A lively history seen through the 50 inventions that shaped it most profoundly, by the best-selling author of The Undercover Economist and Messy.

Who thought up paper money? What was the secret element that made the Gutenberg printing press possible? And what is the connection between The Da Vinci Code and the collapse of Lehman Brothers?

Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy paints an epic picture of change in an intimate way by telling the stories of the tools, people, and ideas that had far-reaching consequences for all of us. From the plough to artificial intelligence, from Gillette's disposable razor to IKEA's Billy bookcase, best-selling author and Financial Times columnist Tim Harford recounts each invention's own curious, surprising, and memorable story.

Invention by invention, Harford reflects on how we got here and where we might go next. He lays bare often unexpected connections: how the bar code undermined family corner stores and why the gramophone widened inequality. In the process, he introduces characters who developed some of these inventions, profited from them, and were ruined by them, as he traces the principles that helped explain their transformative effects. The result is a wise and witty book of history, economics, and biography.

©2017 Tim Harford (P)2017 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy

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    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing Book

This book is as great as Freakonomics, and possibly better. Tim Harford is one of the best writers and economists of our age and we're lucky to have his books to read. I was always fascinated by the inventions he discussed and I felt as though I finally appreciated so many aspects of our modern life that I had always seen, but never quite understood. Tim Harford unveils the fascinating economics and technological forces behind music, farming, the internet, and so much more. I highly recommend the book to anyone who is interested in freakonomics-type stuff. Also the narration was very good too. I always got excited to get back to listening to the book.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Thought provoking

An interesting history of the modern world. Easy listen and illuminating. Definitely worth listening to.

3 people found this helpful

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Content Great, Narrator Less So

The content of the book is excellent and informative. Tim Harford does an excellent job of highlighting important inventions that are often overlooked.

The narrator, on the other hand, detracted from the quality of the book. His accents are truly awful and distracting - everyone from the USA has a southern accent and halfway through a quote, Davis would simply give up on the accent and revert back to his British accent.

I would certainly recommend reading this book, but maybe skip the audiobook version.

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Entertaining as it is instructive

Each chapter takes up an invention as old as the plough or as new as the iPhone. The material is easily digested in an audio format and the reader’s slight English accent is pleasant and clear, amusingly interspersed with an imitation American one when appropriate. Highly recommended!

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mildly interesting

This book contains many interesting stories, but also some that I'd heard before or seemed stretched out too much, filler. Some of the choices for 50 inventions seemed like they wouldn't have a place even on a top 100 list. Others were more ideas than inventions. solid but not perfect, 4 stars.

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Great book - odd narration

The content is an extremely interesting group of summaries tracking the author's estimation of history's most important inventions, some obvious and many not so much. I am sure we can all quibble with his choices to one extent or another, but it is as good of a list as any other I have read.
But, the narrator's choice of accent when reading quotations is distracting in its lack of any apparent authenticity. It is not enough to ruin the experience or anything; it's just very noticeable. At first I thought he was just ridiculing the particular speaker, but the accent seems applied to everyone quoted. It is like an odd amalgamation of an old time radio voice, Jimmy Stewart and a foreigners' impression of a southern American. Please just... Stop. To be fair though, when he is not suffering from this quirk, the reading was very well performed.

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Socialist propaganda, slickly done.

An interesting history of inventions except for the many references to socialism and government intervention programs. Most of the inventions arose from capitalistic genius, but no veneration was given to capitalism. An unthinking person might be nudged toward socialism without realizing that capitalism was being demeaned by the attitudes of the author.

2 people found this helpful

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Great listen

An interesting perspective of how even the simplest of inventions can change the world and fundamentally change economies.

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Blindly listen to this book

Cannot Not recommend it highly. Super informative with insightful commentary. I learnt a lot from this book. I can see myself listening to it again many times.