Download How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World Audiobook

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World Audiobook, by Steven Johnson Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Steven Johnson Narrator: George Newbern Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2014 ISBN: 9780698181892
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From the New York Times bestselling author of Where Good Ideas Come From and Everything Bad Is Good for You, a new look at the power and legacy of great ideas

Steven Johnson explores the history of innovation over centuries, tracing facets of modern life (refrigeration, clocks, and eyeglass lenses, to name a few) from their creation by hobbyists, amateurs, and entrepreneurs to their unintended historical consequences. Filled with surprising stories of accidental genius and brilliant mistakes—from the French publisher who invented the phonograph before Edison but forgot to include playback, to the Hollywood movie star who helped invent the technology behind Wi-Fi and Bluetooth—How We Got to Now investigates the secret history behind the everyday objects of contemporary life.

In his trademark style, Johnson examines unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated fields: how the invention of air-conditioning enabled the largest migration of human beings in the history of the species—to cities such as Dubai or Phoenix, which would otherwise be virtually uninhabitable; how pendulum clocks helped trigger the industrial revolution; and how clean water made it possible to manufacture computer chips.

Accompanied by a major six-part television series on PBS, How We Got to Now is the story of collaborative networks building the modern world, written in the provocative, informative, and engaging style that has earned Johnson fans around the globe.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “In Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson successfully demolished the ‘eureka moment’ theory of ideas dropping on inventors like apples from a tree. In How We Got to Now, he escorts us further into the real world of innovation by describing half a dozen breakthroughs that have radically changed humankind, almost always in unforeseen ways. To this new mix, Johnson brings the talents of a natural storyteller, dispensing real-life tales of both genius inventors and near-miss blunderers in equally captivating ways. A perfect fit for fans of books like The Tipping Point and The Black Swan.”

    Barnes&, editorial review

  • “In this fascinating book, Johnson presents a ‘history of ideas and innovation,’ focusing on six important technical and scientific innovations that have shaped the modern world but that we often take for granted.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Bestselling author Johnson continues his explorations of what he calls the ‘hummingbird effect,’ unforeseeable chains of influence that change the world…Johnson’s look at six large areas of innovation, from glassmaking to radio broadcasting (which involves the products of glassmaking, as it happens), is full of well-timed discoveries, and his insistence on the interdisciplinary nature of invention and discovery gives hope to the English and art history majors in the audience. Of a piece with the work of Tracy Kidder, Henry Petroski, and other popular explainers of technology and science—geeky without being overly so and literate throughout.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Johnson’s explorations of innovations such as glass, refrigeration, water filtration, and clocks and their unexpected—even astonishing—impact on history are riveting…George Newbern’s narration is more competent and correct than enthusiastic. But most listeners will overlook these imperfections in their enjoyment of Johnson’s revelations, connections, and insights and his unique take on innovation and invention. Whether your turn of mind is scientific, philosophical, or sociological, you’ll want to hear How We Got to Now, which was also a recent PBS series.”


  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, September 2014
  • A New York Times bestseller
  • A Wall Street Journal bestseller
  • A Washington Post bestseller
  • A Publishers Weekly bestseller
  • One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • Longlisted for the 2015 PEN Literary Award

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About the Author

Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of How We Got to Now, Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You, among other books. The founder of a variety of influential websites, he is the host and co-creator of the PBS and BBC series How We Got to Now. Johnson lives in Marin County, California, and Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and sons.

About the Narrator

George Newbern is an Earphones Award–winning narrator and a television and film actor best known for his roles as Brian MacKenzie in Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II, as well as Danny in Friends. As a voice actor, he is notable for his role as Superman on the Cartoon Newtork series Static Shock, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. He has guest starred on many television series, including Scandal, The Mentalist, Private Practice, CSI: Miami, and Numb3rs. He holds a BA in theater arts from Northwestern University.