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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of How We Got to Now and Where Good Ideas Come From, a look at the world-changing innovations we made while keeping ourselves entertained.

This 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 has lain wherever people have been 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.

©2016 Steven Johnson (P)2016 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
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It will delight you

Just as the topic of this book, this book will delight you as it did me in it's novelty. Worth the listen for the very serious who study the history of innovation. Like myself I'm sure it will cause you to look at play differently.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great read, great perspective of how & why we got to where we are.

A great perspective on the drivers in the evolution of the human race since mankind progressed beyond survival. I particularly enjoyed the analysis of the computer, and its development. As a physicist and mathematician, I particularly appreciated the acknowledgement of some of the real pioneers in the field.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great telling about subtle human motivation

a great documenting humankind's not so recognized motivators in innovation: play and the joy of having fun

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Great audiobook.

Loved it. I would say, it is one of those books that helps you to better understand the world around you, history and prepare you for the future as you learn what shaped history & innovation. Well done Steven. Slavo.

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Look at toys in a whole new way

Ever wonder the historical significance of the seemingly trivial? This book will help you learn to look at your kids' toybox with newfound wonder and possibility. A fun tale that takes you through centuries of innovation and progress in a new way. AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY

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Fascinating story of beginnings

Highly accessible well orchestrated illustration of the connections between developments and what preceded their arrivals and often a sound theory on why they were successful. I especially enjoyed the approach to the explaining the development of music. Play is the prelude to something serious! This book took me on a journey of thought. Bravo!

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interesting

if you enjoyed Johnsons' previous works on creativity then you'll enjoy this work's exploration of play. While the subjects are varied, I enjoy Johnsons' writing style which never drags or drolls on but leads you to some new and enlightened idea. Whether in print or digital audio I found this to be a pleasurable read.

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Must Read

Anyone who has studied history (that's all of us) will get a new view of humanity cause and effect from this insightful book, connecting recreation, entertainment, and play with the large forces of human history. Historians are passionate about reporting the effects; now you can discover the unlikely causes. What the author left unsaid: perhaps what differentiates our branch from the other hominids is our curiosity; our compulsion to explore and play as a companion to our need to feed and reproduce. I listened to the book on Audible and now will dive into the Kindle companion to capture what I missed by way of illustrations the first time around. Well done, Mr. Johnson; very well done indeed!

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  • Whit B
  • EDINA, MN, United States
  • 12-07-16

Worth a listen!

Great perspective on the evolution of modern society. Learned a of novel things!
If you liked the author's other works, you'll enjoy this as well...