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The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,245 ratings  ·  259 reviews
The Monopolists reveals the unknown story of how Monopoly came into existence, the reinvention of its history by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man's lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game's questionable origins.

Most think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvanian who sold his game to Parke
Hardcover, 313 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA
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Saba Imtiaz
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book, and I suspect if you've ever played Monopoly, you will too. This is a really wonderfully told account of the origins of Monopoly, the economic and political beliefs behind its creation, and how it spread - without leaving a trace of the woman who came up with the idea and the board. There is so much fascinating stuff in the book, including about how a Anti-Monopoly game was invented and that led to the eventual unraveling of the myth Monopoly's sellers had built. Ca ...more
Oct 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
While the true story of Monopoly's origins, and the way in which some of the early players helped the games popularity spread was fascinating, The disjointed nonlinear nature of Pilon's narrative really made this book hard to get into.

The fact that the narrator sounded like a cross between Droopy Dog and Mr. Mackey from South Park didn't help.
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is it in a nutshell: "The Monopolists" was as much fun to read as the game is to play. Although politics and the law frequently play into the story, Mary Pilon did an exceptional job of keeping my attention and interest high - my mind did not wander, I did not get bored - even once. The language remains "in English" and the focus is on the people, their thoughts, feelings, ideas, lives. The story involves Elizabeth Magie Phillips, the woman who invented "The Landlord's Game;" the various co ...more
Karen Germain
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love board games nearly as much as I love stories, so when I saw Mary Pilon's book on the sordid origins of Monopoly, I immediately wanted in on the scandal. Thank you to Bloomsbury USA for an advanced copy of The Monopolists in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT - In The Monopolists, Mary Pilon investigates the origins of arguably, America's most popular board game. For years, game manufacturer, Parker Brothers, has perpetuated the myth that Monopoly was created by Charles Darrow as a diversi
Erin Cataldi
Nov 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, audiobook
I had no idea behind the origins, evolution, and scandal of this beloved game. It was fascinating to learn more about such a pop culture item. Who doesn't have at least one edition of this board game in their house. I thought the book could have been shortened because the legal aspects towards the end really dragged on - but other than that I really enjoyed getting a behind the scenes look at such an "ordinary" item. When the game was first created at the turn of the twentieth century - the crea ...more
Sean O
Feb 09, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is the story of Monopoly, and it divides into two sections:

The hidden history of the creation of Monopoly: This part of the book is fascinating and is filled with interesting early 20th-century characters. The writer does a great job documenting the history of the game and describing how it got to become the board game everyone knows.

The trademark/patent battle between Parker Brothers and the creator of "Anti-Monopoly." This story is interesting, but far less so, because it shapes up t
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2015
A surprisingly disappointing book that doesn't really get cooking until about halfway in, when the lawsuits start flying. The saga of Ralph Anspach, the SoCal professor who serves, along with the late Lizzie Magie, as the book's protagonist, is the most compelling part, and it probably could have been better served as a long magazine feature (which it sort of was). ...more
Sype Corbon
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Cole
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting story of how Monopoly was really created. Part economics lesson, part history lesson, and part legal thriller. Took awhile for me to get into it, but once I did I was glad I stuck with it!
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Let's say you want to hear a true history full of intrigue and deception as well told as any spy novel, but where the stakes are mere ideas. That you'd never want to read through tomes of patent law, but you don't mind a bit of legalese on occasion.

Let's say that well-written and engaging histories are your thing.

Read this book.

As with all true stories there's a bit of fuzziness around the edges of every fact. Eye witnesses remembering incompletely, one side determined to obscure the facts, a
Mary Alice
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Munro
Feb 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
I would never have read this book if it wasn't for a reading contest, but I enjoyed this one!

Monopoly is one of the few games it seems that everyone I know has played. During my youth, I heard all types of stories about Monopoly, but as I said they were stories. Monopoly has a checkered past at best, a long, involved checkered past.

It didn't start out being based on Atlantic City. It actually started out much differently. The basis was anti-Capitalism, which means it would have been burned these
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Fascinating and compellingly written account of the history of the game, which begins with Georgist and Single Taxer Lizzie Magie's The Landlord's Game. Board game inventor, patent holder, and a true independent spirit, everyone should know about Magie's life and how Ralph Anspach's Anti-Monopoly lawsuit that leads us to the true history of the game. ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Crisp, informative, and fascinating, Mary Pilon explores the roots of America's most popular board game, and how it morphed over time from a socialist teaching tool to one of pop culture's most ardent champions of capitalism. Loses a little steam in the middle, but the story itself is interesting enough to overlook it. ...more
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not only is this an excellent history of the game (and it's many similar board game rivals and precursors), but it is also a gripping legal drama detailing Parker Brothers over-aggressive trademark defense of Monopoly and the tenacious (or obsessive) resistance of Anti-Monopoly creator.

Truely, it's a David vs Goliath tale, and one I found highly enjoyable.
Jim Loter
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find the game of Monopoly excruciatingly dull, but the real story of its origin, and of how the story was uncovered largely because of a lawsuit filed by Parker Brothers themselves, is fascinating. The supreme irony is that the game was originally invented to teach the evils of monopolies and capitalism yet ended up as the focus of a battle that epitomizes exactly those evils.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fun book to read, it’s the real story of who invented the board game Monopoly. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t actually an unemployed guy from the depression called Charles Darrow but a woman from the early 1900s who was almost written out of history.
Jul 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
This is the bumpy and quirky history of the popular game Monopoly. I found most of it very interesting, with many colorful characters. It only bogs down, during the long, court proceedings, in the last third. 3.5 stars
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Fascinating and infuriating in equal measure.

Women invented everything you loved.
Taylor P
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
It may perhaps be difficult to imagine yourself reading a history of a board game and deeming it riveting, but once you find yourself among these pages, it's awfully hard to stop turning them. Even though the true story of Monopoly's creation has apparently been circulating in the media since the '70s, I had never heard a peep of these ill-gotten gains and was completely drawn in by Pilon's description of them. The game's conceptual journey is truly fascinating to follow, though the legal battle ...more
Supriyo Chaudhuri
This is a beautifully written story of the game of Monopoly. Who knew a popular board game had so much behind it? Besides, I could have never linked it to anything idealistic if I did not read this book. The book revolves around the case of a more recent idealistic game - Anti-monopoly - which I would now be buying and playing - and traces the origin story of Monopoly to the followers of Henry George and the utopian communities of Arden and Quakers of the Atlantic City. And, appropriately, it po ...more
Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like most people who show an interest in this book, I grew up on this board game. My mother taught me to play, complete with house rules, and the game took hours and usually we'd get bored of it and just fold. Every now and then the game would get broke out, over the years, and we'd play a few more times. I never thought it was a horrible game and I never. ever. ever. ever. took financial advice from a Parker Brother's board game from the 1930s.

It was educational, all those years, in that I lea
Katie/Doing Dewey
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
When I started reading The Monopolists, I hadn't read the cover blurb in a while, so I was confused when we started with Ralph's story and then suddenly the next chapter was talking about Lizzie Magie's invention of The Landlord Game (the first precursor to Monopoly). While this was partly my fault for forgetting the blurb, ideally the text should offer enough explanation to stand on its own. Aside from this rough beginning though, the story was fantastic. I loved learning about all the people i ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Nov 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Although it's popular throughout the world, Monopoly really does seem like a very American game. Each player tries to amass as much property as possible and bankrupt his opponents until only one player with any money at all remains. So it's a bit surprising that the origin of the game had more to do with demonstrating the drawbacks of monopolies.

The Monopolists is about the people who invented and developed Monopoly and Monopoly-type games in the first decades of the twentieth century and about
Aug 29, 2016 added it
The history of Monopoly is anything but boring. It's a David vs. Goliath tale of board game inventors that have to fight corporations for their right to innovate. It began with a woman inventor in the early 1900's who created a board game to illustrate the Single Tax principles of the great economist and reformer Henry George. Then the game took on a life of its own and was played by hundreds or thousands in various forms until Parker Bros. bought it in the 1930's. This is a winding tale that Pi ...more
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible
Wow, what a fascinating look into the game Monopoly, the truth behind its origins, and the attempt to maintain a monopoly over the game itself. As I listened, I could not help but think about what else I would call this book. I think the first part may be more appropriately titled, "Single Tax Crackpots and Why Their Ideas Are Not Widely Known". The second part may be called "1001 one things you never knew you did not really want to know about Monopoly" The third: "Why fighting a lawsuit against ...more
Sacramento Public Library
Oh the irony of the history of Monopoly. Did you know that it originally started out as an anti-capitalist game intended to teach players single tax theory? Did you know the origin story that was put out by Parker Brothers was a complete and total fabrication? And did you know that the game was the source of a lengthy trademark lawsuit that demonstrated the worst aspects of corporate monopolies? You would know all of these things if you read this book! It starts off a bit slow with some rather o ...more
Jan 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a solid four-star book until it devolved in a confusing law study in the final third to quarter of the book. With only three credits of legal studies to my name, I didn’t find the back-and-forth lawyering very compelling. The story of the game’s creation and evolution was much more interesting, as well as some of the shenanigans played by multiple parties as the game was presented to and taken over by Parker Brothers.

The narrative is not chronological—the author begins in the 1970s and
Heather Stevens
Feb 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Really interesting history of one of my favorite games. Some of the history I already knew, but there were some new facts that intrigued me. The book was also very easy to read and the style was light and almost story-like. That made me want to keep reading the book, and I did not want it to be done.
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It takes a village to make a great game... I really love seeing the evolution of the boardgame Monopoly as it traveled the country, adopting local flavors and changing its core message as it was adapted over the years.

It's infuriating that the only people to make money off of this game had no hand in its creation on any level (or permission to use the work of others).
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Mary Pilon is the author of the "The Kevin Show" (Bloomsbury March 2018) and "The Monopolists," a New York Times bestseller that chronicles the secret history of the famous board game (Bloomsbury Feb 2015). A regular contributor to The New Yorker, Esquire, Fast Company, MSNBC, Vice, Politico, and Bloomberg BusinessWeek, among other news outlets, Pilon has worked as a staff reporter at the New York ...more

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