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Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die
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Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  292 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Part memoir, part manifesto, this exploration of the underside of America’s obsession with safety is prompted by the author’s visit to a thrillingly alarming adventure playground in Tokyo

"How fully can the world be explored," asks Amy Fusselman " . . . if you are also trying not to die?"

On a visit to Tokyo with her family, Fusselman stumbles on Hanegi playpark, where chil
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published January 13th 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Average rating 3.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  292 ratings  ·  47 reviews

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Start your review of Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I pre-edited this book many moons ago, and it absolutely, totally ruled. I'm so excited that it's finally out!

I admit that I don't love the cover because it makes the book look kind of folksy/storytellery, when actually it's this totally harrowing and plangent meandering meditation on these Japanese parks for kids that are basically giant dangerous piles of metal and wood and dirt, plus getting over crippling fears, walking on tightropes, dealing with death and mortality, learning how to play a
Dec 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
I received this as an ARC from Goodreads.

Amy Fusselman’s Meditation on play, space, and risk for Americans who are nervous, distracted, and afraid to die is half memoir/half rant on what we Americans classify as the act of playing, how we perceive small-s space (space on Earth) or big-s space (outer space) and why we American’s are so worried about everything affecting our fast lives and our worry that death is always at our figurative ‘front door’ and let it control our lives.

As she and her fam
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amy Fusselman is an interesting, fun, and funny person, and I went into reading this book thinking that Savage Park would be light and maybe thought provoking, interesting, and unique. It was. But the book also had this weight, (and not just because of an event in the book which I will not spoil, which was incredibly heavy), this gravitas, this underground current of deep thinking running through it (even through the lighter/funny parts).

Sometimes, our mind's eye sees memories as photos from a
There's a great idea here - but it needed honing.

I was right there with Fusselman in Part I as she visited Tokyo, waxed on space, play, and fear... but then she kind of lost me when part II unrolled.
Jordana Horn Gordon
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it
So interesting conceptually but a bumpy ride. I wanted more about Japan, about what makes Japanese parents enable a playspace like this.
Bryan Fox
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
There are some interesting and evocative vignettes/observations here, arranged (quite) loosely around the theme of the safety of our children and the overprotective nature that pervades Western parenting, but at times it feels like the sum of the parts is less than it could be, as they are placed too scattershot to achieve a coherent end.
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'd consider this part memoir, part poetic, at times

It's a non-fictional story about the author's time spent at Hanegi Park AKA Savage Park, in Tokyo

She first goes there while on a visit with her husband & young children, & staying with her friend , Yelena & her husband &children, at their apartment in Tokyo

Yelena takes her to Hanegi Park, which is vastly different from American playgrounds. It allows children to play in the dirt with hammers, nails & other scraps that children may use while p
Abi Inman
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Amy Fusselman is one of those narrators who, as Anne Lamott puts it, could say "Hey, I've got to drive up to the dump in Petaluma-wanna come along?" and I honestly wouldn't be able to think of anything I'd rather do. (
She is so brilliant and perceptive, and has such a charming voice. It's incredible the amount of material she covers in this relatively small book. I think in the hands of most other authors it would come across as unfocused, all over the pl
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I went into this thinking it was going to be along the lines of that Atlantic article a few years back, about the adventure playgrounds. It sort of is...but really I guess it's not. At first I was sort of disappointed: she almost glosses over the parts about the Japanese playground and the wild, dangerous adventure it represents. She and her family visit and accept the playground in an almost anticlimactic fashion. I expected a treatise on how American parents over-shelter their kids, and how re ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it
It was an interesting and quick read. I completely identified with her idea that by protecting (or overprotecting) our children we are not teaching them to be safe in the real world. Not teaching them that sometimes risks need to be taken, but if we are attentive and fully present in the moment we can be safe enough. Hanegi park in Japan looks fascinating. As I think back to when my kids were young and we went to parks all the time, the best part of the parks was not the play structure (which of ...more
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fusselman's meditation on space, play, and risk is subtly effective thanks in large part to her always generous and warm voice. You just can't help but fall in love with the way she talks about tightrope walking, experimental architects, battle tops made of Legos, and the Tokyo playground (Hanegi Playpark) that inspired this whole train of thought--and the book does read like one wonderful train of thought.
In one great passage, she talks about how her son, Mick, has figured out the secret deligh
Trina Knittle
Dec 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: goodreads-win
Goodreads win. Will read and review once received.

This was a very interesting read. I really loved the flow of this book and the topics that are covered in this book. It was a book that can be read within one day. The idea in this book was very interesting and I learnt quite a bit of things. I can deifnitely see myself re reading this book in the future.
Rickie Hinrichs
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Maybe the Japanese have a good idea here. We protect our children from every conceivable harm that would beset them. Not sure if that's he right way to experience life a young age. ...more
Derick Edgren
Mar 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I spent the last two years hearing about this book from a friend. For whatever reason, I would nod at the recommendation and then promptly forget all about it. If only I'd read it sooner! The concept that one can play anywhere, hence belong anywhere, is delightful and flies in the face of capitalism-fueled existential dread. In a quick one-hundred twenty pages, one discovers in reading Fusselman on play, space, and risk an inevitable joy. Even turning the pages of the book, I found, was a kind o ...more
Aaron Maurer
Apr 05, 2015 added it
Shelves: 2015
I needed to step away from reading books on education and productivity. With my latest batch of books from the library(currently have 56 checked out) I read Savage Park by Amy Fusselman. I read it without checking out the back cover or trying to remember why I checked it out in the first place. I just dove in.

I am glad I did because the book was a departure from my usual readings. This book is part journal/memoir with a dash of manifesto on play, combined with storytelling, and ideas on importan
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting series of thoughts on a number of topics that I hadn't connected before. Death and play being the central focus but other ones like friendship, motherhood, and creativity, too.

It's a provocative exploration on the meaning of play and our obsession with safety that is central to Fusselman's thesis and it is beautifully woven into the writer's own experiences.

I am thinking of making this required reading for some people I work with.

What a lovely and unique small book.
The title is accurate. This is a meditation on the topics. It's the author's musings, and not linear or conclusive. I'm really interested in this subject, and Fusselman adds worthwhile ideas to the conversation, but I would have preferred a more structured format. Maybe the fact that I didn't care for her non-traditional writing structure just illustrates her point, and that does make me smile! ...more
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, essay
Play freely at your own risk. This is a book about mortality from a parent's point of view by considering a reasonably anarchic playground in Tokyo. It contains the idea that mortals, including parents, children, and babies, can and do die. As with the two other Fusselman books I am aware of, this is wonderful and everyone should read it. Thoughtful and weird and honest, with the right balance of eclectic, personal, and academic. Worth it for Katie on the trampoline. ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disjointed ramblings intermixed with a handful of somewhat interesting cultural comparisons between the U.S. and Japan. A quick read but not really worth the time. Strange.
May 27, 2015 rated it liked it
I'd read an article some time back about Hanegi Playpark (probably The Atlantic's excerpt of this book, though I didn't realize it at the time), and I was intrigued. So despite my general dislike of memoir-style books, I requested this from the library. The parts about "Savage Park" are interesting, and I felt that Fusselman had some nice musings on play. Her resources section seems extensive, and I intend to look into some of those sources for more in-depth material on adventure playgrounds. Bu ...more
May 21, 2015 rated it liked it
The narrative is uneven, but the parts in Tokyo were fun. I give it 3.5 stars because she acknowledged Ruskin.

The best parts of the book deal directly with the park in Tokyo itself, and have little narrative intrusion. Fusselman conveys her wonder and appreciation for the Savage Park, which seems an anomaly even for Japan when juxtaposed with her vignette of time at a natatorium where organized swim lessons are taking place. Talk about unbearably regimented.

Toward the end, there are some lovely
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Savage Park is, as its subtitle tells us, a meditation. I've never read a meditation before, and it turns out to be like an essay, but even more loosely structured than that. Savage Park has elements of blog entry, poetry, and conversation. The book is short, only 140 pages or so, and although you can read it quickly, there's a lot to chew on.

The Savage Park of the title is a playground in Japan that consists of an unlandscaped area with discarded lumber, old tires, retired boats for the childre
Leslie Lindsay
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'll admit it: I hate to play. It's too abstract, oftentimes silly, and generally not productive. Or is it? These are just some of the things that come to mind after closing Amy Fusselman's book, SAVAGE PARK.

Fusselman, a writer and mother who traveled to Tokoyo, Japan several years ago with her young family to meet and friend who took them to a park-within-a-park in which the children (and oftentimes teenagers and adults) would congregate to play with sort of rudimentary objects: old plywood, n
Julie G
Apr 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Very well written. I think Fusselman is an excellent essayist and she has a lot of great things to say about the nature of play, space and risk in relation to both children and adults. I like that she included both aspects and that the book wasn't just a meditation on over-parenting. The essays are all short and easy to follow although some are fairly philosophical in nature and do require the reader's full attention.

Entertainment Value
As I mentioned above, some essays are more philosoph
Feb 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The title of this book is what grabbed my interest. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading. The author, Amy Fusselman, reflects about her time in Japan and how playgrounds are different there than in American. Sounds a little boring, but it wasn't. It is striking how much more "loose" Japanese parents are when it comes to playgrounds. Discarded items such as wood, pvc pipe and rope are suddenly transformed into treasure that the kids use to build and create. The signs at these parks ...more
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
I remember the first time my husband and I travelled together outside of the United States to Central America and we became very aware of how cordoned off and 'safe' public spaces were in our home country - even exclusively adult spaces. Whlie I found this book touched on that idea (albeit mainly in regards to children's playgrounds), I found it an unsatisfactory exploration of the topic. Is it really just a fear of death, or is there more to it than that? I don't think all the options were expl ...more
Daniel Simmons
Feb 15, 2015 rated it did not like it
The lengthy subtitle for this book tricks you into thinking it might actually be about something, as opposed to being (instead) a showcase for disconcertingly aimless diary-like entries about the author's time wandering 'round Tokyo playparks, peppered with the occasional Ruskin quote to ratchet up the Sophistication Quotient. There's a good question at the heart of this book -- why are American parents so overprotective about the spaces their children inhabit? -- but very little substantive fol ...more
Apr 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Savage Park is supposedly about an adventure playground in Tokyo where kids manufacture their own fun with lumber, tools, dirt, and an absence of confining rules. If you're looking for a cogent and comprehensive description of that place, search elsewhere. This volume is meandering, unfocused, and disappointing. Far better books about the importance of free play and instilling creativity and self-confidence are Free-Range Kids and 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do). ...more
Peter Landau
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Well thought out thoughts on space and safety using the Savage Park in Tokyo (so called because of its open fires, scrap wood, nails and tools, tree houses and other "Play At Your Own Risk" adventures) as a springboard. I'm reviewing this book for and will embed the link when it's live, probably around the pub date of Jan. 2015.

Here's my review on
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
A completely unfocused work that introduces a lot of great ideas and goes nowhere with any of them. The subtitle (A meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die) is quite promising, but clocking in at 130 pages, there's just not a lot of substance. I like the author's styles and observations and would like to see her tackle what she lists more in depth. ...more
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