When I was an undergraduate, I was obsessed with the television program E! True Hollywood Story. Each week, I took a salacious rollercoaster ride through the ups and downs of a celebrity’s life. Right before each commercial break, the narrator assured me that either the star was about to be saved from his downward spiral or that her glory days were going to come to a screeching halt. I loved the drama and the “truth is stranger than fiction” element of the program. To this day, among my favorite authors are masters of journalistic nonfiction like Erik Larson, Jon Krakauer, and Sebastian Junger.
Each year, The Strong inducts a new class into the National Toy Hall of Fame, and the world has an opportunity to learn the “true story” of each iconic and innovative toy. Toys are not created or played with in a vacuum: they are inexorably connected to the lives and times of their inventors and are equally as connected to the lives of the children who play with them, and the times in which those children live. The stories behind toys are full of intrigue, humor, and humanity. Here are my top ten toy stories to read—with a bonus selection for one of the 2016 Toy Hall of Fame inductees!