I’m going to sound like my dad here (who, incidentally, would love this), but this book was just really neat. I got a copy from the library, and it’s big and full of charts and infographics and pages that fold out. Just super cool, you guys.
So Munroe (who writes the xkcd comic and also wrote the excellent What If) used to work for NASA, and as he explains in the introduction to Thing Explainer, he often resorts to big words in order to sound smart while explaining things (which I’m sure we all do, but I also bet his words are bigger). So he decided to explain some complicated things using simple words — specifically, the 1,000 most commonly used words in the English language (much like Dr. Seuss’s inspiration for The Cat in the Hat — but with nuclear reactors). So each page explains a different concept, but with very simple vocabulary — so tectonic plates become “the flat rocks we live on”, cockpit controls become “the things you use to steer a plane”, and so on. And then explains how they work and what they do in simple language as well.
It’s just a really cool concept, and he executes it brilliantly. Some of the terms are almost too simple, which lead me to try to figure out exactly what he meant by a certain phrasing. But most of it makes perfect sense — and I love that it’s simplified without seeming dumbed down. After all, most of the concepts are pretty huge. He also includes a list of the words he used at the end, which look pretty amazing when taken on their own.