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This page is the original source of this review, though you may also find it on Amazon or other sites.

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Book Review of: The Museum of Lost Wonder

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Review of The Museum of Lost Wonder, by Jeff Hoke (Hardcover, 2006)

Reviewer: 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.


This page is the original source of this review, though you may also find it on Amazon or other sites.

Book Reviews Home   Free Audio Books



About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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