The Museum of Lost Wonder, by Jeff Hoke (Hardcover, 2006)
Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
This isn't your ordinary book. That was my first impression upon seeing the dust jacket. This impression deepened when I took the dust jacket off to see the beautiful and substantive artwork engraved on the cover. The heavy paper used in this book also speaks of quality. The tone thus set by form, substance followed.
One of the things I have noticed in reading material selection is that people generally select books or periodicals that support what they already believe. For example, people with far left beliefs tend to read the New York Times and consequently see the world only through that lens. We tend to filter out input that challenges our beliefs, thus those same people who read the NYT generally don't read Ann Coulter. Of course, the reverse is true as well.
Most of us go through life being comforted in our existing perspective, because most everything we read or hear supports what we believe. If you look carefully at your own choices, you will almost certainly see this is the case. Which brings us to Hoke's book.
Often, referring to a book as "challenging your views" is a way of saying it's "in your face" and probably espousing the particular opinions of the author. That's not the case, here. Hoke merely presents information and asks questions that make us wonder about how thing work, how things are, and even the why.
The book comes across as built, rather than written. Hoke uses the display theme in the actual content, reflecting what's intimated by the title. Every museum I've visited (and I've lost count of them) has its artifacts arranged into groupings of a particular theme. You may wander around in one room or a group of interconnected rooms to view a particular grouping. These groupings might be called halls, gardens, galleries, collections, exhibits, and so forth. This book presents ideas the way a museum presents artifacts. It's a clever concept, and well-executed.
The book also contains seven templates for paper construction projects, in the form of models that help the reader explore a particular concept. I personally am mortified at the thought of taking scissors to a book like this. Hoke can challenge my view on this one all he wants, and he'll make zero progress. The solution is very simple, though: cut up and fold a photocopy of each model plan, thereby preserving the book and enjoying the model at the same time.
As an example of what you'll find in this book, consider Chapter III. This is titled, "Coagulatio." The subtitle is "The Zoological Garden in the Museum of Lost Wonder." The page immediately preceding the chapter title page contains pertinent artwork, the word "Introspection," and a quote from John Muir. That quote is "Most people live on the world, not in it."
As we proceed through this chapter, we read interesting facts on the various "displays"--just as we would in a physical museum. But we'll also find such things as a thought experiment, a Plato vs. Aristotle exhibit, a "Duck or Bunny" exhibit, a brain mattering diagram, a visitor survey, Experiment Alley ("Imagining a Self"), a pattern for a model that illustrates several concepts (memes, scenes, genes....), and quite a few other interesting items. Every chapter is like that--giving the sense of walking through a museum and enjoying the exhibits. As with a physical museum, each exhibit has its own reason for being there. It isn't necessarily sequential to (or even tied to) the other exhibits.
One of the chapters contains a section on how to have visions, and it contains several exhibits on the subject. That, of course, segues into the section on dreams. This, again, replicates the museum experience. But this particular museum aims at getting the reader to wonder, to think, and to step outside the constraints of simple fact and look beyond immediate perceptions.
Hoke's own words best sum up the point of this book. "Unlike modern museums that try to separate fact from fancy, the Museum of Lost Wonder encourages you to join these seemingly disparate ways of looking at things so you can decide what's meaningful." This is the challenge presented to the reader.
On the dust jacket cover is a simile of a standard admittance ticket--one of those little tickets that comes on a roll of 500 or 1,000 and says, "Admit One" on it. On this ticket, we read, "7 Exhibit Halls -- 7 Paper Models. Turn Your 2-D Ideas into 3-D Reality. Leave Your Baggage at the Door."
Then comes the kicker: "Everything You Need is Inside!" Does Hoke mean inside the book, or inside the reader? The answer to that depends on you. If you have an imagination and a sense of wonder about this amazing universe, then grab this book and prepare to boldly go where you no doubt have not gone before.