The Wonderbox

The Wonderbox : Curious histories of how to live

4.02 (557 ratings by Goodreads)
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There are many ways to try to improve our lives - we can turn to the wisdom of philosophers, the teachings of religions or the latest experiments of psychologists. But we rarely to look to history for inspiration - and when we do it can be surprisingly powerful.

Showing the lessons that can be learned from the past, cultural historian Roman Krznaric explores twelve universal topics, from work and love to money and creativity, and reveals the wisdom that we've been missing. There is much to be learned from Ancient Greece on relationships, from the industrial revolution on job satisfaction, and from Ming-dynasty China on bringing up our children.

Just as a Renaissance 'Wunderkammer' was a curiosity cabinet full of fascinating objects, each with a story behind it, The Wonderbox is full of stories and ideas from history, each of which sheds invaluable light on the decisions we make every day, whether we think about the different uses of the senses or changing attitudes to time.

History is usually read for pleasure or for insight into current affairs, but The Wonderbox, stepping into the territory of Alain de Botton and Theodore Zeldin, is 'practical history' - using the past to think about our day to day lives.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 368 pages
  • 144 x 222 x 33mm | 500g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • Illustrations, facsims., ports.
  • 1846683939
  • 9781846683930
  • 63,222

Review quote

The Wonderbox is a cornucopia of delights. Completely fascinating, beautifully written and brimming with insights that challenge our entrenched and predictable ways of seeing and doing, it draws on an amazing range of stories from the history of human culture to explain how we can find true meaning in life. Every thinking home should have one! -- Michael Wood, historian, film maker and author of The Story of England The author's enthusiasm for direct solutions to modern dilemmas is infectious. -- Sue Gerhardt, author of Why Love Matters and The Selfish Society Think Alain de Botton meets Niall Ferguson ... a wonderful mix of social history and good ideas for everyday living. -- Robert Kelsey, author of What's Stopping You? A fascinating rattlebag of intelligent, stimulating essays. The Wonderbox is very much in the mould of Alain de Botton's bestsellers: densely researched but readable, wise and witty. By taking the long view to debunk some myths of modern life (house husbands are not such a new invention; family meals were never golden times of civilised conversation), Krznaric frees us from passing trends to answer the fundamental question: how should be live now? -- Carl Wilkinson * Financial Times * Taking one hefty theme per chapter - such as love, work or home - Krznaric serves up a fascinating series of accounts of how we got where we are now, sifting the valuable from the worthless with an impressive indifference to current fashions. After reading The Wonderbox, endlessly shopping for stuff you already have will seem distinctly strange * Reader's Digest * Ranging from such lofty issues as love and death to the finer points of carpentry, Krznaric offers a compendium of fascinating and quirky anecdotes and character studies, refiguring them as practical fables for everyday life. Though a pleasure to read cover-to-cover, this book lends itself perfectly to the occasional reader looking for workable solutions to any dilemma. The scope of the stories and the versatility of Krznaric's interpretations are at once fascinating and illuminating. -- Emily Best * We Love This Book * This modern guide to living a good life by nurturing relationships, giving more to others, and resisting the self-imposed tyrannies of work, time, ambition and achievement, is entertaining and instructive. -- Iain Finlayson, * The Times * A guaranteed pick-me-up for the early days of January! And a book I'm going to be returning to for years. -- Clare English * BBC Radio Scotland Book Cafe * An intriguing upmarket self-help guide. * The Guardian * Inspiration for bold experiments in living. * The Oxford Times * Roman Krznaric delves into the wonderbox of history...and reveals how the past can prompt us to aim higher than we do.
Four star review * Metro * Brim-full of insights drawn not from philosophy, religious teachings or psychology but drawing on the writing and lives of great writers including Tolstoy, Thoreau and Orwell. Krznaric weaves together a compelling, fresh argument about how we conduct our relationships, make decisions about the life we lead and the crucial importance of empathy. -- Steve Moore, CEO * The Big Society Network * The Wonderbox is a treasury of history and philosophy that manages also to be truly, practically motivational -- John-Paul Flintoff, author of Sew Your Own Almost like an opera, it begins with love and ends with death. But it isn't operatic in style. It is earthy and literate in an old-fashioned style, iconoclastic and realistic. It throws light into the world of personal fulfilment and issues a call to ethical action on a global context. * The Australian * A truly visionary guide that is delightfully quirky and immensely stimulating. Utterly indispensable. * Good Book Guide *
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About Roman Krznaric

Roman Krznaric is a cultural thinker and writer on the art of living and social change. His books, which include The Wonderbox (Profile Books), Empathy (Penguin Random House), and How to Find Fulfilling Work (Macmillan), have been published in over 20 languages. He is founder of the world's first Empathy Museum and of the digital Empathy Library. He advises organisations including Friends of the Earth on using empathy and conversation to create social change, and runs empathy awareness training for Britain's top judges. He is also a founding faculty member of The School of Life and on the faculty of Year Here. Roman has been named by the Observer as one of Britain's leading popular philosophers.
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Rating details

557 ratings
4.02 out of 5 stars
5 35% (196)
4 40% (223)
3 18% (100)
2 6% (33)
1 1% (5)
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