The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game

Mary Pilon. Bloomsbury, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-60819-963-1
With more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie mystery, reporter Pilon reveals the tumultuous history of Monopoly, the iconic board game first created by Elizabeth Magie to draw attention to the economic theories of Henry George (a 19th-century politician and economist who advocated that land was not meant to be seized and couldn’t be owned). Pilon chronicles the game’s evolution through pop culture, including its crucial adoption by Quakers in Atlantic City, and the fervent players who modified the game to include local landmarks such as Ventnor Avenue and Boardwalk. The product then fell into the hands of an unemployed Charles Darrow, who patented it; Parker Brothers propagated his rags-to-riches story as though he were the originator of the game. To add to the drama, Pilon also relates the story of Ralph Anspach’s Anti-Monopoly, a game designed to present a different point of view, which Parker Brothers went out of its way to squash (including a very public burial of 40,000 copies of Anspach’s version). Dry concepts such as brand identity and copyright are deftly woven to create a compelling and seamless story that many readers will find more entertaining than the game itself. Agent: Deborah Schneider, The Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/22/2014
Release date: 02/17/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-60819-965-5
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