Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe, 2015
A few years ago, NASA roboticist turned comics artist, Randall Munroe drew this cartoon, where he explained how the Saturn V rocket worked using only the most common 1,000 words in the English language. It was funny, it was insightful, it explained how a freakin’ rocket works in really simple language.
The comic was a huge hit. Links were sent and resent. Posters were made. Monroe decided to take the idea and use it for many, many things — from trees to dishwashers (which he renames “box that cleans food holders”) to jet engines (“sky boat pusher”). He wrote Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words.
I’m hardly the first person to love this book. Here’s a review by Bill Gates, for instance. This is a fantastic graphic nonfiction, and belongs up with David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work. It’s a brilliant exercise in language, science, and engineering, and it made me feel both smarter and dumber for having read it. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s ever wondered about the “stuff you touch to fly a sky boat” or why there are “so many light benders in a picture taker.”