Saturday, February 20, 2016

Thing Explainer (Randall Munroe)

Thing Explainer
Randall Munroe
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nonfiction, Reference/Science
**** (Good)


DESCRIPTION: The world is a complicated place, often made moreso by the complicated words used to explain it. In this illustrated guide, author Randall Munroe, creator of the popular webcomic xkcd, describes a wide variety of stuff using one thousand (or "ten hundred") of the English language's most common, simple words.

REVIEW: From the periodic table ("the pieces everything is made of") and cellular structure ("tiny bags of water you're made of") to jet engines ("sky boat pushers") and padlocks ("shape checkers"), Munroe covers a broad range of subjects of all shapes and sizes. The illustrations often have humorous little touches, adding to the fun of the overall concept. Occasionally, the simplification obscures the meaning, but it gets the general point across, and can be interesting. One flaw in the design, however, is the fold-out pages, which can be damaged by rereads and simply opening and closing the book. The fold-out diagram of a skyscraper ("sky toucher") at at the end is particularly vulnerable, for having the edges pointed in towards the spine. I'm very careful with my books, and I still have unwanted dog-ear creases here after reading it, as a simple matter of paper shifting as the book is read. (I can only imagine what library copies will endure...) All in all, it's an interesting and amusing concept, whether you're a kid just getting interested in science or a grown-up looking to understand the world a little better, but without access to an unabridged dictionary at all times.

You Might Also Enjoy:
What's That? The Oxford Visual Dictionary of Nearly Everything (John A. Pheby) - My Review
Science Made Stupid - Amazon book link

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