If at first you don’t succeed, then at least enjoy the epic failures of others, for as well as the pleasures of schadenfreude, there are lessons to be learned.
Boyer presents 128 pages of whopping failures, flubs, and snafus—and even a few unexpected winners—in this fizzy selection. It’s busily designed, with squibs of text, photos, bright colors, speech balloons, and a boxed item for each failure with timeworn words of encouragement: “Lesson Learned.” Some of the examples are just plain flops (does anybody really miss the Segway?), but some are dangerous, too, as in those weighted, spiked lawn darts. “Nearly 5,000 kids wound up in emergency rooms.” (There is no “Lesson Learned” for that fiasco.) There are also failures that turned into winners—Slinky started life as a stabilizer for sensitive battleship equipment, which it didn’t stabilize—and happy accidents, such as the birth of the Popsicle after its 11-year-old inventor noticed his drink had frozen overnight. Then there are the perils of time and publishing. “The Chicago Cubs baseball team once seemed unstoppable,” back in 1907 and 1908, “[but] they haven’t won a World Series since.”
An unusual and satisfying collection, and who will quibble with the Chicago Cubs’ “Lesson Learned”: “Believe you will succeed!”? (Nonfiction. 8-12)