Book Review: The Box

Marc Levinson, 2006

The Box book cover

When we think about how technology has shaped civilization, we often think of glamourous technologies - such as the Internet, the microchip, or the light bulb. However, mundane, everyday stuff - such as the barbed wire fence, or in the case of this book, the humble shipping container, has had a much bigger impact on humanity than people realise.

The shipping container brought about globalisation, destroyed unions around the world, and forever changed the way we work and do business. This book explores how the shipping container revolution came to be, and how the container itself caused all those effects.

The book is meticulously researched and goes into fine detail about the history of the container, but that is also its weak point - most of the book deals with history - eg., so-and-so committee met on such-and-such a date to discuss whether the optimal height of the container should be 8 feet or 8.5 feet. While the history is insightful, I found page after page of historic minutiae boring.

I recommend skimming through the book - most of the interesting things are in the first couple of chapters and the last chapter.