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How To

Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems
Written by: Randall Munroe
Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
Length: 6 hrs and 15 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (53 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The world's most entertaining and useless self-help guide, from the brilliant mind behind the wildly popular webcomic xkcd and the number one New York Times best sellers What If? and Thing Explainer

For any task you might want to do, there's a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally complex, excessive, and inadvisable that no one would ever try it. How To is a guide to the third kind of approach. It's full of highly impractical advice for everything from landing a plane to digging a hole. 

Best-selling author and cartoonist Randall Munroe explains how to predict the weather by analyzing the pixels of your Facebook photos. He teaches you how to tell if you're a baby boomer or a '90s kid by measuring the radioactivity of your teeth. He offers tips for taking a selfie with a telescope, crossing a river by boiling it, and powering your house by destroying the fabric of space-time. And if you want to get rid of a book once you're done with it, he walks you through your options for proper disposal, including dissolving it in the ocean, converting it to a vapor, using tectonic plates to subduct it into the earth's mantle, or launching it into the Sun.

By exploring the most complicated ways to do simple tasks, Munroe doesn't just make things difficult for himself and his listeners. As he did so brilliantly in What If?, Munroe invites us to explore the most absurd reaches of the possible. How To is a delightfully mind-bending way to better understand the science and technology underlying the things we do every day.

©2019 Randall Munroe (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

“A witty, educational examination of ‘unusual approaches to common tasks’...generously laced with dry humor...Munroe’s comic stick-figure art is an added bonus....  Apart from generating laughter, the book also manages to achieve his serious objective: to get his audience thinking.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“Munroe (creator of the webcomic xkcd; What If?; Thing Explainer) creates another fun series of questions and answers that explore forces, properties, and natural phenomena through pop-culture scenarios . . . With illustrated formulas that humorously explain the science behind Munroe’s conjectures, this book is sure to entertain and educate thinkers from high school on up.” (Library Journal)

“An enjoyable treat for fans of logic puzzles, brain hacking, kaizen, mad science, and other forms of mental stimulation.” (Kirkus Reviews)

What listeners say about How To

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Really like this book

Fun listen and great writer. Wil Wheaton is a good audio book voice. Highly suggest to read this book.

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Ok, not a fun as the first

This book is very much like the first book by Randall Munroe (What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions) but less fun. Several scenarios are postulated, like moving house. Absurd or unconventional solutions are proposed. In this way it us much like the first. Although this feels much lazier. The first book did the math. This book does some of the math but only for the most impractical solutions.

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Hilarious

I really enjoyed this book, especially the guest appearances of Commander Chris Hadfield and Serena Williams (as interviewees, not narrators). The pacing is fairly quick, and it is easy to breeze through chapters. Wil Wheaton was fantastic as the narrator. Comparing the audiobook to the physical version I can tell you that Wheaton reads the footnotes and sometimes reads the text of the cartoons, however, the only way to enjoy all the cartoons included in the book is to read the physical copy. However, it’s still hilarious as an audiobook.

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randall monroe for the win, again!

Another great book filled with humour and scientific curiosity inspiring ideas. A pleasure to read/listen to.

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Nowhere near as good as What If....

Not as interesting, not as funny, not as informative..... I kinda felt sorry for Wil, trying sooooo hard with sooooo little......

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  • C. White
  • 2019-09-03

Bad Ideas So BAD They Are NEARLY Irresistable! 🤓

I avoid math like the plague. I fully believe it is a cruel curse perpetrated upon human kind by a vengeful and sadistic universe... But even with that said... I LOVED this book! I'm convinced that Randall Munroe is probably the only person in the world who could take such a sadistic science and make it totally fun and accessible. Munroe walks the listener through everyday common ideas and then follows those ideas with a whole lotta bat-poop crazy ideas. For the reasonable ideas, he mathematically explains why they are in reality mathematically complex (and a whole lot of physics too)... and then he process to propose a lot more even absurdly outrageous ideas and why they might be a "bit" more mathematically reasonable (assuming you consider a bit of chaos reasonableness). Combine Munroe's witty and humorous writing with Wil Wheaton's pitch perfect tounge-in-cheek narration (which practically winks at the listener with every sentence), this is a highly enjoyable, funny, and enlightening book. Given that the ideas come petty fast and furious (and the math can be pretty overwhelming), the book can be a bit tedious at times.... But I think it's Munroe's way of assuring repeat listening. I did enjoy Munroe's pervious effort (What If) slightly more, but as with Munroe's previous outing, this book starts off with one of the most practical disclaimers ever written. A disclaimer the prudent listener will take to heart (and snicker to themselves about the poor sods who don't) 😂

8 people found this helpful

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  • Jason
  • 2020-01-06

If « what if » was from the scientist, « how to » is from the engineer !

This is great fun, well narrated. 1-2 chapters at the end are a litte weaker, but the rest is quite strong! If you want insight into how engineers and scientists see and analyze the world around them, this is an entertaining must-read/listen.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jason
  • 2019-11-21

Fantastic, fun book with excellent narration!

I love xkcd and so wasn't surprised to find that I loved the quirky humor that came from the scientific explorations of truly ridiculous actions. What did surprise me was how lively Wil Wheaton's performance was! I knew he's an excellent reader, but have typically listened to him reading fiction. He brought the same passion to this book, which made it a joy to listen to!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Z. Zheng
  • 2019-11-19

Another Great Book from Randall

As usual, Wil has hit the recording out of the park, and Randall has put together another book of fun thought experiments

2 people found this helpful

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  • Josh M.
  • 2019-10-04

funny cool and somehow educational

this book covers an array of problems with reasonable and absurd solutions, quite funny yet educational.

2 people found this helpful

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  • michael van
  • 2019-10-02

pleasingly whimsical

I love xkcd comics and I really appreciate Randall Monroe's sense of humor. This book contains much of the magic that makes his stuff entertaining and Will Wheaton makes a pretty good pairing for an audiobook. I feel like he nails the feeling and intent pretty well. Very good stuff.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Fashionista
  • 2020-03-29

I loved every minute of it!

This book was great. The narration was spot on and the jokes made me smile. I really enjoyed all the science behind it aswell. Overall 10/10 book and I strongly reccomend it

1 person found this helpful

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  • b mccann
  • 2019-12-28

Narrator was the only good part

I did not find many of the subjects chosen to be very interesting, but the narration was great

1 person found this helpful

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  • John Imprint
  • 2019-10-17

Another good book from Randall

I liked "what if?" a little more. Now where can I find jet engines, giant windmills and teapots? ;)

1 person found this helpful

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  • Brandon y.
  • 2019-10-06

I love it!!!

I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it,
it's worth twice what they're asking.

1 person found this helpful