The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson
TL;DR: Enjoyable, but a bit dry for most people probably.
This book was fascinating history, but definitely focuses on the history and economics of the shipping container industry. It’s not a book focused on the fun things people do with shipping containers, or details about how shipping containers have been used over the years – it’s a history book. And that’s good with me.
As some of you may know, I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with shipping containers. I designed a house made of them a few years back (never built, not realistic, but fun) and have talked to many of my friends about containers for longer than they would have liked. They’re a perfect example of optimization, supply chain management/logistics, and out-of-the-box yet-still-a-box thinking.
I enjoyed this book. I never realized how quickly containers changed the world’s transportation systems – only a decade or two from early adopters to widespread use. The 40-foot container we all recognize was quickly standardized and accepted by almost everyone within a few short years, with it’s 20-foot little brother also common.
Random trivia: the next big size limitation for container ships isn’t a man-made canal, it’s the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia; a ship that’s ~1300 feet long, 190 feet wide, and 65 feet below the waterline. There are already container ships this size… holding over 9,000 of those 40-foot containers.
Anyways, if you like thinking about history, logistics, and the vast scale of our world’s shipping industry, The Box is a good read.