Book Review: How To (Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems)

You’d probably be better off searching YouTube for how to really take a selfie, win an election, build a highway, charge your phone, cross a river, predict the weather, build a lava moat, dig a hole and the whole host of other both odd and common topics that pepper Randall Munroe’s recent book, How To (Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problem).

But it wouldn’t likely be nearly as much fun.

If you know Munroe’s work (through his xkcd comics and other books), then you know that his brain is wired with both logic and humor, and both are sure to get you laughing while you’re thinking. Or is it thinking while you’re laughing?

In either case, you’ll be doing both.

With math and science at his fingertips, and with plenty of his signature stick doodles to pepper the pages, Monroe tackles a wide range of issues with practicality and impracticality. If you are a teacher like me, you’ll quickly realize that this kind of expository/informational writing could potentially become a neat and interesting model for students to explore.

Nothing Monroe shares here is untrue (as far as I can tell) and much of it is written in clear, concise language (for the most part), and the illustrations connect to the text (if in funny tones) — so what if this kind of book becomes a sort of mentor text for teaching this kind of technical writing?

Even if not, this book is certainly worth your time. There’s even a final chapter on “How To Dispose of This Book.” You could send it to the Sun, bury it deep into the earth, put it beneath the ocean floor or just hand it over to a friend to read. Whatever’s easier.

Peace (stick people rule!),

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