How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson (J Non-Fiction)

How We Got to Now

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

Steven Johnson (Juvenile Non-Fiction Science)

Ever wonder how a plant in Syria could enable scientists to study galaxies and supernovas billions of light-years away?  Or how one man’s desire for a cold drink in the tropics would ultimately change the political map of America?  Or how a 19-year-old boy daydreaming in a church pew would lead to the ability to trace humans crossing into the Americas more than ten thousand years ago?  Well wonder no more as Steven Johnson shows readers how big ideas changed the world and how ordinary people were able to accomplish some rather extraordinary things.

Steven Johnson’s young reader adaption of his New York Times bestselling book has its own “How We Got to Now” story.  His non-fiction book was made into a television version for PBS and the BBC.  After several airings, Johnson began hearing from families (and later schools) who enjoyed watching the show with their children.  He was then approached by Penguin Random House with the idea of adapting his work for a middle grade audience.

How We Got to Now covers the topics of glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light and Johnson presents each subject in a fascinating step-by-step, connect-the-dots-type story full of interesting facts and tidbits.  If you are familiar with James Burke and his television series Connections, this book follows a similar format so if you enjoy Burke, you’ll find Johnson to be an equally talented historian and storyteller.

How We Got to Now is an ode to the tinkerers, dreamers, inventors, hobbyists, scientists, and reformers who had an idea to make life easier or the desire to make something better.  Some achieved their goals through grueling trial and error while others stumbled upon greatness purely by accident.  Whether it’s a flat and filthy city, a thirsty businessman, or a bored teenager staring at the ceiling of a church, every problem leads to an idea and that idea—however outrageous, ludicrous, or preposterous—marks the beginning of an amazing, unpredictable, and never-ending journey.  To all the future scientists, inventors, innovators, and dreamers, here’s to your success and here’s to now.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com 

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