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Publisher's Summary

A razor-sharp thinker offers a new understanding of our post-truth world and explains the American instinct to believe in make-believe, from the Pilgrims to P. T. Barnum to Disneyland to zealots of every stripe...to Donald Trump.

In this sweeping, eloquent history of America, Kurt Andersen demonstrates that what's happening in our country today - this strange, post-factual, "fake news" moment we're all living through - is not something entirely new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character and path. America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by impresarios and their audiences, by hucksters and their suckers. Believe-whatever-you-want fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA.

Over the course of five centuries - from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from P. T. Barnum to Hollywood and the anything-goes, wild-and-crazy 60s, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials - our peculiar love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we've never fully acknowledged. With the gleeful erudition and tell-it-like-it-is ferocity of a Christopher Hitchens, Andersen explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails.

From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies - every citizen was free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. Little by little, and then more quickly in the last several decades, the American invent-your-own-reality legacy of the Enlightenment superseded its more sober, rational, and empirical parts. We gave ourselves over to all manner of crackpot ideas and make-believe lifestyles designed to console or thrill or terrify us. In Fantasyland, Andersen brilliantly connects the dots that define this condition, portrays its scale and scope, and offers a fresh, bracing explanation of how our American journey has deposited us here.

Fantasyland could not appear at a more perfect moment. If you want to understand the politics and culture of 21st-century America, if you want to know how the lines between reality and illusion have become dangerously blurred, you must listen to this book.

©2017 Kurt Andersen (P)2017 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"This is an important book - the indispensable book - for understanding America in the age of Trump. It's an eye-opening history filled with brilliant insights, a saga of how we were always susceptible to fantasy, from the Puritan fanatics to the talk-radio and Internet wackos who mix show business, hucksterism, and conspiracy theories." (Walter Isaacson)
"Kurt Andersen is America's voice of reason. What is he - Canadian? The people who should read this book won't - because it's a book - but reality-based citizens will still get a kick out of this winning romp through centuries of American delusion." (Sarah Vowell)
" Fantasyland presents the very best kind of idea - one that, in retrospect, seems obvious, but that took a seer like Kurt Andersen to piece together. The thinking and the writing are both dazzling; it is at once a history lesson and an oh-so-modern cri de coeur; it's an absolute joy to read and will leave your brain dancing with excitement long after you're done." (Stephen Dubner)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Exactly what u expect

Burned through this wonderfully deep expose on the history of how and why America is bat shit crazy in so many ways, yet no other modern western nation comes even close. If after reading the description you have a thought you may enjoy this book, you will.

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Never finished

Listened to a radio talk show with the author, he seemed funny and amusing. I thought I would purchase his book to review his book but as a Canadian...it's a little to American bureaucracy for me and didn't get through the first chapter.

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Overall interesting, but dragged in places

I found the book to be generally interesting, though I wish the author had spent more time on the earlier, historical parts of the book and less on the more recent parts.

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So that's how Trump became president !

This is a long but thought-provoking thesis which explains a lot about current American culture.

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  • CT
  • 2017-11-07

A timely and important book

Succinct and entertaining, enlightening and funny, it’s an absolutely essential guide to how we got to our absurd present.

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  • Synthpulse
  • 2017-11-15

Great book, but...

This is a really great book, but the absolute BEST thing about it is the narration by Kurt Anderson, the author. This guy is amazing. He sounds honest, friendly and very likable. He makes it hard to stop listening. Some narrators are very good but they sound like what they are; professionals. Kurt sounds like a very knowledgeable friend or your favorite professor. I intend to buy every other book he narrates. This book has really helped me understand why Americans are so arrogant and why they don't even realize it.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • David Larson
  • 2017-09-07

Bland Title For An Amazing Book!

How did wealthy urban liberals and their fear of vaccinations help elect Donald Trump?

Why are Republicans more likely than Democrats to believe in UFOs?

What law change in 1987 allowed the rise of Rush Limbaugh (who started broadcasting the very next year).

Why do some liberals follow right-wing pundits like Alex Jones?

How did the rise of conspiracy theories lead to the increase of more radical candidates on both sides?

In short…why are Americans so darn gullible?

Why don’t we bristle more when an American President uses words like “alternative facts” and “fake news?” 20 years ago that would have been grounds for impeachment. What happened??

And what does all of this have to do with the progression of Christianity from a hierarchical structure (think of the Catholic Church with clear leadership ranks from priest up to pope), into a free-for-all where any charismatic fast-talker can start a mega-church preaching obvious contradictions (e.g. Jesus wants you to be rich so send me your money).

Kurt Andersen, the co-founder of Spy Magazine, has written an amazingly thorough and important account of what happened to us as a people and where we are heading. Along the way, you will learn about the shockingly high proportion of Americans who believe insane stuff, and how fast these beliefs are growing, even though we now have more access to the truth than ever before.

This book should be taught in civics class, if only our children were still required to take a civics class. I would say that the removal of civics class is a conspiracy, but then I would be part of the problem. Kurt can explain it much better…just read the book.

64 of 71 people found this review helpful

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  • Utilisateur anonyme
  • 2017-11-15

What’s your fantasy?

The author’s impeccable grasp of history— reinforced by ample citations— allows him to weave a narrative tapestry that is Fantasyland. He gives name to the seemingly modern propensity of humans in general and Americans specifically to indulge in self-deception, and in explaining the genesis of this trait, illustrates how far back this behavior stretches into our shared past. Informed, while not at all overly stuffy and academic, the book is nearly as entertaining as it is educational.

If you feel taken aback by close friends and family with views that seem antithetical to the intellect you know them to possess, this is the book for you.

If you feel a growing sense that the lines between fact and fantasy are becoming increasingly blurred and in a greater number of ways, this is the book for you.

If you want to know how the most prosperous nation on Earth elected the most artificially successful, orange-skinned con man in recent time to its highest office, this is the book for you.

I give it a full-hearted 5 star review on its instructional merits as well as its charismatic delivery. The voiceover is better than many reads I’ve rated similarly well. Would recommend to anyone.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Utilisateur anonyme
  • 2017-10-03

Enjoyable & vital information

This book is titled "How America Went Haywire:A 500 yr. History" & that's exactly what it delivers. It introduces us to pertinent historical and current figures who helped shape the unique way Americans view their world today, and why we're in our current situation. Since the 2016 election I've been desperately trying to figure out how we got here....this book has gone a long way to doing that. It gives us facts and makes us question our own views on America, God and the world. In my opinion-this book is vital reading towards the goal of turning away from "alternative facts" back to reality, as much as we can, as fast as we can.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • GiaJuly
  • 2017-10-03

Required reading in 2017.

Excellent narrative of American 'history of belief' and superb narration by Kurt Andersen. I only wonder where we go from here. Pivotal time in USA, as laid out in clear, concise reality based thinking

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Abby Heaslet
  • 2017-11-10

Get to the point

This is a good book with really great ideas, but the author keeps repeating the same point over and over again for 13 hours. I keep finding myself asking, so what? There are 5 hours left and he is finally starting to get to the point.

I would recommend this book, but be prepared. There is a LONG part of this book that just discusses American willingness to accept unlikely hypotheses as truths and the fact that we are this way because all Americans before us were this way. Interesting, but tiring.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Brad
  • 2018-02-15

But...

...Wait. First, before I continue, I have to begin by saying I enjoyed this book a great deal. The author is spot on about (almost) everything... everything except for the premise. All of the high strangeness touched on herein are indeed real, and, as far as I’m concerned, accurate.

But I have to say that the odd beliefs and behaviors brought up by the author are not in fact unique to Americans — not by a long shot. There is a very popular podcast out of Norway “Forum Borealis” dedicated to the Hollow Earth and Nazis living on the far side of the Moon. Another podcast from Australia is devoted to Chaos Magick and spell casting.

Fantasyland is world wide.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Nicole Del Sesto
  • 2017-11-03

Food for thought


I didn't 100% buy the thesis of this book, but found it a very interesting look at the history of some of the more fantastical elements of life in the US. Meaning, everything. There was a large focus on religion, and it was well explored. Talking about how different aspects of various religions sort of religions came to be. i.e speaking in tongues and faith healing, for example. It talked about the beginning of Calvary Chapel of which I was a part of in its very early days, and that was illuminating. Later about Marianne Williamson and A Course in Miracles, which I was also involved in.

It tackled so many topics: Vegas, Homeopathy, Oprah, Bigfoot (I think haha), Disneyland (naturally), Salem witch trials, and other types of hysteria (on and on) ... Does anybody remember the McMartin pre-school scandal, I think early 80s? I don't remember how he explained it all, but bottom line is one person accused these people of sexually assaulting the children and more people dogpiled on and there was something about a satanic cult and the police weirdly interviewed the children, getting them to confess to stuff that didn't happen and the school was closed. It was the longest most expensive trial in US history at the time, and ultimately I don't think anybody was convicted (which I didn't even realize until reading this book.)

Anyway, the basic premise of the book is that as a result of Americans fascination with all things fantastic - your truth is your truth and facts don't matter and that's how we got into this predicament the country is in. You know the one where 14 is the age of consent.

Like I said, I'm not sold on the conclusion but it was really interesting and I was surprised by how many various mini-hysterias/fantasylands I'd participated in. It's been a couple weeks and I'm still trying to process it. Worth a read/listen (I did audio) and perhaps even worth a re-read. There's a lot of important ideas there.

Read by the author, he was fine.

AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Delray P. Curtis
  • 2017-09-25

Don't you just hate it when that happens

Things that I have been thinking about FOR YEARS and some joker comes along and writes all out for you.

I have read John M. Barry's "Roger Williams and the creation of the American Soul" and various other histories and biographies covering the period including James W. Loewen's "The Modern Scholar:Rethinking Our Past..." always alittle bit dissatisfied with the conclusions, and I often talk about Plato's shadows on the wall when discussing one unimportant scoiatal phenomena or another but I never made the connection with Fantasyland

It was the little things: Calling the Book of Mormon fan fiction, rating whether a child should be baptised or not as an argument between fantasist, to Candidate Trump as an insult Comic, (I could go on) all through the book little things which changed my thinking on things I thought I already knew in a well reasoned, rational context. (I cannot even watch a TV commercial right now because of all the typical marketing out-of-Context references)

I always thought being arrogant in attempting to explain things rationally to a believer was just a personal fault which I am perfectly ok with, but it is good to know someone out there is at least trying to explain the mistakes of belief in an inclusive manner

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • John P
  • 2018-01-09

Relevant Reality with Footnotes

This book has changed the way I look at the world. I considered myself a so-called “realist,” but found after hearing this that I have many fantastical tendencies and how those may or may not be healthy for me. More generally, the historical perspective of America building the foundations of fantasyland brick by brick was very enlightening.

Regarding the layout and performance; I found the authors reading to be very engaging (which isn’t always the case when the author narrates themselves), and for the first time in listening to a non-fiction book, found the jumps to footnotes to not be too distracting.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful