Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review: Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Econonmy


This book was such fun! I love narrative nonfiction and especially interesting tidbits of history, but this book looked at each of the inventions through their effects on the economy. It's a fascinating take on everyday items and ideas that shape our modern world.

One thing that stuck out at me was how many of the things that had the biggest impact did so because their primary use was to free up women's time. The plow, the pill, the TV dinner - these and so many other inventions shaped the economy because they freed women up to join the workforce. I did a stint as a stay at home mom and homemaker, and I found it really overwhelming in terms of drudgery, boredom, repetitive work - and I had a washing machine, a dishwasher, a microwave, all those things to help make my daily life less filled with the kind of work that my female ancestors would have dealt with.

Another thing that I found really interesting was how many of these inventions aren't things as much as they are concepts. Money, timekeeping, patents and copyrights - all fabrications from the human mind, not products that we can touch. The best representation of money I've ever heard was a story about a time when the banks closed in Ireland...for months. People survived by writing checks since they didn't have access to their cash, and it worked. It shows how much money is really theoretical and doesn't have much to do with paper and coins.

There are lots of interesting anecdotes like this that carry through the book, and if you have any interest in how our modern world works, I highly recommend it.

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