Author: Mary Pilon
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: This was really fun narrative nonfiction, with lots of great facts to share and interesting people stories that brought the book to life.
Although Parker Brothers has always billed Monopoly as an American dream success story, invented by a family man trying to get by during the Great Depression, the truth is much less wholesome. As Ralph Anspach discovers when he tries to market a game similar to Monopoly, Parker Brothers has gone to great lengths to protect their rights to the game even though many unrecognized individuals contributed to the game’s creation. This book tells the true story of the games origins and of Ralph’s court battle with Parker Brothers.
When I started reading The Monopolists, I hadn’t read the cover blurb in a while, so I was confused when we started with Ralph’s story and then suddenly the next chapter was talking about Lizzie Magie’s invention of The Landlord Game (the first precursor to Monopoly). While this was partly my fault for forgetting the blurb, ideally the text should offer enough explanation to stand on its own. Aside from this rough beginning though, the story was fantastic. I loved learning about all the people involved in the creation of Monopoly as we know it. The pictures of the board as it evolved were one of my favorite parts of the book (clearly legible even in ebook format). I also enjoyed a small digression to talk about people who played Monopoly competitively. I only played Monopoly when I was little, so learning about the amount of strategizing that can go into the game was eye-opening.
Ralph’s David-and-Goliath battle against Parker Brothers added some much needed drama to a story that sometimes started to seem like a genealogy as so-and-so taught so-and-so to play the game who taught someone else, etc. I think had the history of Monopoly been interwoven with Ralph’s investigation of the games history, instead of being told in its entirety first, this could have been a five star read for me. I find that narrative nonfiction that is structured around the author or someone else’s investigation can add immediacy to an otherwise sometimes dry history. Even so, most of the story kept me fascinated and I truly enjoyed learning the history of this well-known game. I’d recommend the book to fans of narrative nonfiction and, of course, to any fans of the game.
Do you like when authors of narrative nonfiction insert themselves into their story? And have you ever played Monopoly in a competitive, strategic way?