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Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions, and Lore That Shaped Modern America
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Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions, and Lore That Shaped Modern America

3.26  ·  Rating Details ·  167 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Pop culture meets pop reference in this irreverent tour of twenty unlikely events, innovations, and individuals that forever changed the way we live. Veteran journalists Smith and Kiger make the offbeat their beat, offering fascinating explanations for the perplexing mysteries of modern life: Lawns: If most homeowners hate yard work, why does every home have a lawn? The Se ...more
Paperback, 284 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by HarperResource (first published 2004)
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Ketan Shah
A fascinating look at 20 inventions and trends that changed everyday American lives. Written in a breezy yet informative style that makes you think about trends and how they affect both the individual and society .The topics covered include everything from air conditioning,lawns,product placement,disposable diapers,zombies,the computer mouse,the Ford Edsel,the slam dunk to cross dressing wrestlers.My favourite chapter was the one on Gorgeous George,the flamboyant trash talking wrestler who influ ...more
Tippy Jackson
Jan 11, 2010 Tippy Jackson rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 19, 2010 Nathan rated it did not like it
The purpose of this book is explicit: to entertain, and to muse on the trends and traditions that have shaped American culture as we know it. It records fairly well; we are given the history of everything from diapers to talk radio; but having given us the facts, it doesn't tell us what to do with them, or why it matters. I don't have anything against "trivia as history", but personally, I would have preferred at least the broadest of common factors pointed out so as to tie everything together. ...more
Sandra Strange
This book reviews the history of many of the strands of culture we take so much for granted: thinness as judgment, angry talk show hosts, ease in using computers, the slam dunk in basketball and as metaphor, and many others. The book is interesting because of its subject and short narratives format; however, I must add two caveats-- (1) the book deals with Kinsey and his culture-changing (or reflecting) view of sex with a frankness (he was fairly untypical sexually) which may offend many readers ...more
This book reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell's work, without the polished writing and research. Most of the chosen topics were of some interest, but I never felt like the authors got to the heart of each story - the preamble often lasted longer than the conclusion, with no sense of how we got there. And, despite what the title says, the chapters aren't really linked back to how each topic "shaped modern America," though I suppose it is implied in the narrative.
A book of passing interest to pick up
Jul 25, 2011 Tori added it
2004- I sort of felt like the authors of this book put a whole bunch of ideas in a hat they liked and picked them out. It makes for an interesting (usually) mish-mash of stories about why things are the way they are in America. Touching on topics from America's obsessions with lawns to how air conditioning has affected politics, there are some interesting entries here to read just because you're an American. Other chapters seem like they are more geared to people with a specific interest (and wr ...more
Mar 18, 2008 BryAnn added it
Each chapter gives short histories about pop culture. While working out, I read about the history of black velvet painting, how Les Paul made the electric guitar, how gender-bending showboating started with professional wrestling, and halfway through the history of celebrity gossip magazines. All in 50 minutes. A quick, light read about pop culture.
Nov 24, 2008 Amber rated it really liked it
Air conditioning made us sedentary and fat! People thought the electric guitar was a stupid idea! Velvet paintings have a history.

You can learn a lot from this book. It's not to complex and the writing isn't stellar but it makes up for it in the sheer amount of trivial knowledge you will pick up.
Nov 16, 2007 Tracey rated it liked it
Recommends it for: pop culture fans looking for further reading
[Bought Nov 2007]
An interesting collection of mini-articles on various bits & pieces of (mostly American) pop culture - things, people and places.
I appreciated that each article had a "Further Reading" section at the end, with a more complete bibliography at the end of the book, along with an index.
Austin Storm
Feb 05, 2013 Austin Storm rated it it was ok
Collection of essays (or 'blog posts' as the kids call them these days) about American pop culture. Sometimes the tone is distant, other times more judgemental. Entertaining, but would have benefitted from pictures- I couldn't remember what the Edsel looked like. Picked up for free, ultimately fun but nothing extraordinary.
May 14, 2011 Victoria rated it it was amazing
Shelves: anecdotes, nonfiction
I really loved the sty and layout of this book as much as I did its content! There were fun facts after each chapter, which I really liked. I also really appreciate the stories that were chosen for this book. It was a fun, easy, quick read. I will say that the author loses points for misspelling Worcester. I almost stopped reading it then. I'm glad that I didn't, though.
Jan 05, 2009 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
This book is what I would call History Lite, but I found it fairly interesting. It has individual chapters on different trends or inventions that we now take for granted in modern American life (from professional wrestling to wrinkle-free fabric), with historical context and (lite) analysis.
Aug 13, 2008 Amanda rated it liked it
Fun, informative tidbits. It doesn't go into great depth on any of the topics touched upon, but it does give insight into some of society's norms which can be pretty nonsensical once examined.

I still hate lawns though and don't believe in them. Rebel!
Oct 17, 2008 Npaw rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So much more could have and should have been done with this. They introduce several interesting things, but never fully develop what is there. They offer a taste and I wanted a whole meal. And of course, dessert. Didn't happen.
May 04, 2010 Jake rated it really liked it
It is truly amazing the things that we invent, believe in and ultimately sell to each other. This book was very interesting and made me think about all the things we give value to, simply because they are popular to our circle of friends.
Jul 16, 2008 Gretta rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who like learning things they never knew they wanted to know.
Recommended to Gretta by: Cabin Fever
I've learned more while reading this book than I learned in four years at college. Or rather, I've learned more awesome things. Why no one thought to teach me about the history of the lawn is completely beyond my comprehension.
Jun 16, 2010 Karen rated it liked it
Pretty entertaining in some cases, but it really depends on which chapter you're in. Some I couldn't care less about (golf clubs), but others were fascinating (the stories behind pantyhose, tacky chic, disposable diapers).
Julie - Book Hooked Blog
I liked this one. It's not one I'll reread over and over or anything, but it was interesting and funny at points. Lots of fun trivia type information.
Justine Borer
Oct 04, 2009 Justine Borer rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, gossipy, and easy to read. My favorite chapters were the ones about the advent of the fad diet and air-conditioning.
Yiftach Levy
I love things like this - sort of true-life, behind-the-scenes alternative history. The chapter about Night of the Living Dead created the zombie movie genre is, of course, one of my favorites.
Jul 30, 2008 Scampi rated it liked it
Written in a soupy dumbed down context, not too bad considering. This is what I think of when I think of a book that just kinda stays in the bathroom for those "long visits".
Apr 30, 2010 Mandy rated it really liked it
Fun book -- I especially liked the 'recommended reading' lists at the end of each section. I'm a sucker for pop-culture trivia!
Interesting trivia about such diverse topics as air conditioning, lawns, pantyhose, and drug and alcohol rehab.
Lauren rated it liked it
Aug 27, 2010
Mar 10, 2010 Mark marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Well, might as well. :-)
Mellarkey rated it liked it
May 08, 2015
Closetscorpio rated it liked it
Jul 08, 2015
Chris rated it it was ok
Aug 25, 2008
Sylwia rated it really liked it
Nov 03, 2008
Sattva rated it did not like it
Oct 15, 2015
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Author Martin J. Smith was editor-in-chief of the monthly Orange Coast magazine from 2007 to 2016, and a former senior editor of the Los Angeles Times Magazine. He wrote three crime novels, "Time Release," "Shadow Image," and the Edgar Award-nominated "Straw Men," before turning his writing energy to nonfiction books, including "Oops: 20 Life Lessons from the Fiascoes That Shaped America," "Poplor ...more
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