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How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler Paperback – Illustrated, September 17, 2019
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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.
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“Brilliant conceit. . . . a slyly funny piece of popular science writing.” —Glen Weldon, NPR’s Great Reads of 2018
“Hilarious and endlessly fascinating . . . For the vast general population that might decide to trust their lives to the FC3000, this book is potentially invaluable (and mighty entertaining) one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about life, the universe, and the fly wheel.” —Christian Science Monitor
“Ryan North's latest is a handy guide for what to do if you get stuck in the Stone Age…The manual stands well on its own, even if you'll never set foot in a time machine.” —Popular Mechanics
“An entertaining and informative survey of Big History . . . worth holding on to even if we never do figure out time travel.” —Toronto Star
“A hilarious and practical guide.” —Atlas Obscura
“The scale of How to Invent Everything is downright encyclopedic, and the voice, on every page, bubbles with humor. Reading it brought me back to all the afternoons I’d spent as a kid flipping through the big reference books in my local library, and then eagerly running home to tell anyone who’d listen what I’d learned. One of this book’s great achievements is the way it so gracefully combines scholarly rigor with youthful wonder.” —Electric Literature
“How to Invent Everything is a genuinely entertaining bit of pop science writing, a brief history of human civilization with a wicked sense of humor and sci-fi set-up that make it as fun as it is informative. It’s an essential read for would-be time travelers as well as anyone who really wants to know all the various uses for an alpaca.” —Barnes & Noble Blog
“I recommend this to any time traveler or world builder who is in the market for a fresh civilization. This is certainly one of those ‘better to have and not need rather than need and not have’ books, folks. So run out and grab this.” —Geeks of Doom
“A must-read for any potential time traveler.” —Unbound Worlds
“Stranded in a past century? Not to worry! Here’s the entertaining and sometimes even hilarious book that will tell you everything you need to know.” – Christian Science Monitor
“A dazzling piece of work that's also genuinely hilarious.” —Elan Mastai, author of All Our Wrong Todays
“A witty pop science guide intended for those demanding times when one needs to create a civilization from scratch... 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.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Packed with cool, fun, and useful stuff... a friendly and thought-provoking reference, just the thing for the bright kid in the family, to say nothing of the neighborhood time traveler.” —Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Publishing Group; Reprint edition (September 17, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 480 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0735220158
- ISBN-13 : 978-0735220157
- Item Weight : 14.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.09 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #34,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on October 12, 2018
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Only it isn’t really a manual for the machine. Instead, since fixing the machine is so complicated, they’ve provided you with a manual for how to make past!Earth more like an Earth you’d want to live on, including instructions for how to do things like inventing standardized measurements, figuring out which animals will help you most, and building machines to do all sorts of things for you.
It’s a fun book with all sorts of stuff I didn’t know, and I do think it’s useful for a general overview of human technology/civilization.
There’s two major problems.
First, the instructions aren’t always clear. If I really wanted to learn how to program a computer, for instance, this isn’t the book I’d go to. Even something simpler, like building a kiln or a mill. The basics are there, but not enough.
On a similar note, the book tells you where and when you’d find certain plants/animals, but it doesn’t include enough to identify them. Even a simple description would been helpful; a picture would have been better.
Generally, the book needed a LOT more images. I get that ebooks do have file transfer fees, but still. This needed to be an image-heavy book, and it wasn’t nearly image-heavy enough.
Second, the premise gets a little...
I get what the author was going for, but in some ways it would’ve been better if he hadn’t hammered it in so much.
I did mostly enjoy the book, and it does have some useful information.
But the problems were big enough to knock it down a star.
In fact, North never mentions weapons at all, except to say that, "While this text does not include explicit instructions for weaponry, we're certain that, should the need arise, you can probably adapt several of the technologies included here to that purpose." (He doesn't even include the formula for gunpowder in the appendix, "Useful Chemicals, How to Make Them, and How They Can Definitely Kill You"! It's useful to have an explosive at hand, even if you never use it in a projectile weapons.) Given that fact that, in most eras of the past, you would probably need weapons right away, for hunting and defense, this would be small comfort for the stranded time traveler. North's style of humor also wore a little thin for me after a while.
Having said all that, the book is fun and informative. I am glad I read it and I did learn something.
I would also like to comment on the reviews complaining about the Kindle edition of this book being impossible to view the numerous diagrams. This may well, be true, if you are reading it on a Kindle; but I had no trouble viewing them in the Kindle app on my iPad. While I think Amazon does deserve criticism for not making the ebook usable on their flagship ereader, I don't think it's fair to penalize the author by giving this book low star ratings for something he has no control over.
Useful plants were mentioned and discussed without a description of what they look like. Combat in ancient egypt was basically stabbing people with pointy bits of metal. I was eventually able to teach them how to make crossbows and siege weaponry, but that was from memory, not this book. The book helped identify penicillin mold, but not how to grow large quantities of it. We had to do lots of trials with different setups to get a good production system going.
It's nice to know coffee and corn are available for cultivation if I can bring them back from the new world, but I wasn't able to take advantage of that in my timeline. A lot of concepts are mentioned, but without the diagrams or step-by-step guides on how to build that tech, you're stuck doing lots of experimentation. I feel like a section on medicinal plants & microbiology might have been helpful. We were close to developing a working microscope before I was rescued.
I was hoping for something a bit more practical, like the 'back to basics handbook', but this book does give you a broad overview of major concepts up to the invention of electricity & radio. My advice to you if you're stuck in the past is: quickly establish yourself as a wizard, using whatever tech you brought with you. Heck, the ancient egyptians were impressed with my sunglasses alone. Demand the brightest teens be sent to you, and then delegate, delegate, delegate. Set some to work on developing 4-field crop rotation (an easy one), and then work up the tech tree as rapidly as you can.
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Reviewed in Germany 🇩🇪 on April 22, 2022
El libro abarca diversos temas, tales como: Agricultura, domesticación de animales, herbolaria básica, alimentación, minería, entre muchas otras.
La redacción es muy entretenida, mi única observación es que sería de mayor utilidad si tuviera algunas ilustraciones más o instrucciones más detalladas en algunas cosas
Though writing in an entertaining way, if you're hoping for some actionable ideas, looking to know more about the nitty gritty of scientific history or anything of the sort, I'd recommend saving your money.
It might make a good gift for a child who is interested in science though.