ON OUR BOOKSHELVES
NOVEL: Thing Explainer
AUTHOR: Randall Munroe
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2015
Randall Munroe is a former NASA employee who draws the comic xkcd and is the author of one previous book, What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.
His latest effort is Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, which seeks to explain how everyday objects operate using the thousand most common words in the English language (or the “ten hundred” in the parlance of the book).
The volume itself is folio sized and will be enjoyed by any bibliophile, due to its high quality paper and great tactile feel.
Munroe covers topics such as home appliances, the human body, and the physical universe. His dry wit is evident throughout, including his black humor in describing nuclear weapons–known in this volume as “machines for burning cities.” Each page includes multiple detailed illustrations, including stick figure illustrations similar to those in his comics.
The book reminds me of a volume from my childhood, David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work (1988), but in a simpler, more humorous vein. A colleague once told me that if you can’t explain something to a young child, you don’t really understand the subject. Randall Munroe clears that bar easily and provides readers of all ages with a humorous and informative manual to understanding the world we live in. The illustrations and large format make for a conversation piece that can amuse readers of all ages, although I suspect mature readers will get more out of the material.
RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 4 Whistles
HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon
Lead-In Image Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Jonathan Ells lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Stephanie. In the next few months, they look forward to learning how babies work.
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