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The Wonderbox: Curious histories of how to live
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The Wonderbox: Curious histories of how to live

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  213 ratings  ·  34 reviews
What is the best way to improve our lives? There are many ways of looking for answers. Showing the lessons that can be learned from the past, cultural historian Roman Krznaric explores 12 key topics, from work and love to money and creativity, and reveals the wisdom that we've been missing.
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published December 22nd 2011 by Profile Books (first published 2011)
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Abraham Gustavson
"Man knows himself insofar as he knows the world." This was a brilliant book, am I was so glad to have picked this one up. I devoured each chapter learning from men and women who lived life as a wonderful and strange experiment--Tolstoy, Wollstonecraft, Thoreau, Orwell--to name a few. A book can illuminate a mind, but this book helped illuminate every three pages or so. I found myself marking the side margins so I could go back and reread the lessons from history that Roman Krznaric so elegantly ...more
Eustacia Tan
So this is the other book that I bought at the airport. It took quite a long time (other books got in the way), but I finally took the plunge and finished it! And it is an awesome book! I'm so glad that the cover caught my attention, and that I took a risk and bought it.

The Wonderbox purports to use history to help us live our present lives to the fullest. Well, if not the fullest then a little bit better. This book covers the topics "Nurturing Relationships", "Making a Living", "Discovering the
...more
Todd N
Stumbled upon this book in the History section of Books Inc. in Mountain View. Picked it up despite the unfortunate title. But then again I read a fantastic biography of Montaigne a few years ago with nearly the same title. (In the UK, the book is titled "The Wonderbox," which is a marginally better title. Link below.)

It seems like a couple of these kinds of books find their way into my hands every year. It's probably some combination of fate and the fact that I'm looking for some Rosetta Stone
...more
Rob
It’s tempting to say—so I’ll go ahead and say it—that this is one of the first bold thrusts of a no-doubt-soon-to-be-popular kind of thinking, and we shouldn’t carp that it grows straight out of self-help literature. I’m talking about “lifestyle philosophy,” the attempt to find a way of living, though it be unconventional, that maximizes personal fulfillment and remains friendly to the planet.

Lifestyle philosophers—god forgive my language—lifestyle philosophers go beyond your typical self-help
...more
Katherine Mandrin
"Food for thought", is what comes to mind, only this book is more like a smorgasbord. It is wonderfully written and well organized. It is not preachy in telling you HOW we should live but it makes you think about how we ARE living. Covering many topics, from many different points of view and also different 'times' of view, i.e. How people in the past viewed these topics, it helps us to see how we as a people have changed. And this forces you to think about how YOU are living, how you view these ...more
Lada
Inspiring, changing perspectives, brilliantly written, book that can change the society
Catherine
Really interesting and well-written! The author selected a few universal topics and reflected on how these concepts (money, time, love, death...) have changed in history to lead to how we think now. By doing that, he provides us with other ways of thinking and we can imagine ourselves being back in time, with other beliefs and other ways to doing everything we now take for granted. What wisdom has humanking lost or gained over time? This approach is really original and interesting.

This is a sel
...more
Amanda Avery
If "life is a banquet and most are starving to death" is true, why should this be so? I wish I could get this book into the hands of all young people. If it has a really significant flaw, it's that it's from a decidedly western, British perspective.

I've read enough of Krznaric now to say I am a firmly in his philosophical "camp" which is hard to pin down--eclectic stoic? Anyone who has also read his How to Find Fullfilling Work for the School of Life series will recognize many of his ideas bein
...more
Alison
Building on some of the work he has published through Alain de Botton's School of Life, Roman Krznaric presents a series of short essays exploring ideas from history and philosophy that could be used to live better.

There are twelve themes, and each draws on two or three ideas and suggests ways that modern people could use the idea or lesson. Some of these appeal more than others, and some are short on practicalities of exactly how one might go about implementing them. But in general there are s
...more
Tim
This was a marvelous and humane collection of social histories. Roman Krznaric traced how modern society in the west has come to view love, death, creativity and even something so seemingly immutable as time. In The Wonderbox, he shows how our deepest assumptions about these beliefs are based on myths. He explores their evolution and discusses how uncovering some forgotten truths about our everyday experiences (the art of conversation or how our senses perceive the world) can enrich our lives to ...more
Nigel Hey
I remember that when I was a small boy and ill for some reason or another, my father would bring out a drawer from some distant part of the house, bring it into the living room, and spill its contents onto the carpet. This was ordinary drawer, for it was stocked with small, intriguing objects that had no immediate purpose. A brass square unfolded into a neat magnifying glass with perfectly machined hinges. A thick, much-tarnished disc turned out to be a one-ounce copper cartwheel penny from the ...more
Alex Rotenberg
The Wonderbox is like a Renaissance Wunderkammer. The book brings together a collection of beautiful and odd items the author discovered on his own journey through life. Each object is an opportunity to explore a topic that is critical in the authors view to a good life. Rather than providing a recipe of how to live, he claims we can learn from the many lifes that unfolded before our own.
Jacqui Allen
This book was interesting and covered a large range of topics (nurturing relationships, making a living, discovering the world, breaking conventions. And, the author clearly knows his stuff. But, it wasn't as fun to read as I was hoping personally. Perhaps I was just not in the right frame of mind?

There was just no "ah-ha" moments for me - although I was very interested to discover that Christmas Day (Dec 25) is actually not when Jesus was born.

Ingeborg
This is what I would call a 'very clever self-help'. Although self-help is not really my thing, I like this one. It is interesting, well written, for a wide audience, yet it is not patronising, it offers many different solutions in one's life. Even more than that, it makes you think. I especially like the fact that the author's point is that history should be our teacher, that we should learn from the experience of others who lived before us, so that we don't have to repeat the same mistakes ove ...more
Nicole
I only read the chapters that interested me most, like "Time" and "Work," skipping over irrelevant ones like "Family". It was interesting and I like Krznaric's writing but I was hoping it would include more ancient wisdom rather than explanations about why things are as they are. I think he has written another book ('How Should we Live') that is perhaps of more interest to me.
Charlie
A joy to read. Krznaric writes in a friendly, erudite voice that welcomes the reader into a series of conversations about life's big ideas -- love, family, work, and death, to name a few -- and how our current assumptions about those topics compare and contrast to their historical meanings. If you like Bill Bryson's popular archeologies of concepts, I would recommend Krznaric's book.

You can hear my interview with the author here: http://northavenuelounge.com/roman-kr...
Cassandra Kay Silva
I expected more historical tie ins and less of the authors own opinions! We got more historical information on Love in the first chapter than we did on any other topic in subsequent chapters! This is too bad!

I didn't want to read your ideas with a few historical bits thrown in! I wanted to read historical ideas with a few personal notes from you thrown in! The Bon Marche thing was fabulous to read about I must say. I had no idea it was such a big deal, how cool!
Holly Troup
A lifestyle philosopher's compendium of lessons from history on how to live. Krznaric brings out the connections between the past and the present that can help us develop nurturing relationships, learn to give more to others, discover the amazing world around us, reduce the role of money in our lives yet have an abundance. This is a good book to read "piecemeal" and to ponder. I kept it by my bedside and read a chapter or two before sleeping.
Petteri
Very interesting book with fascinating facts about history, putting our ways of living into perspective.
Ruur
Superinteressant! De schrijver pikt overal interessante inzichten vandaan: uit de geschiedenis maar ook uit andere culturen onder het mom van: "hier doen ze 't zo en dat is supernormaal, waarom doen/denken wij 't dan op onze ene manier?" Hierdoor kom je ook tot nieuwe inzichten en dat is uiteindelijk waar 't boek om draait.
Jeanette
This was a thoroughly enjoyable, thought provoking book - I kept having to leave it to deal with other books which often means that it is difficult to maintain interest however each time I came back to the Wonderbox it was easy to become immersed again as the book is divided into themes and chapters within themes.
Kris McCracken
An interesting mix of stories and ideas envisaged as ‘practical history’, that is, the art of gaining insights from our predecessors on how to live better lives today. A lot of this stuff I already do, but thought provoking nonetheless. B+.
Laura Abadie
Lovely perspective on life and living, drawing from history and some personal experience. Mr. Krznaric provides much to get us wondering about whether we are getting the best out of this experience of ours.
Kylie
What a delight! Roman Krznaric's insights have expanded my perspective and inspired a new approach to living. It's for anyone who asks "why" a lot. P.s I no longer wear a watch!
Trudy
This is a great book to read about living your life with a better consideration of what is needed to make you feel whole.
Jane
I don't necessarily agree with everything in the book but the historical tidbits were interesting.

Anna Gudmundson
"open the wonderbox of history and look inside to see new and surprising possibilities for the art of living"
Donna
I really enjoyed this book - it was well-written, interesting, inspiring and slightly quirky.
BluePoppy
Interesting stories but, all in all, a bit too preachy for my taste.
Jennifer
Very interesting book - gave me lots to think about.
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Roman Krznaric, author of How to Find Fulfilling Work, is a cultural thinker and founding faculty member of The School of Life. He advises organizations, including Oxfam and the United Nations, on using empathy and conversation to create social change, and has been named by The Observer as one of Britain’s leading lifestyle philosophers. His works, including The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How ...more
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