Friday 1 April 2016

Thing Explainer Randall Munroe

Sometimes we find things in the world that are hard to understand, especially things that are very hard to build or that are made of lots of little parts.  This book by Randall Munroe called Thing Explainer helps make these hard things easier to get.  What makes this book (and this group of words that you are reading now) special is that it only uses the 1000 most used words.  Sometimes this make for a strange reading time: when the thing he is explaining is computers, human bodies, or things that people use to fly in the sky, the writer has to find new ways to explain exactly what he is trying to say. It can be very hard to do.

Why does Munroe do this? It forces him to come up with the most simple way to explain things in the easiest words he can find that almost everybody would know.  To show what I mean, I have to break his simple-writing law for a minute*: There is a part about human organs.  He must talk about the liver and kidneys so he calls them "blood cleaners".  The heart's job is made easier to understand by calling it the blood pusher. Everybody knows what a stomach is, but how can it be explained?  Using the normal words you would say "digestion" and "bacteria".  Here he has to call the stomach parts "food hallway" and what helps break down your food "the living things inside you".

This book is made up mostly of his simple explainers and the drawings that go with them.  Randall Munroe's main job is drawing funny pictures about the world on computers. 

Is it any good?  The truth is that it does get a bit tiring: sometimes the simple words are too simple. I had trouble sometimes trying to figure out what he means about some ideas.  Still, the idea is interesting enough. You don't have to read it from front to back. Just look at what interest you and you'll have a good time. One note: it looks like a kids’ book, but it's not.  It's really meant for anybody people interested in the how world works.

*Words I used that are not in the top 1000: Randall, Munroe, organs, liver, kidneys, digestion & bacteria.

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