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Everything Bad is Good for You: How Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter Paperback – 6 Apr 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141018682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141018683
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.5 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 238,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Revelatory...Daring...Finally, an intellectual who doesn t think we re headed down the toilet!" Washington Post Book World

"Persuasive...The old dogs won t be able to rest as easily once they ve read Everything Bad is Good for You, Steven Johnson s elegant polemic.... It s almost impossible not to agree with him." Walter Kirn, The New York Times Book Review

"A thought-provoking argument that today's allegedly vacuous media are, well, thought provoking...A brisk, witty read, well versed in the history of literature and bolstered with research...Johnson, it turns out, still knows the value of reading a book. And this one is indispensable." Time

"There is a pleasing eclecticism to [Johnson s] thinking. He is as happy analyzing Finding Nemo as he is dissecting the intricacies of a piece of software ... Johnson wants to understand popular culture in the very practical sense of wondering what watching something like The Dukes of Hazzard does to the way our minds work." Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

"The author Newsweek called one of the most influential people in back. The beauty of Johnson s latest work beyond its engaging, accessible prose is that anyone with even a glancing familiarity with pop culture will come to the book ready to challenge his premise. Everything Bad Is Good for You anticipates and refutes nearly every likely claim, building a convincing case that media have become more complex and thus make our minds work harder." Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Through a string of airtight, academic and very entertaining essays, Johnson maintains that prime-time TV is more intellectually engaging than ever." Time Out New York

"Sophisticated...nimble...strangely satisfying." Newsday

"Johnson s challenge to the oft-repeated lament that mass culture is dumbing down is as enlightening as it is necessary." BookForum

"Johnson may be the first mainstream writer to bring neuroscientific inquiry to 'The Apprentice'...It s scientific and literary rigor, couch-potato style." Chicago Tribune

"Johnson paints a convincing and literate portrait, and he shows himself to be a master of many disciplines, which deepens the well of his credibility." San Francisco Chronicle

"Engaging...Intriguing...Breezy and funny... Johnson is a forceful writer, and he makes a good case; his book is an elegant work of argumentation."" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Steven Johnson is the author of the US bestseller Mind Wide Open. His previous book, Emergence: The Connected Lives Of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, was named as one of the best books of 2001 by Esquire, The Village Voice,, and Discover Magazine. It was named as a finalist for the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. He is also the author of the 1997 book, Interface Culture.

Johnson's writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Harper's, and the Guardian, as well as on the op-ed pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He writes the monthly 'Emerging Technology' column for Discover magazine, and is a Contributing Editor to Wired. The co-founder of the award-winning web sites FEED and, Johnson teaches at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program, and has degrees in Semiotics and English Literature from Brown and Columbia Universities.

Steven Johnson also hosts a web log at

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a keen gamer, I plan to show this book to everyone who tells me I'm wasting time! The book explores a premise called the Sleeper Curve, a term invented by Johnson and used liberally throughout the book, explaining that those forms of mass culture that are most slated for being mindless and simplistic are in fact challenging our brains in ever newer and more complex ways. By examining the changes in television, film and games over the last few decades, and citing results of IQ studies and other publications, Johnson certainly makes a persuasive argument for the complexification of American culture.
However, a major flaw with this book as far as I see it is its concentration on America and American media. Whether older British television is indeed as simple compared to today's shows as Johnson claims American TV is, I cannot say; however, I suspect that at least some of our older television still challenges today's audiences. Equally, results of spurious IQ studies (with Johnson himself mentioning that IQ is not necessarily a good measure of intelligence) are entirely divorced from our culture. Having lived in America, I did understand most of the references to television shows, but there were still some which passed me by, unfortunately.
In terms of style the book is fairly heavy-going (at least initially) since it takes a more academic than casual tone. Certainly the term 'Sleeper Curve' is accurate as I fell asleep reading it a few times, and I felt more like I was ploughing through reams of justification than following a series of eloquent arguments.
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Format: Paperback
i'm a big fan of Stephen Johnson's writing. Interface Culture should be on every digital media-related course's reading list and blew my mind at the time. I also think Emergence is a great book, which expands into more scientific areas. that said, i found this book slightly disappointing. it is well written and interesting in parts but there's nothing especially surprising or thought-provoking in it (especially if you've read his other books) and i left feeling it would've been better as a magazine or newspaper article rather than something you have to pay £8 for. ironically (given the commentary on fit for purpose media). there was a fair bit of repetition (at one point i was thinking "if he mentions how gaming improves your cognitive skills one more time i'm gonna scream") and the referencing of Nietszche e.g. just struck me as gratuitous. if you're a fast reader or haven't read his other books then you may enjoy it but is less challenging and less interesting than his other writing. it's less academic and therefore more accessible than his other stuff so would probably buy this for someone that needed persuading, which perhaps is the audience he's aiming for with this one.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fantastic book which presents a whole new way of looking at modern day media. I didn't even realize that such a unique perspective would have existed. I've read FAR too many books and articles that all cry about the modern day trash that is television, video games and franchise movies, so it was a genuine pleasure to see a book analyzing the evolution and growing complexities of these mediums. The observations, analysis and evidence were soundly compelling and persuasive... and the writing itself was smooth, engaging and interesting. This book should be put on the list for 'recommended reading' for all Media and Communications university students.
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By Siriam TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Jan. 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book at the end of 2005 and found it one of the best eye openers in challenging a lot of my simple misconceptions regarding computer games, TV and the benefits of the internet (as an education/social interaction tool as opposed to a tool I use at work every day).
I no longer look at my children's fascination with playing computer games with such concern; it has not increased my viewing of TV (a medium I actually think too many people view with rose tinted historic spectacles given it formed such a key part of their early lives) but it has helped me appreciate the wider benefits of how TV series now operate and are structured versus the versions I saw as a child; plus the internet and its wider social impact is put into context with the end coverage that IQs are given these changes getting higher in the middle and lower zones of society if not so clearly helping the top intellectual end are well made even if you do not wholly agree everything.
The book is US centric but given the author's life, location and background that seems inevitable and indeed the beauty of the arguments presented for consideration is that you find yourself applying them to local UK TV programmes given the main messages are universal.
While the style is too academic at the start, once the writer warms to his subjects he does present well and in a very creative structure that interlocks across the book. Finally, the end section on summarising areas for further reading on the different topics is one of the best I have seen in such a small book.
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