An NPR Best Book of 2018
"How to Invent Everything is such a cool book. It's essential reading for anyone who needs to duplicate an industrial civilization quickly." --Randall Munroe, xkcd creator and New York Times-bestselling author of What If?
The only book you need if you're going back in time
What would you do if a time machine hurled you thousands of years into the past. . . and then broke? How would you survive? Could you improve on humanity's original timeline? And how hard would it be to domesticate a giant wombat?
With this book as your guide, you'll survive--and thrive--in any period in Earth's history. Bestselling author and time-travel enthusiast Ryan North shows you how to invent all the modern conveniences we take for granted--from first principles. This illustrated manual contains all the science, engineering, art, philosophy, facts, and figures required for even the most clueless time traveler to build a civilization from the ground up. Deeply researched, irreverent, and significantly more fun than being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger, How to Invent Everything will make you smarter, more competent, and completely prepared to become the most important and influential person ever. You're about to make history. . . better.
North (Romeo and/or Juliet) presents a witty pop science guide intended for those demanding times when one needs to create a civilization from scratch. Framed as a manual for a time traveler, the illustrated narrative begins with a series of questions in flowchart-form to help users figure out where in time they've landed: Are there plants? Are there dinosaurs? Has the Big Bang happened yet? If the traveler in question is lucky enough to have landed some 200,000 years ago, North cheerfully announces, "you could actually be the most influential person in history." Start by introducing the basics, five technologies fundamental to civilization: spoken and written language, "non-sucky" numbers (more than tally marks, and preferably including fractions and zero), the scientific method, and a calorie surplus, via agriculture and domesticating animals. The last is important, North explains, for those who don't want to spend all their time hunting and gathering food. "Civilization Pro Tips" sidebars sprinkled throughout dispense additional suggestions ("Don't forget to plant your legumes"), and wry humor keeps the discussion lighthearted. North's "survival guide" is a fun, thoughtful, and thoroughly accessible reference for curious readers, students, and world-builders, as well as wayward time travelers.
Every Science Fiction Reader's Dream
Every time I've told a friend about the premise of this book, they've told me "Oh, yeah, I have wondered that!"
This book is as entertaining as it is informative, and as it literally tells you how to rebuild civilization from scratch, you can be it's pretty entertaining. Everything in the book is carefully researched and clearly explained, and the results are a compelling explanation of how humanity got where it is today, on top of accomplishing its direct purpose.
The humor that North has carried through all of his books, though comparatively understated in this text, shines through at carefully selected moments to provide commentary on the situation or on our collective history, or merely make you laugh at the idea of reinventing sex.
Lastly, the text does a good job of providing a more global and objective perspective on a technological history often taught as dominated by western civilizations. Inventions are sourced to their proper historical sources, credit given to the original inventors over later (European) copycats, and the entire world is kept in mind as a potential physical location of the premise, with regard to the available resources and local flora and fauna.
This very fun book will make you feel, for the first time, like the past 10,000 years of innovation are actually meaningful to you, and allow you to empathize with and mock our ancestors in the ways they truly deserve.
Fun and interesting read
If you’ve ever asked yourself the question “if I could go back in time and invent stuff early, would civilization advance any faster than it did?” this is the book for you.
This book frames itself as an instruction manual for building a civilization from scratch, but it’s also a great read on the history of science and innovation. The author’s voice is engaging, and he pulls information from a variety of fields. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I can’t read 1st chapter
It’s not easy for kids to read 1 star for the funny book title.👍👎👎👎👎