A Book With an Oddly Resonant Title for These Here Parts
Posted on September 23, 2011 Posted by John Scalzi 16 Comments
The folks over at National Geographic sent along to me one of their latest books, figuring I might appreciate it, given its title. And, well. Yes. It does intrigue me on the title alone. It’s also a pretty interesting book aside from the title; what it does is track technology through the ages, showing how the world got to where it is by a series of (yes) big ideas. The book’s conceit, however, is to go at it backwards, starting with recent developments and then moving back through time to show how development steps one from one idea to the next. So the information technology chapter, for example, starts with Linux and head back to the abacus, which was developed circa 3000 BC. It’s a useful way to do things, in terms of putting it all into a slightly different perspective.
This is exactly the sort of big, pretty, information-dense book that I would have geeked out about when I was 12 years old, which is nice because I have a 12-year-old in the house. But it’s a fun read for anyone interested in how ideas connect together over time. And of course: Great title.
Stand by for people saying you should sue them for taking an idea you suggested in 3, 2, 1…
Nah. Titles are not copyrightable. And of course, it’s not like *I* was the first with the title, ever.
Actually, the idea reminds me of James Burke’s Connections and The Day the Universe Changed in reverse. I loved those shows and books.
The book sounds cool, but aside perhaps from the progression toward the past it sounds quite a bit like James Burke’s “Connections” & “The Day the Universe Changed.” These are TV series which also have accompanying books & are way cool.
This book is in the same vein, yes. There’s space for new interpretations.
Both new interpretations and different lines of technology to follow. It sounds good.
Oooooh, nifty, useful book. Ty for the info!
I’m glad I’m not the only one who immediately thought of James Burke. His work was so influential on me, that I almost choose my graduate school based on wanting to study those sorts of connections.
I’ll definitely have to check this book out! Thanks for bringing it to our attention.
#4 mike – Connections and Day the universe changed (books and tv) were plain amazing.
John, have you investigated the Scalzi-Whatever Amazon sales bump?
My guess is that the bump is large and growing. Sure, not as large as Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, but still.
Awesome! I ordered this for my brother. Thanks for the heads up!
Hey, this book sounds like James Bur- *OW!*
What? What did I say?
I wish all the publishers would jump into the idea that providing a sample of the book to read attracts more buys. Or at least it does from me. I don’t actually have the stats for the world generally. But since my life is all about me – They Should Do It.
I remember sitting in front of the TV, transfixed, when PBS showed The Day the Universe Changed. The Parental Units got me the accompanying book that xmas (mighta been bday, they’re only a month apart and it was years ago, but anyway). I never (more’s the pity) managed to catch the entire Connections series, but if this book is anything like Burke’s works, I’m eagerly anticipating owning a copy.
Ooh, I loved Connections too! My favorite connection (only in the book, as I recall) linked the invention of the horizontal loom to the rise of literacy in Europe. It involved cheaper linen, the rise of underwear in the middle class and the resulting greater availability of linen rags (linters) for making paper.
Add printing press and agitate…
Did you mean ‘concept’ rather than ‘conceit’ at the end of the fourth line? I was expecting that to be followed by a criticism on your part, but found none forthcoming.
Sara, are you hoping for more on THE BIG IDEA than Amazon provides? If John S. is willing, we could post a little bit here. — from Susan, one of the book’s editors