September 1, 2014

Book Review: What If?

By Clara Moskowitz

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What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Former nasa roboticist Munroe has gained a cult following for his witty science-themed Web comic xkcd . Here, with drawings, math and logical reasoning, he answers strange and intriguing questions submitted by online readers, such as “If someone's DNA suddenly vanished, how long would that person last?” and “How many Lego bricks would it take to build a bridge capable of carrying traffic from London to New York?” The answers are often surprising—for example, you could buy all the property in London and ship it, piece by piece, to New York for less than the cost of such a bridge, Munroe calculates. Some questions deemed too “weird” to answer still get amusing comic responses, such as “Could you survive a tidal wave by submerging yourself in an in-ground pool?” and “What if I swallow a tick that has Lyme disease?”

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Rhett Allain

Book Review: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions


When the publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) sent me Randall Munroe's (of xkcd comic ) book to review, I was excited. I pointed out to my 12 year old son that he might like this book too. The next day, I was looking for the book and it was missing. Yup, my son had it. I think he read through the whole thing in just one long car trip and a couple of other sessions.

Well, if he read it before me I might as well get a mini-book review from him.

A 12 Year Old's Review

Me: So, what did you learn from reading this book? 12 yo: I learned that if you put some of the elements in the periodic table next to each other, they will explode. Me: What was your favorite part? 12 yo: I liked the periodic table one. I liked the "could everyone jump" part. Did you know that the book mentions your blog in that one? I also liked the other questions that he didn't answer. Those were funny.

So overall, he liked the book. I think that really says something about the writing and content in the book. It's interesting, but simple enough that a 12 year old could understand it. Oh sure, he didn't understand everything, but he still liked it.

What If? vs. Dot Physics

Actually, What If? is a lot like my blog. We both try to find answers to sometimes silly questions. Also we both use physics concepts and even try to explain some of the physics. However, there are a couple of big differences.

  • Randall tends to actually research some topics before getting answer. I, on the other hand, usually avoid looking for similar problems that have been done. I like to start from scratch and build my own model.
  • I tend to show more of the steps when solving a problem. Maybe this isn't the best way to write a blog post, but it's what I do. I like to include all the details so that readers can see the thought process that goes into solving these types of problems. In the end, I think Randall's style of condensing the solution down to the most basic parts makes for a more readable solution.

A few comments on the book.

I like to point out errors. In one part of the book Randall answers the question: could you ride your bike so fast in the winter that the compression of the air would warm you up? Randall says the following: the fastest bike is 40 m/s. If you went 200 m/s, this could work. Since air resistance is proportional to velocity squared, this would require an increase in power by a factor of 25. This is wrong. Here is a picture.


In this case, you could say that the work done to ride the bike is from the frictional force. Suppose the bike moves a distance s . Since this frictional force must be equal to the air resistance (for constant velocity), the work done in this case would be:

La te xi t 1

But what about the power? Power would be the work divided by the time it takes to move. So, I can write:

La te xi t 1

So, the power is proportional to the velocity cubed, not squared. Increasing the speed by a factor of 5 would increase the power by a factor of 125.

Of course Randall's point is still valid. You can't ride a bike at 200 m/s.

Ok, how about another comment. In one chapter, Randall looks at the power Yoda would need to lift an x-wing fighter. This answer was awesome, but it makes me just a little sad when I read it. I guess a better word would be "jealous". I'm jealous that Randall thought of this interesting problem before I did. It's a great question with an awesome answer.

Like I said, there are many interesting questions with entertaining answers. I enjoyed the book.

Review copy of What If? provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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  • Book reviews

What If by Randall Munroe – Book Review

What if - Book review

This book is a must have for all scientists and other curious minds. What If? – Serious Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe is exactly as the title and subtitle describes. Engineer Randall Munroe answers the absurd questions that he receives on his blog in an extensive, scientific way – and he does so in a comical way. In this article you can read my book review about What If? .

If there is one person that is fit for the job of writing a book such as this one, it is Randall Munroe. He is an engineer with a degree in physics and he has worked for NASA. Besides all this, he is a cartoonist and the creater of webcomic xkcd. Thanks to his skills and experience, he is able to:

  • Have enough physical understanding of the world (and universe) to answer the questions asked and know who to contact/where to look if he doesn’t know the answer himself
  • Write the answers down and explain the answers and physics behind it in such a way that it is comprehensible for other people (that do not have the same level of knowledge)
  • Make you laugh while you are learning interesting (but mostly unneccesary) facts.

Probably at least one the questions that appear in this book crossed your mind at some point in your life. Questions that Randall Munroe answers are for example: “What would happen if everyone on Earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped”, “What if someone’s DNA vanished” and, relevant for the times we live in now: “If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a couple of weeks, wouldn’t the common cold be wiped out?”

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My opinion about What If?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading What If? . In the very first chapter Munroe, by chance, mentioned two cities that have been very important in my life, Longyearbyen (Svalbard) and Helsinki , which immediately gave me more of a connection to the book. Also, the topic discussed in the first chapter (“What would happen if the earth would stop spinning”) was interesting. One immediately gets a feeling for what the rest of the book will be like and for the kind of humor that Randall Munroe uses. All the explanations and discussions in the book are accompanied by some witty comics.

What If book review - An example of "weird and worrying questions from the what if inbox".

The book is full of interesting facts and you might learn a lot from it, although the things you learn are not so practical that they immediately benefit you in real life. Of course, some topics and discussions in the book are more fun or interesting than others, but this is also a matter of taste. My main criticism is that often in the book, US units are used. More use of SI-units would in my opinion definitely improve the book, but Americans might argue otherwise. 😉

I found the book easy to read, although it might be slightly harder – but most likely not undoable – for someone with less of a scientific background. One last thing I particularly liked about this book is that it gives an insight in the fantasy and imagination of people and the weird questions that can occupy people’s minds.

Book summary of What If?

It is quite hard to give a summary about What If , since the book does not consist out of one big story. The book has a chapter for every question that Manroe deals with and the chapters are rather short, consisting out of a few pages. Besides the questions above, some other examples of questions treated in the book are: “What would happen to the earth if the sun suddenly switched off”, “What if a Richter magnitude 15 earthquake were to hit New York City”, “What is the farthest one human being has ever been from every other living person” and “Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward-facing machine guns”.

Monroe has a similar approach for every of the questions he attempts to answer. He generally starts by stating why the topic or situation described is weird or implausible and sometimes he directly gives the answer. After that he starts introducing the topic more extensively, he says what assumptions are done – a lot of assumptions are done for most topics, but that is the only way one can answer such hypothetical questions – and explains the basic physics behind the topic.

After finishing one explanation, Monroe often elaborates his answer to the questions by adjusting the assumptions, so in this way he covers the topics more extensively and he discusses plenty of different scenarios for the questions asked.

Besides the chapters that are completely dedicated to one question, he also has a Short-Answer Section. Lastly, the weirdest questions (that Munroe did not bother to answer) are called “weird and worrying questions from the what if inbox”. Those questions – that sometimes makes you doubt the sender’s well-being – are accompanied by funny comics and are a great addition to the book.

What If? came out on 2 September 2014 and I was very excited to hear that after 8 years, on 13 September this year (2022), the 2nd part ( What If? 2 ) comes out! There is no doubt I will read What If? 2 .

I hope this book review of What If was of use to you. You can find more book reviews here .

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Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

By Randall Munroe

By randall munroe read by wil wheaton, category: humor | science & technology, category: humor | science & technology | audiobooks.

Sep 13, 2022 | ISBN 9780525537113 | 7 x 9 --> | ISBN 9780525537113 --> Buy

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What If? 2 by Randall Munroe

Sep 13, 2022 | ISBN 9780525537113

Sep 13, 2022 | ISBN 9780525537120

Sep 13, 2022 | ISBN 9780525635703

395 Minutes

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About What If? 2

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An NPR Best Book of 2022 “The questions throughout What If? 2 are equal parts brilliant, gross, and wonderfully absurd and the answers are thorough, deeply researched, and great fun. . . . Science isn’t easy, but in Munroe’s capable hands, it surely can be fun.” — TIME The #1 New York Times bestselling author of What If? and How To answers more of the weirdest questions you never thought to ask   The millions of people around the world who read and loved What If? still have questions, and those questions are getting stranger. Thank goodness xkcd creator Randall Munroe is here to help. Planning to ride a fire pole from the Moon back to Earth? The hardest part is sticking the landing. Hoping to cool the atmosphere by opening everyone’s freezer door at the same time? Maybe it’s time for a brief introduction to thermodynamics. Want to know what would happen if you rode a helicopter blade, built a billion-story building, made a lava lamp out of lava, or jumped on a geyser as it erupted? Okay, if you insist. Before you go on a cosmic road trip, feed the residents of New York City to a T. rex, or fill every church with bananas, be sure to consult this practical guide for impractical ideas. Unfazed by absurdity, Munroe consults the latest research on everything from swing-set physics to airliner catapult–design to answer his readers’ questions, clearly and concisely, with illuminating and occasionally terrifying illustrations. As he consistently demonstrates, you can learn a lot from examining how the world might work in very specific extreme circumstances.

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of What If? and How To answers more of the weirdest questions you never thought to ask   The millions of people around the world who read and loved What If? still have questions, and those questions are getting stranger. Thank goodness xkcd creator Randall Munroe is here to help. Planning to ride a fire pole from the Moon back to Earth? The hardest part is sticking the landing. Hoping to cool the atmosphere by opening everyone’s freezer door at the same time? Maybe it’s time for a brief introduction to thermodynamics. Want to know what would happen if you rode a helicopter blade, built a billion-story building, made a lava lamp out of lava, or jumped on a geyser as it erupted? Okay, if you insist. Before you go on a cosmic road trip, feed the residents of New York City to a T. rex, or fill every church with bananas, be sure to consult this practical guide for impractical ideas. Unfazed by absurdity, Munroe consults the latest research on everything from swing-set physics to airliner catapult–design to answer his readers’ questions, clearly and concisely. As he consistently demonstrates, you can learn a lot from examining how the world might work in very specific extreme circumstances.

Listen to a sample from What If? 2

Also by randall munroe.

How To

About Randall Munroe

Randall Munroe is the author of the New York Times bestsellers What If? 2, How To, What If?, and Thing Explainer; the science question-and-answer blog What If?; and the popular web comic xkcd. A former NASA roboticist, he left the agency… More about Randall Munroe

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Praise for What If? 2 “Delightful. . . Randall Munroe has made a career out of sharing his joy in science and engineering. . . . This book and its predecessor inspire us to believe that, even in a vast and mysterious universe, there’s a lot we can figure out with nothing but a sharp pencil, come basic scientific knowledge and a vivid imagination.” — The Wall Street Journal “The questions throughout What If? 2 are equal parts brilliant, gross, and wonderfully absurd and the answers are thorough, deeply researched, and great fun. . . . Science isn’t easy, but in Munroe’s capable hands, it surely can be fun.” — TIME “Picking this book up now and then enlivens life by letting you briefly consider the effects of, say, putting an indestructible 20-meter-wide glass tube all the way down to the deepest part of the ocean. Plus, Munroe’s illustrations turn stick figures and flowcharts into the stuff of existential hilarity.” —NPR  “Entertaining. . . . combines Munroe’s true research and truly funny prose with his signature stick-figure illustrations.” — The Washington Post “Perfect if you enjoy it when stuffy figures of authority crack a smile. Or if you like it when black holes form. That happens a lot.” — Newsweek “One of my favorite books of the year.” —Tim Harford, Financial Times “It’s an absolute delight! It’s the coolest way to learn how the world actually works.” —Hank Green (on the Dear Hank & John podcast)  “A delight for science geeks with a penchant for oddball thought experiments.” — Kirkus Praise for Randall Munroe and What If? “Randall Munroe is a national treasure.” —Phil Plait   “Extreme astrophysics and indecipherable chemistry have rarely been this clearly explained or this consistently hilarious.” — Entertainment Weekly “10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Year” “Consistently fascinating and entertaining…Munroe leavens the hard science with whimsical touches… An illuminating handbook of methods of reasoning.” — Wall Street Journal “It’s fun to watch as Munroe tackles each question and examines every possible complication with nerdy and methodical aplomb…. The delightfully demented What If? is the most fun you can have with math and science, short of becoming your own evil genius.” — Boston Globe

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Randall Munroe on Obscure Research and His New Book WHAT IF? 2 | Inside the Book

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The Scholarly Kitchen

What’s Hot and Cooking In Scholarly Publishing

Book Review: "What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions" by Randall Munroe

  • Experimentation
  • Social Role

You may recognize Munroe from the excellent and popular online cartoon, xkcd , which employs stick figures, witty framing, and science jokes in service of a minimalist yet consistently sophisticated comic. The book captures the most popular questions coming from the What If? blog developed as an offshoot of xkcd .

What If? takes ridiculous scientific questions Munroe has received or encountered over the years and answers many of them — questions like:

  • If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the moon at the same time, would it change color?
  • What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?
  • What if a glass of water was, all of a sudden, literally half empty?
  • When — if ever — will the bandwidth of the Internet surpass that of FedEx?
  • If you had a printed version of the whole of (say, the English) Wikipedia, how many printers would you need in order to keep up with the changes made to the live version?

There isn’t a dud question in the lot, and all are within the bounds promised on the book’s cover. Each response is clearly written and embroidered with witty and appropriate cartoons, many of which do the “a picture is worth a thousand words” heavy lifting you’d expect. His caption credit on the drawing of the person jumping off Mount Thor made me laugh out loud, as did the quadrant graph categorizing the quality of ideas.

Munroe’s drawing style is like his intellectual style — spare, efficient, and winning.

The journey from the absurd question to the relatively solid answer is always interesting. The answers embody how to break down a problem, use assumptions and data, model out an answer, and contemplate consequences. The explanations elucidate interesting natural, mathematical, and scientific phenomena — from how lightning works to why temperature in space is a fraught concept to how to calculate momentum for rockets turned inward on a submarine (for a superficially good reason, given the absurd circumstances created by one particular question).

Munroe also footnotes interestingly, such as in the response to “What if you had a mole of moles?” In pondering the problems one Avogadro of furry critters would generate, he neatly discovers something he’s “never noticed before — a cubic mile happens to be almost exactly 4/3π cubic kilometers, so a sphere with a radius of X kilometers has the same volume as a cube that’s X miles on each side.” He also nicely cartoons what nearly everyone thinks of a star-nosed mole upon seeing one.

To break up the book, Munroe dispenses with some questions quickly between major sections, using humor alone, such as:

Question: Is it possible to cry so much you dehydrate yourself? — Karl Wildermuth Answer: . . . Karl, is everything OK?

Question: Would it be possible to get your teeth to such a cold temperature that they would shatter upon drinking a hot cup of coffee? — Shelby Hebert Answer: Thank you, Shelby, for my new recurring nightmare.

To give you more of a flavor of what you’ll find in What If? , here is the first paragraph of his answer to the question, “What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?”:

The answer turns out to be “a lot of things,” and they all happen very quickly, and it doesn’t end well for the batter (or the pitcher). I sat down with some physics books, a Nolan Ryan action figure, and a bunch of videotapes of nuclear tests and tried to sort it all out. What follows is my best guess at a nanosecond-by-nanosecond portrait.

If you’d like to know what happens in the 70 nanoseconds covered, and why baseball rules actually have relevance even in this extreme situation, you’ll need to read the book.

What If? is a great book for science geeks and general readers with an interest in scientific concepts. It’s funny, interesting, and unique, and it shows just how weird the inbox at xkcd must get at times.

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.

3 Thoughts on "Book Review: "What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions" by Randall Munroe"

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Note that the book is based on the “What If?” web-site , so anyone not sure if it’s their kind of thing can dip in to get a feel for it. For example, here is the answer to the mole of moles question .

  • By Mike Taylor
  • Oct 2, 2014, 6:06 AM

' src=

Funny. I woke up this morning realizing I’d neglected to mention that, and just added it — then noticed this comment. Thanks.

  • By Kent Anderson
  • Oct 2, 2014, 6:38 AM

' src=

Reblogged this on Paper Pills and commented: Was this book written for me? (I wonder if it says anything about mermaids.)

  • By clareeileen
  • Oct 4, 2014, 1:47 PM

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Randall Munroe

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About the Author

Randall Munroe is the author of the webcomic xkcd and the New York Times bestsellers What If? , What If? 2 , Thing Explainer , and How To. A former NASA roboticist, he left the agency in 2006 to draw comics on the internet full time. The International Astronomical Union has named an asteroid after him; that asteroid, 4942 Munroe, is large enough that it could cause a mass extinction if it were to hit Earth. He lives in Massachusetts.

" What If? is one of my Internet must-reads, and I look forward to each new installment, and always read it with delight."

"Munroe applies reason and research to hypothetical conundrums ranging from the philosophical to the scientific (often absurd but never pseudo) that probably seemed awesome in your elementary school days--but were never sufficiently answered. It's the rare combination of edifying and fun."

"Required reading across the world."

"Who better than Wil Wheaton, formerly of Star Trek , to narrate this romp through the world of Randall Munroe--physicist, roboticist, and editor of the website xkcd?...Wheaton's ambitious performance meshes perfectly with the perspectives and humor of the author. Missing from the audio are the signature stick-figure cartoons from the printed book and website, but Wheaton's outstanding inflections, pacing, cadence, and timing more than compensate for the loss. So if you want to be thoroughly entertained while discovering what would happen if the world suddenly stopped spinning or a drain appeared in the bottom of the ocean, this audiobook deserves space on your listening device." Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014: What if everyone on earth aimed a laser pointer at the moon at the same time? What if you could drain all the water from the oceans? What if all the lightning in the world struck the same place? What if there were a book that considered weird, sometimes ridiculous questions, and it was so compelling that you found yourself skimming its pages to find out what would happen if you threw a baseball at light speed? With What If , Randall Munroe has written such a book. As he does in his extraordinarily popular xkcd webcomic, Munroe applies reason and research to hypothetical conundrums ranging from the philosophical to the scientific (often absurd, but never pseudo) that probably seemed awesome in your elementary school days—but were never sufficiently answered. It’s the rare combination of edifying and fun. — Jon Foro.

What If? is one of my Internet must-reads, and I look forward to each new installment, and always read it with delight.

Required reading across the world.

Munroe applies reason and research to hypothetical conundrums ranging from the philosophical to the scientific (often absurd but never pseudo) that probably seemed awesome in your elementary school days-but were never sufficiently answered. It's the rare combination of edifying and fun.

Who better than Wil Wheaton, formerly of Star Trek , to narrate this romp through the world of Randall Munroe-physicist, roboticist, and editor of the website xkcd?...Wheaton's ambitious performance meshes perfectly with the perspectives and humor of the author. Missing from the audio are the signature stick-figure cartoons from the printed book and website, but Wheaton's outstanding inflections, pacing, cadence, and timing more than compensate for the loss. So if you want to be thoroughly entertained while discovering what would happen if the world suddenly stopped spinning or a drain appeared in the bottom of the ocean, this audiobook deserves space on your listening device.

From the Author

  • Part of series What If?
  • Print length 321 pages
  • Language English
  • Sticky notes On Kindle Scribe
  • Publisher Dey Street Books
  • Publication date September 2, 2014
  • File size 83972 KB
  • Page Flip Enabled
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  • Enhanced typesetting Enabled
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What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

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  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00IYUYF4A
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Dey Street Books (September 2, 2014)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ September 2, 2014
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 83972 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 321 pages
  • #14 in Science & Scientists Humor
  • #38 in Humorous American Literature
  • #58 in Physics (Kindle Store)

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book review what if

Randall Munroe

Randall Munroe is the creator of the webcomic xkcd and author of xkcd: Volume 0. Randall was born in Easton, Pennsylvania, and grew up outside Richmond, Virginia. After studying physics at Christopher Newport University, he got a job building robots at NASA Langley Research Center. In 2006 he left NASA to draw comics on the internet full time, and has since been nominated for a Hugo Award three times. The International Astronomical Union recently named an asteroid after him: asteroid 4942 Munroe is big enough to cause mass extinction if it ever hits a planet like Earth.

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Book Review: What If? and What If? 2

Published 22 September 2022 • © 2022 IOP Publishing Ltd Physics Education , Volume 57 , Number 6 Citation 2022 Phys. Educ. 57 066001 DOI 10.1088/1361-6552/ac9213

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  • Received 6 September 2022
  • Accepted 14 September 2022
  • Published 22 September 2022

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Method : Single-anonymous Screened for originality? Yes

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Book: What If? And What If? 2

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What would happen if a meteor the size of the Chicxulub impactor reached the ground travelling at just 3 miles per hour? This is one of the questions answered by Randall Munroe in what if? 2 . I found his answer fascinating. The 10 km diameter body would only have to fall 5 inches to reach the specified speed, so we might expect a bit of a bump on impact. But Munroe points out that asteroids and comets of this size are rarely solid. They are more likely to be balls of gravel and sand, held together by gravity and ice. The giant mass would not stop on impact. The material would keep falling; the topmost material would fall 10 km and be travelling at supersonic speed when it reached ground level.

book review what if

Munroe goes on to describe how this liquefied slurry would spread out over a large area, wreaking havoc over many square miles. Tsunamis and coastal flooding would be triggered as it entered the sea. Seismic waves would spread round the Earth. Do not worry, global firestorms and volcanic eruptions are unlikely.

Randall Munroe is a physicist who previously worked for NASA. He is probably best known for his scientific cartoon website xkcd, familiar to most physics teachers and probably many of their students. These two what if? books are based on questions submitted online. His claim is that he gives serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions. The most absurd questions ('Given humanity's current knowledge and capabilities, is it possible to build a new star?') are genially brushed aside. The rest are given serious scientific treatment.

There are recurring themes—ideas from science fiction, violent impacts of one kind or another, space travel, dinosaurs, aliens. These all provide opportunities for Munroe to go into the detail of scientific explanations. Most involve aspects of physics. His explanations are very clear, presented with an accompaniment of typical xkcd-style cartoons. However, he does not just stick to the scientific aspects of a question. He is happy to consider the social implications, legal aspects and so on.

Munro has a great ability to define a problem in such a way that it can be solved. He knows how to find relevant data (his sources are quoted in the References sections); he is excellent at estimating quantities and at working with approximations. This could be a revelation to physics students who are generally presented with precise values and formulae to plug them in to. I particularly liked his occasional use of the Fermi estimation approach. This considers only powers of ten. It is logarithmic, so three rounds down to one and four rounds up to ten. The result is that dogs, beetles and spiders are all considered to have ten legs but humans have just one.

How could these books be useful I teaching? Teachers could set their own 'what if?' questions for students to tackle. (What if football goalposts were 1 m further apart? What if the refractive index of water doubled?) Students could devise their own questions to answer.

A couple of further aspects of the books are worth highlighting. Firstly, Munroe does not always show his working (though I am sure he has done it on the back of an envelope somewhere), but students could be asked to do their own calculations to see if they agree with his conclusions. Secondly, he mixes metric and imperial units (see above), but surely science students should be able to cope with this.

Munroe's style is engaging and witty. He covers many aspects of science which students aged 14 and over should be able to relate to. And, even if you know a lot of physics already, you are sure to learn plenty of interesting and quirky ideas from these books.

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What if it's us, common sense media reviewers.

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Two boys fall for each other in cute queer teen romance.

What If It's Us Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Teens will learn a great deal about what it's like

Strong messages about the importance of being vuln

Both Arthur’s and Ben’s parents are supportive of

Kissing and make out scenes between Arthur and Ben

Strong language includes mentions of: "a--hole," "

Brands mentioned include: Harry Potter, the musica

There's one scene of underage drinking, and mentio

Parents need to know that What If It's Us, the first novel co-written by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, is a sweet contemporary romance told from the alternating points of view of two teen boys. Arthur (written by Albertalli) is Jewish and only in New York City for the summer; he struggles with ADHD. Ben …

Educational Value

Teens will learn a great deal about what it's like to live in New York City, go to summer school, struggle with ADHD, come out to your friends, and break up and start over.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about the importance of being vulnerable and true to yourself. This is a story about the honesty between teens in a romantic relationship and the power of first love. There's also a lot about the importance of LGBTQ teens having supportive families.

Positive Role Models

Both Arthur’s and Ben’s parents are supportive of their sons and encourage their relationship. Arthur's dad tries to give dating advice ("This is your first date, and I want to hear all about it"), and Ben's mom listens to her son when he opens up about this feelings.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Kissing and make out scenes between Arthur and Ben, with buildups to sex without the graphic details. There are many references to sex (i.e., bumping butts "as a sexual activity"), although there's not actual play-by-by sex.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

Strong language includes mentions of: "a--hole," "d--k," "s--t," "f--k" and its variations.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

Brands mentioned include: Harry Potter , the musical Dear Evan Hansen , Toy Story , Netflix, Craigslist, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Facetime, Skittles, Swedish Fish, Coke, Frogger, Google, J. Crew.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There's one scene of underage drinking, and mentions of drinking and smoking pot at parties.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that What If It's Us, the first novel co-written by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera , is a sweet contemporary romance told from the alternating points of view of two teen boys. Arthur (written by Albertalli) is Jewish and only in New York City for the summer; he struggles with ADHD. Ben (written by Silvera) grew up in New York City with his Puerto Rican family and is getting over a recent breakup. There's some strong language (including f--k" and its variations, "s--t," and "d--k"), as well as references to teens dating and having sex. Parents should be prepared to have conversations about coming out, staying friends with someone you've broken up with, and having sex for your first time.

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What's the Story?

WHAT IF IT'S US tells the story of two teen boys who meet each other at a post office in New York City before a flash mob separates them. The novel alternates points of view between Arthur, who's in New York City as an intern at his mom's law firm, and Ben, who's recovering from a recent breakup. Arthur's family has money, and he wants to go to Yale, although he struggles with ADHD. Ben is Puerto Rican, definitely not well-off, but more sexually experienced. The story begins with Arthur trying to find Ben, the cute boy he met briefly, and follows what happens after they finally connect.

Is It Any Good?

This cute, feel-good story about acceptance and love does a good job of highlighting real issues. It address what it's like to come out to your friends and date someone whose family might have more or less money than you. The romance is very sweet, with many fun pop culture references, yet the storyline remains light, like an adorable Hollywood romcom.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about how sex and losing your virginity are dealt with in What If It's Us . What do you think of how Ben and Arthur's sexual relationship is presented? Does it seem realistic?

What do you think of how What If It's Us depicts diversity? How do Ben and Arthur differ from the standard teen protagonists you often find in young adult novels? Why is it important to read both about people who are like and also those who are unlike you?

Are the friendships in What If It's Us believable? Which ones seem the most true-to-life?

Book Details

  • Authors : Becky Albertalli , Adam Silvera
  • Genre : Coming of Age
  • Topics : Friendship , Great Boy Role Models , High School
  • Book type : Fiction
  • Publisher : HarperTeen
  • Publication date : October 9, 2018
  • Publisher's recommended age(s) : 14 - 14
  • Number of pages : 448
  • Available on : Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated : June 19, 2019

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17 Book Review Examples to Help You Write the Perfect Review

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Blog – Posted on Friday, Mar 29

17 book review examples to help you write the perfect review.

17 Book Review Examples to Help You Write the Perfect Review

It’s an exciting time to be a book reviewer. Once confined to print newspapers and journals, reviews now dot many corridors of the Internet — forever helping others discover their next great read. That said, every book reviewer will face a familiar panic: how can you do justice to a great book in just a thousand words?

As you know, the best way to learn how to do something is by immersing yourself in it. Luckily, the Internet (i.e. Goodreads and other review sites , in particular) has made book reviews more accessible than ever — which means that there are a lot of book reviews examples out there for you to view!

In this post, we compiled 17 prototypical book review examples in multiple genres to help you figure out how to write the perfect review . If you want to jump straight to the examples, you can skip the next section. Otherwise, let’s first check out what makes up a good review.

Are you interested in becoming a book reviewer? We recommend you check out Reedsy Discovery , where you can earn money for writing reviews — and are guaranteed people will read your reviews! To register as a book reviewer, sign up here.

Pro-tip : But wait! How are you sure if you should become a book reviewer in the first place? If you're on the fence, or curious about your match with a book reviewing career, take our quick quiz:

Should you become a book reviewer?

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What must a book review contain?

Like all works of art, no two book reviews will be identical. But fear not: there are a few guidelines for any aspiring book reviewer to follow. Most book reviews, for instance, are less than 1,500 words long, with the sweet spot hitting somewhere around the 1,000-word mark. (However, this may vary depending on the platform on which you’re writing, as we’ll see later.)

In addition, all reviews share some universal elements, as shown in our book review templates . These include:

  • A review will offer a concise plot summary of the book. 
  • A book review will offer an evaluation of the work. 
  • A book review will offer a recommendation for the audience. 

If these are the basic ingredients that make up a book review, it’s the tone and style with which the book reviewer writes that brings the extra panache. This will differ from platform to platform, of course. A book review on Goodreads, for instance, will be much more informal and personal than a book review on Kirkus Reviews, as it is catering to a different audience. However, at the end of the day, the goal of all book reviews is to give the audience the tools to determine whether or not they’d like to read the book themselves.

Keeping that in mind, let’s proceed to some book review examples to put all of this in action.

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Book review examples for fiction books

Since story is king in the world of fiction, it probably won’t come as any surprise to learn that a book review for a novel will concentrate on how well the story was told .

That said, book reviews in all genres follow the same basic formula that we discussed earlier. In these examples, you’ll be able to see how book reviewers on different platforms expertly intertwine the plot summary and their personal opinions of the book to produce a clear, informative, and concise review.

Note: Some of the book review examples run very long. If a book review is truncated in this post, we’ve indicated by including a […] at the end, but you can always read the entire review if you click on the link provided.

Examples of literary fiction book reviews

Kirkus Reviews reviews Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man :

An extremely powerful story of a young Southern Negro, from his late high school days through three years of college to his life in Harlem.
His early training prepared him for a life of humility before white men, but through injustices- large and small, he came to realize that he was an "invisible man". People saw in him only a reflection of their preconceived ideas of what he was, denied his individuality, and ultimately did not see him at all. This theme, which has implications far beyond the obvious racial parallel, is skillfully handled. The incidents of the story are wholly absorbing. The boy's dismissal from college because of an innocent mistake, his shocked reaction to the anonymity of the North and to Harlem, his nightmare experiences on a one-day job in a paint factory and in the hospital, his lightning success as the Harlem leader of a communistic organization known as the Brotherhood, his involvement in black versus white and black versus black clashes and his disillusion and understanding of his invisibility- all climax naturally in scenes of violence and riot, followed by a retreat which is both literal and figurative. Parts of this experience may have been told before, but never with such freshness, intensity and power.
This is Ellison's first novel, but he has complete control of his story and his style. Watch it.

Lyndsey reviews George Orwell’s 1984 on Goodreads:

YOU. ARE. THE. DEAD. Oh my God. I got the chills so many times toward the end of this book. It completely blew my mind. It managed to surpass my high expectations AND be nothing at all like I expected. Or in Newspeak "Double Plus Good." Let me preface this with an apology. If I sound stunningly inarticulate at times in this review, I can't help it. My mind is completely fried.
This book is like the dystopian Lord of the Rings, with its richly developed culture and economics, not to mention a fully developed language called Newspeak, or rather more of the anti-language, whose purpose is to limit speech and understanding instead of to enhance and expand it. The world-building is so fully fleshed out and spine-tinglingly terrifying that it's almost as if George travelled to such a place, escaped from it, and then just wrote it all down.
I read Fahrenheit 451 over ten years ago in my early teens. At the time, I remember really wanting to read 1984, although I never managed to get my hands on it. I'm almost glad I didn't. Though I would not have admitted it at the time, it would have gone over my head. Or at the very least, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate it fully. […]

The New York Times reviews Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry :

Three-quarters of the way through Lisa Halliday’s debut novel, “Asymmetry,” a British foreign correspondent named Alistair is spending Christmas on a compound outside of Baghdad. His fellow revelers include cameramen, defense contractors, United Nations employees and aid workers. Someone’s mother has FedExed a HoneyBaked ham from Maine; people are smoking by the swimming pool. It is 2003, just days after Saddam Hussein’s capture, and though the mood is optimistic, Alistair is worrying aloud about the ethics of his chosen profession, wondering if reporting on violence doesn’t indirectly abet violence and questioning why he’d rather be in a combat zone than reading a picture book to his son. But every time he returns to London, he begins to “spin out.” He can’t go home. “You observe what people do with their freedom — what they don’t do — and it’s impossible not to judge them for it,” he says.
The line, embedded unceremoniously in the middle of a page-long paragraph, doubles, like so many others in “Asymmetry,” as literary criticism. Halliday’s novel is so strange and startlingly smart that its mere existence seems like commentary on the state of fiction. One finishes “Asymmetry” for the first or second (or like this reader, third) time and is left wondering what other writers are not doing with their freedom — and, like Alistair, judging them for it.
Despite its title, “Asymmetry” comprises two seemingly unrelated sections of equal length, appended by a slim and quietly shocking coda. Halliday’s prose is clean and lean, almost reportorial in the style of W. G. Sebald, and like the murmurings of a shy person at a cocktail party, often comic only in single clauses. It’s a first novel that reads like the work of an author who has published many books over many years. […]

Emily W. Thompson reviews Michael Doane's The Crossing on Reedsy Discovery :

In Doane’s debut novel, a young man embarks on a journey of self-discovery with surprising results.
An unnamed protagonist (The Narrator) is dealing with heartbreak. His love, determined to see the world, sets out for Portland, Oregon. But he’s a small-town boy who hasn’t traveled much. So, the Narrator mourns her loss and hides from life, throwing himself into rehabbing an old motorcycle. Until one day, he takes a leap; he packs his bike and a few belongings and heads out to find the Girl.
Following in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and William Least Heat-Moon, Doane offers a coming of age story about a man finding himself on the backroads of America. Doane’s a gifted writer with fluid prose and insightful observations, using The Narrator’s personal interactions to illuminate the diversity of the United States.
The Narrator initially sticks to the highways, trying to make it to the West Coast as quickly as possible. But a hitchhiker named Duke convinces him to get off the beaten path and enjoy the ride. “There’s not a place that’s like any other,” [39] Dukes contends, and The Narrator realizes he’s right. Suddenly, the trip is about the journey, not just the destination. The Narrator ditches his truck and traverses the deserts and mountains on his bike. He destroys his phone, cutting off ties with his past and living only in the moment.
As he crosses the country, The Narrator connects with several unique personalities whose experiences and views deeply impact his own. Duke, the complicated cowboy and drifter, who opens The Narrator’s eyes to a larger world. Zooey, the waitress in Colorado who opens his heart and reminds him that love can be found in this big world. And Rosie, The Narrator’s sweet landlady in Portland, who helps piece him back together both physically and emotionally.
This supporting cast of characters is excellent. Duke, in particular, is wonderfully nuanced and complicated. He’s a throwback to another time, a man without a cell phone who reads Sartre and sleeps under the stars. Yet he’s also a grifter with a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” attitude that harms those around him. It’s fascinating to watch The Narrator wrestle with Duke’s behavior, trying to determine which to model and which to discard.
Doane creates a relatable protagonist in The Narrator, whose personal growth doesn’t erase his faults. His willingness to hit the road with few resources is admirable, and he’s prescient enough to recognize the jealousy of those who cannot or will not take the leap. His encounters with new foods, places, and people broaden his horizons. Yet his immaturity and selfishness persist. He tells Rosie she’s been a good mother to him but chooses to ignore the continuing concern from his own parents as he effectively disappears from his old life.
Despite his flaws, it’s a pleasure to accompany The Narrator on his physical and emotional journey. The unexpected ending is a fitting denouement to an epic and memorable road trip.

The Book Smugglers review Anissa Gray’s The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls :

I am still dipping my toes into the literally fiction pool, finding what works for me and what doesn’t. Books like The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray are definitely my cup of tea.
Althea and Proctor Cochran had been pillars of their economically disadvantaged community for years – with their local restaurant/small market and their charity drives. Until they are found guilty of fraud for stealing and keeping most of the money they raised and sent to jail. Now disgraced, their entire family is suffering the consequences, specially their twin teenage daughters Baby Vi and Kim.  To complicate matters even more: Kim was actually the one to call the police on her parents after yet another fight with her mother. […]

Examples of children’s and YA fiction book reviews

The Book Hookup reviews Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give :

♥ Quick Thoughts and Rating: 5 stars! I can’t imagine how challenging it would be to tackle the voice of a movement like Black Lives Matter, but I do know that Thomas did it with a finesse only a talented author like herself possibly could. With an unapologetically realistic delivery packed with emotion, The Hate U Give is a crucially important portrayal of the difficulties minorities face in our country every single day. I have no doubt that this book will be met with resistance by some (possibly many) and slapped with a “controversial” label, but if you’ve ever wondered what it was like to walk in a POC’s shoes, then I feel like this is an unflinchingly honest place to start.
In Angie Thomas’s debut novel, Starr Carter bursts on to the YA scene with both heart-wrecking and heartwarming sincerity. This author is definitely one to watch.
♥ Review: The hype around this book has been unquestionable and, admittedly, that made me both eager to get my hands on it and terrified to read it. I mean, what if I was to be the one person that didn’t love it as much as others? (That seems silly now because of how truly mesmerizing THUG was in the most heartbreakingly realistic way.) However, with the relevancy of its summary in regards to the unjust predicaments POC currently face in the US, I knew this one was a must-read, so I was ready to set my fears aside and dive in. That said, I had an altogether more personal, ulterior motive for wanting to read this book. […]

The New York Times reviews Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood :

Alice Crewe (a last name she’s chosen for herself) is a fairy tale legacy: the granddaughter of Althea Proserpine, author of a collection of dark-as-night fairy tales called “Tales From the Hinterland.” The book has a cult following, and though Alice has never met her grandmother, she’s learned a little about her through internet research. She hasn’t read the stories, because her mother, Ella Proserpine, forbids it.
Alice and Ella have moved from place to place in an attempt to avoid the “bad luck” that seems to follow them. Weird things have happened. As a child, Alice was kidnapped by a man who took her on a road trip to find her grandmother; he was stopped by the police before they did so. When at 17 she sees that man again, unchanged despite the years, Alice panics. Then Ella goes missing, and Alice turns to Ellery Finch, a schoolmate who’s an Althea Proserpine superfan, for help in tracking down her mother. Not only has Finch read every fairy tale in the collection, but handily, he remembers them, sharing them with Alice as they journey to the mysterious Hazel Wood, the estate of her now-dead grandmother, where they hope to find Ella.
“The Hazel Wood” starts out strange and gets stranger, in the best way possible. (The fairy stories Finch relays, which Albert includes as their own chapters, are as creepy and evocative as you’d hope.) Albert seamlessly combines contemporary realism with fantasy, blurring the edges in a way that highlights that place where stories and real life convene, where magic contains truth and the world as it appears is false, where just about anything can happen, particularly in the pages of a very good book. It’s a captivating debut. […]

James reviews Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight, Moon on Goodreads:

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is one of the books that followers of my blog voted as a must-read for our Children's Book August 2018 Readathon. Come check it out and join the next few weeks!
This picture book was such a delight. I hadn't remembered reading it when I was a child, but it might have been read to me... either way, it was like a whole new experience! It's always so difficult to convince a child to fall asleep at night. I don't have kids, but I do have a 5-month-old puppy who whines for 5 minutes every night when he goes in his cage/crate (hopefully he'll be fully housebroken soon so he can roam around when he wants). I can only imagine! I babysat a lot as a teenager and I have tons of younger cousins, nieces, and nephews, so I've been through it before, too. This was a believable experience, and it really helps show kids how to relax and just let go when it's time to sleep.
The bunny's are adorable. The rhymes are exquisite. I found it pretty fun, but possibly a little dated given many of those things aren't normal routines anymore. But the lessons to take from it are still powerful. Loved it! I want to sample some more books by this fine author and her illustrators.

Publishers Weekly reviews Elizabeth Lilly’s Geraldine :

This funny, thoroughly accomplished debut opens with two words: “I’m moving.” They’re spoken by the title character while she swoons across her family’s ottoman, and because Geraldine is a giraffe, her full-on melancholy mode is quite a spectacle. But while Geraldine may be a drama queen (even her mother says so), it won’t take readers long to warm up to her. The move takes Geraldine from Giraffe City, where everyone is like her, to a new school, where everyone else is human. Suddenly, the former extrovert becomes “That Giraffe Girl,” and all she wants to do is hide, which is pretty much impossible. “Even my voice tries to hide,” she says, in the book’s most poignant moment. “It’s gotten quiet and whispery.” Then she meets Cassie, who, though human, is also an outlier (“I’m that girl who wears glasses and likes MATH and always organizes her food”), and things begin to look up.
Lilly’s watercolor-and-ink drawings are as vividly comic and emotionally astute as her writing; just when readers think there are no more ways for Geraldine to contort her long neck, this highly promising talent comes up with something new.

Examples of genre fiction book reviews

Karlyn P reviews Nora Roberts’ Dark Witch , a paranormal romance novel , on Goodreads:

4 stars. Great world-building, weak romance, but still worth the read.
I hesitate to describe this book as a 'romance' novel simply because the book spent little time actually exploring the romance between Iona and Boyle. Sure, there IS a romance in this novel. Sprinkled throughout the book are a few scenes where Iona and Boyle meet, chat, wink at each, flirt some more, sleep together, have a misunderstanding, make up, and then profess their undying love. Very formulaic stuff, and all woven around the more important parts of this book.
The meat of this book is far more focused on the story of the Dark witch and her magically-gifted descendants living in Ireland. Despite being weak on the romance, I really enjoyed it. I think the book is probably better for it, because the romance itself was pretty lackluster stuff.
I absolutely plan to stick with this series as I enjoyed the world building, loved the Ireland setting, and was intrigued by all of the secondary characters. However, If you read Nora Roberts strictly for the romance scenes, this one might disappoint. But if you enjoy a solid background story with some dark magic and prophesies, you might enjoy it as much as I did.
I listened to this one on audio, and felt the narration was excellent.

Emily May reviews R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy Wars , an epic fantasy novel , on Goodreads:

“But I warn you, little warrior. The price of power is pain.”
Holy hell, what did I just read??
➽ A fantasy military school
➽ A rich world based on modern Chinese history
➽ Shamans and gods
➽ Detailed characterization leading to unforgettable characters
➽ Adorable, opium-smoking mentors
That's a basic list, but this book is all of that and SO MUCH MORE. I know 100% that The Poppy War will be one of my best reads of 2018.
Isn't it just so great when you find one of those books that completely drags you in, makes you fall in love with the characters, and demands that you sit on the edge of your seat for every horrific, nail-biting moment of it? This is one of those books for me. And I must issue a serious content warning: this book explores some very dark themes. Proceed with caution (or not at all) if you are particularly sensitive to scenes of war, drug use and addiction, genocide, racism, sexism, ableism, self-harm, torture, and rape (off-page but extremely horrific).
Because, despite the fairly innocuous first 200 pages, the title speaks the truth: this is a book about war. All of its horrors and atrocities. It is not sugar-coated, and it is often graphic. The "poppy" aspect refers to opium, which is a big part of this book. It is a fantasy, but the book draws inspiration from the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Rape of Nanking.

Crime Fiction Lover reviews Jessica Barry’s Freefall , a crime novel:

In some crime novels, the wrongdoing hits you between the eyes from page one. With others it’s a more subtle process, and that’s OK too. So where does Freefall fit into the sliding scale?
In truth, it’s not clear. This is a novel with a thrilling concept at its core. A woman survives plane crash, then runs for her life. However, it is the subtleties at play that will draw you in like a spider beckoning to an unwitting fly.
Like the heroine in Sharon Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking, Allison is lucky to be alive. She was the only passenger in a private plane, belonging to her fiancé, Ben, who was piloting the expensive aircraft, when it came down in woodlands in the Colorado Rockies. Ally is also the only survivor, but rather than sitting back and waiting for rescue, she is soon pulling together items that may help her survive a little longer – first aid kit, energy bars, warm clothes, trainers – before fleeing the scene. If you’re hearing the faint sound of alarm bells ringing, get used to it. There’s much, much more to learn about Ally before this tale is over.

Kirkus Reviews reviews Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One , a science-fiction novel :

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles.
The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three.
Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.
Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Book review examples for non-fiction books

Nonfiction books are generally written to inform readers about a certain topic. As such, the focus of a nonfiction book review will be on the clarity and effectiveness of this communication . In carrying this out, a book review may analyze the author’s source materials and assess the thesis in order to determine whether or not the book meets expectations.

Again, we’ve included abbreviated versions of long reviews here, so feel free to click on the link to read the entire piece!

The Washington Post reviews David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon :

The arc of David Grann’s career reminds one of a software whiz-kid or a latest-thing talk-show host — certainly not an investigative reporter, even if he is one of the best in the business. The newly released movie of his first book, “The Lost City of Z,” is generating all kinds of Oscar talk, and now comes the release of his second book, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” the film rights to which have already been sold for $5 million in what one industry journal called the “biggest and wildest book rights auction in memory.”
Grann deserves the attention. He’s canny about the stories he chases, he’s willing to go anywhere to chase them, and he’s a maestro in his ability to parcel out information at just the right clip: a hint here, a shading of meaning there, a smartly paced buildup of multiple possibilities followed by an inevitable reversal of readerly expectations or, in some cases, by a thrilling and dislocating pull of the entire narrative rug.
All of these strengths are on display in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Around the turn of the 20th century, oil was discovered underneath Osage lands in the Oklahoma Territory, lands that were soon to become part of the state of Oklahoma. Through foresight and legal maneuvering, the Osage found a way to permanently attach that oil to themselves and shield it from the prying hands of white interlopers; this mechanism was known as “headrights,” which forbade the outright sale of oil rights and granted each full member of the tribe — and, supposedly, no one else — a share in the proceeds from any lease arrangement. For a while, the fail-safes did their job, and the Osage got rich — diamond-ring and chauffeured-car and imported-French-fashion rich — following which quite a large group of white men started to work like devils to separate the Osage from their money. And soon enough, and predictably enough, this work involved murder. Here in Jazz Age America’s most isolated of locales, dozens or even hundreds of Osage in possession of great fortunes — and of the potential for even greater fortunes in the future — were dispatched by poison, by gunshot and by dynamite. […]

Stacked Books reviews Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers :

I’ve heard a lot of great things about Malcolm Gladwell’s writing. Friends and co-workers tell me that his subjects are interesting and his writing style is easy to follow without talking down to the reader. I wasn’t disappointed with Outliers. In it, Gladwell tackles the subject of success – how people obtain it and what contributes to extraordinary success as opposed to everyday success.
The thesis – that our success depends much more on circumstances out of our control than any effort we put forth – isn’t exactly revolutionary. Most of us know it to be true. However, I don’t think I’m lying when I say that most of us also believe that we if we just try that much harder and develop our talent that much further, it will be enough to become wildly successful, despite bad or just mediocre beginnings. Not so, says Gladwell.
Most of the evidence Gladwell gives us is anecdotal, which is my favorite kind to read. I can’t really speak to how scientifically valid it is, but it sure makes for engrossing listening. For example, did you know that successful hockey players are almost all born in January, February, or March? Kids born during these months are older than the others kids when they start playing in the youth leagues, which means they’re already better at the game (because they’re bigger). Thus, they get more play time, which means their skill increases at a faster rate, and it compounds as time goes by. Within a few years, they’re much, much better than the kids born just a few months later in the year. Basically, these kids’ birthdates are a huge factor in their success as adults – and it’s nothing they can do anything about. If anyone could make hockey interesting to a Texan who only grudgingly admits the sport even exists, it’s Gladwell. […]

Quill and Quire reviews Rick Prashaw’s Soar, Adam, Soar :

Ten years ago, I read a book called Almost Perfect. The young-adult novel by Brian Katcher won some awards and was held up as a powerful, nuanced portrayal of a young trans person. But the reality did not live up to the book’s billing. Instead, it turned out to be a one-dimensional and highly fetishized portrait of a trans person’s life, one that was nevertheless repeatedly dubbed “realistic” and “affecting” by non-transgender readers possessing only a vague, mass-market understanding of trans experiences.
In the intervening decade, trans narratives have emerged further into the literary spotlight, but those authored by trans people ourselves – and by trans men in particular – have seemed to fall under the shadow of cisgender sensationalized imaginings. Two current Canadian releases – Soar, Adam, Soar and This One Looks Like a Boy – provide a pointed object lesson into why trans-authored work about transgender experiences remains critical.
To be fair, Soar, Adam, Soar isn’t just a story about a trans man. It’s also a story about epilepsy, the medical establishment, and coming of age as seen through a grieving father’s eyes. Adam, Prashaw’s trans son, died unexpectedly at age 22. Woven through the elder Prashaw’s narrative are excerpts from Adam’s social media posts, giving us glimpses into the young man’s interior life as he traverses his late teens and early 20s. […]

Book Geeks reviews Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love :

“Eat Pray Love” is so popular that it is almost impossible to not read it. Having felt ashamed many times on my not having read this book, I quietly ordered the book (before I saw the movie) from and sat down to read it. I don’t remember what I expected it to be – maybe more like a chick lit thing but it turned out quite different. The book is a real story and is a short journal from the time when its writer went travelling to three different countries in pursuit of three different things – Italy (Pleasure), India (Spirituality), Bali (Balance) and this is what corresponds to the book’s name – EAT (in Italy), PRAY (in India) and LOVE (in Bali, Indonesia). These are also the three Is – ITALY, INDIA, INDONESIA.
Though she had everything a middle-aged American woman can aspire for – MONEY, CAREER, FRIENDS, HUSBAND; Elizabeth was not happy in her life, she wasn’t happy in her marriage. Having suffered a terrible divorce and terrible breakup soon after, Elizabeth was shattered. She didn’t know where to go and what to do – all she knew was that she wanted to run away. So she set out on a weird adventure – she will go to three countries in a year and see if she can find out what she was looking for in life. This book is about that life changing journey that she takes for one whole year. […]

Emily May reviews Michelle Obama’s Becoming on Goodreads:

Look, I'm not a happy crier. I might cry at songs about leaving and missing someone; I might cry at books where things don't work out; I might cry at movies where someone dies. I've just never really understood why people get all choked up over happy, inspirational things. But Michelle Obama's kindness and empathy changed that. This book had me in tears for all the right reasons.
This is not really a book about politics, though political experiences obviously do come into it. It's a shame that some will dismiss this book because of a difference in political opinion, when it is really about a woman's life. About growing up poor and black on the South Side of Chicago; about getting married and struggling to maintain that marriage; about motherhood; about being thrown into an amazing and terrifying position.
I hate words like "inspirational" because they've become so overdone and cheesy, but I just have to say it-- Michelle Obama is an inspiration. I had the privilege of seeing her speak at The Forum in Inglewood, and she is one of the warmest, funniest, smartest, down-to-earth people I have ever seen in this world.
And yes, I know we present what we want the world to see, but I truly do think it's genuine. I think she is someone who really cares about people - especially kids - and wants to give them better lives and opportunities.
She's obviously intelligent, but she also doesn't gussy up her words. She talks straight, with an openness and honesty rarely seen. She's been one of the most powerful women in the world, she's been a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, she's had her own successful career, and yet she has remained throughout that same girl - Michelle Robinson - from a working class family in Chicago.
I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't benefit from reading this book.

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What If They Knew

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Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

What If They Knew by T R Hendrick is a brilliant meld of historical and political themes in a thriller, a novel that invites the reader into a discussion on the documents that define the American states. In writing that is beautiful and fluid and evoking historical characters and important historical moments in American history, the author takes readers back into the defining moment of American history when the constitution was drawn up. The founding fathers are sure they are doing the right thing in drafting the four documents of the constitution. That is in the past. But given the reality of the political arena today, it seems like they missed a lot of things. In an age where the people depend so much on the government and when there is a lot of controversy with regards to state laws and much divisiveness, there is the crying need to rewrite these binding documents and to do them right. But what might the documents look like had the founding fathers known that the political landscape would turn out to be what it is now? T R Hendrick tells a story and invites readers to revisit history, and he does so with intelligence, bringing to life people of American history, revisiting the birth of the country and compelling readers to think about the political reality of contemporary America. It is intelligently plotted and the characters are well explored. The book is filled with political and social commentaries and it gets readers feeling as though they are part of the nation-building. I love the fluidity in the prose, the rich historical references, and the deft handling of literary techniques that help to move the story forward. This is a unique book with a unique style of writing.

What If They Knew is a work of time travel, political historical fiction, and modern social commentary, and was penned by author T. R. Hendrick. The book takes on the premise that the founding fathers - who authored the four major documents by which modern American life is still governed – are given the opportunity to use time travel to walk in the modern world and see the results of their policy and law-making. Through the various shocks and horrors which they see, the result is rewriting the Constitution and a rebuilding of the America which they foresaw all those years ago. For those interested in observing, discussing and making their minds up about the nature of American society today and its perceived political and social future, there is much to glean from this interesting read and the ideas that author T. R. Hendrick puts into the work. The invention of the character and temperament of the forefathers was fun to read, and their reactions to modern society can be both astute and comedic throughout the tale. It is difficult to escape the heavy nature of the social commentary and treat this wholly as a novel, but for readers who enjoy a strong balance between fiction and non-fiction, the book is sure to entertain. Many different elements of modern social life are discussed in relation to freedom and the original ideals of America at the birth of its independence. Overall, What If They Knew provides a truly thought-provoking reading experience.

Michelle Robertson

America is in political shambles. The constitution of the United States is not taken seriously, and interpreted differently based on opinion and not what it was meant for. What if you could change that? What if the founding fathers could see how their life-changing document is being treated by the government 250 years after they created it? Is it possible? Can it be done? Dr. Benton and his team of colleagues think it can be done. In fact, they’ve created a way to travel back in time to find the founding fathers and persuade them to alter the document to be more clear to its intent. Will they be able to find these men if they travel back? Will they agree to come to the future to see how much America is in turmoil? How will they react to a time period so diverse from their own? What If They Knew by T.R. Hendrick is a phenomenal work of historical fiction. The characters within are highly developed and the plot is well played out. The book offers readers the chance to ponder on the idea if America could change if the constitution was written differently. Although the story is fiction, with time travel and fictional characters, the facts within the book about historical dates and people are true and accurate. The way the historical facts and constitutional elements throughout the book are presented gives a reader an excellent mini-course on American history. Anyone interested in American history, science fiction, science, history, and the American Constitution would benefit from reading this book. After the story ends, readers can enjoy and brush up on their knowledge with pages of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Amendments, and the Gettysburg Address.

Christian Sia

What If They Knew by T R Hendrick is a blend of science fiction and historical fiction with strong hints of time travel; a political thriller with a well-imagined setting and a conflict that determines the future of the United States. It is in the year 2025 and a handful of men are troubled by the political landscape in the USA, and blame the polarization in politics to the flaws in the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, The U.S. Constitution, and Amendments to the Constitution (Bill of Rights). It is the belief of some people that if the fathers of the nation were to witness the current political crisis in the country, they’d readily change some of the articles in the documents to prevent the chaos. That is how time travelers Sarah Fleming, Charles Carson, and Paul Tesla are on a mission to go back to a pre-set time in the year 1787, find the respective members of Congress and convince them to visit the year 2025. If this plan works, these Congressmen will alter the documents of the constitution and lay the foundation of a better world, hence changing US history. But will they succeed? What If They Knew by T R Hendrick is a wonderful book with rich and lively characters. The scientists are about to perfect the art of time travel and change the future from the past. It is rich in history and the writing flows flawlessly. The structure of the novel is unique and I enjoyed the boldness in exploring the themes, the research into US history and a setting that links the past to the future. While this is a highly imaginative work, it showcases the author’s ability to analyze reality, examine complex political situations, and transform difficult communication into dialogues that move the story forward.

Rabia Tanveer

What do you think would happen if the founding fathers of the USA find out the state of the country now? What If They Knew by T. R. Hendrick is a book that gives an interesting insight if this ever happens. Senator “Colonel” Alan Powers may be retired, but he is still as eccentric as ever. It isn’t really a surprise when he hires Dr. Carver Benton to make a transporter for him. However, Senator Powers has no idea that Dr. Benton has some personal plans. He uses it to bring a few of the founding fathers of the USA to the year 2025 and see what they make of the America of the future. Needless to say, these men are surprised by the amount of success they see and the technological advancements they encounter, but what is alarming to them is the debt and the pressure their people will have to go through in the future. What will they do when they get back to their own era? Will they make any changes to the constitution? Or will they let things stay as they are? This is one of the cleverest and the most interesting plots I have ever read. This is a remarkable historical tale that takes you back in time and into the future so that you experience everything together, yet you never have to worry about having the timelines mixed up. How many times have we read about Sherman or Hamilton and got an insight into their personalities? I have never encountered a novel before that actually made these men human and not some hero who never does anything wrong. They have their own specific personalities and they all have their own duties that they take very seriously. The author added humor and wit to the story to make it even more interesting. I experienced something new, considering the fact that the concept of the founding fathers has been overused a million times. This novel deserves all the kudos it receives! Very original and very entertaining.

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by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 9, 2018

This joyful romance is both sweet and substantial.

Fan-favorites Albertalli ( Leah on the Offbeat , 2018, etc.) and Silvera ( They Both Die at the End , 2017, etc.) join forces in this tale of a New York City summer romance.

When Ben and Arthur cross paths at a post office but fail to exchange contact information, they both regret the missed connection. Through mutual efforts and a healthy dose of coincidence, the boys find each other again. A rocky series of do-over first dates proves that they are different in many ways—Arthur is a white, Jewish, show tune–loving, Southern boy with ADHD who has never been kissed and dreams of attending Yale. Ben, on the other hand, is a Puerto Rican, Catholic, native New Yorker recovering from a recent breakup who is self-conscious about attending summer school and writes a novel in his spare time. However, the boys have one important thing in common—they’re both willing to believe in the universe’s bringing them together. Their alternating narration, chock-full of witty banter and pop-culture references, also delves into themes of identity and the complexities of relationships, both romantic and platonic. In particular, Arthur’s jealousy over Ben’s ex-boyfriend raises discussions of whether past relationships should be regretted or embraced. Central to the narrative are Arthur’s and Ben’s friends, who are diverse and richly drawn, and the boys’ parents, who encourage their relationship.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279525-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018


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by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera


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by Laura Nowlin ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 6, 2024

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me , three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024


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by Laura Nowlin



by Laura Nowlin ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 1, 2013

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013




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In Defense of Divorce

A serious chat—divorced woman to divorced woman—about how ending things can be just the beginning..

I never want to make light of divorce—it’s serious, heartbreaking, difficult, and a million other things—but it has its upsides. I can tell you, because I am divorced. You might think at first: How can I be apart from my child 50 percent of the time? It’s scary, and you will miss them. But also you will end up relishing a bit of quiet and space. Just last Sunday, I took advantage of a full day with no plans or other humans around to stay in bed with a book.

That book was This American Ex-Wife , a new memoir-cum-manifesto by journalist Lyz Lenz, which tells the story of both her divorce and the systematic oppression of women via the institution of marriage. It is a rallying cry for real change in our society and legal systems, both of which still tend to overwhelmingly favor men. I read it straight through with a break only to heat up some borscht for lunch. The book is intimate, persuasive, funny, and compassionate. And it’s the opposite of bitter. Lenz walked away from her marriage to rebuild her life in her 40s, and to find out what freedom feels like. Reading her story, we get to feel that freedom too. I talked with Lenz—divorced woman to divorced woman—about why divorce isn’t a tragedy. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Hillary Frey: So the first thing I wanted to bring up, because it really resonated with me, was the moment in the book where someone you run into says, “Oh, how are you?” And you’re like, “I’m getting divorced.” And they’re like, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” This very same thing happened to me. 

Lyz Lenz: There are so many things we’re uncomfortable with in our country! Our cultural concept of marriage is deeply informed by Christian ideas. And I use Christian in the loosest of terms, in the most conservative of senses, because I think it’s important to acknowledge there are other ways to be religious. But marriage is just deeply informed by the idea that you get married and you stay married. And I think it’s also rooted in this idea that your happiness is frivolous, that you have to sacrifice for children, for family. It’s important to realize who’s being asked to sacrifice and whose misery is being put up on that cross.

People are really uncomfortable with a woman who is free and a woman who chooses herself. I think that adds into the dissonance—it makes people really uncomfortable when you say, “Hey, my marriage was not great and I’m leaving.” And you know this, too: The moment you get divorced, so many women go, “When did you know? When did you know? How should I know?”

Totally. “Can you recommend someone? I think I might want to explore my options.”

And there’s so much quiet misery, and we’re always looking to each other to say, “When is it bad enough? When do I get to choose myself?” And I think that concept of a woman choosing herself is really destabilizing.

This American Ex-Wife: How I Ended My Marriage and Started My Life

By Lyz Lenz. Crown.

Slate receives a commission when you purchase items using the links on this page. Thank you for your support.

How do we change that narrative around people seeing the dissolution of a marriage as failure? I don’t think it’s a failure. I don’t think you think it’s a failure. The way people react to divorce feels so old to me, compared to the world we live in.

We need to have better cultural conversations about it. I also think we need to change our laws. The two happen together. There’s this narrative in America: Oh, divorce is the easy way out. But it is easier for a 16-year-old to get married in America than it is for a 42-year-old woman to leave her abusive marriage.

Right! People think that getting divorced is easy, like you just quit, right? But it’s incredibly hard, not just emotionally, but practically, to leave your marriage. 

It’s so hard to get divorced. When you are living together and you can’t escape it? My ex really did not want to get divorced. It went against everything he believed and still believes. And he was trying really, really hard to get me back, and it wasn’t working, and it was actually making me want to leave more. But I also didn’t really have a lot of access to our shared finances.

There were so many practical things. I was working extra jobs to afford a down payment for the lawyer and to get money for the house I rented. I wrote marketing copy for Jezebel between midnight and 2 a.m. for some big Christmas package that they were doing. And I remember writing the editor and being like, “Thank you for funding my divorce.” I’d say that might not have been the most professional thing I could have done. I was crying every night, and waking up to emails from my ex begging me not to ruin our family.

On the one hand, your book is obviously a defense of divorce, but it’s also, in some ways, an attack on marriage. Should more people get divorced? Should fewer people get married?

I am not anti-relationship. I am so pro-relationship. But I am anti the legal structure of marriage, because it is founded on women’s inequality. Look at the history of marriage. Look at these laws of coverture. Look at the laws in America where marital rape wasn’t even illegal until the past 20 years. And that’s because wives are property, and that’s the way that our legal system views women. And I think a lot of well-meaning couples get into marriage and think it will be different.

It’ll be different. We’re different.

But then you realize the whole system … Who gets paid more? Who takes the hit when you have the baby? Where is the child care? Why is it unaffordable? You get into this system and you realize that it’s not your well-meaning intentions that are bogging you down, but it’s this entire system that is built on the unpaid labor of a wife. And you can be the most well-meaning egalitarian couple, and you have one, two kids and you’re like, “What the fuck? Now I’m a tradwife because we can’t make it work anymore.” That’s the system that I’m critiquing. With women we’re like, “Oh, you’re miserable in your marriage? Well, I don’t know, try sexy night.” No, you feel miserable in your marriage because you never get a break because this whole system is packed on top of your shoulders and you can’t fricking breathe. And then the one time you get a moment to breathe, he’s like, “Hey, we haven’t had sex in two weeks.” There’s a whole capitalist system built on the misery of women. If women were happy, the scented candle industry would tank, right? I mean, I love scented candles.

Let’s just be honest. I’m not saying you can’t be in love or you can’t have relationships, but I am saying those relationships should not be predicated on your misery. And I think men should know this too. If you’re in a marriage and your wife is unhappy, that’s a bad marriage. And I don’t think enough men realize that, because even the worst marriage still benefits a man in the end, because he is still getting free child care and his dinner made every night.

I don’t want to tell everybody they should get divorced, but I have to say, I think my ex-husband and I are both better parents on our own. I think people don’t understand that having joint custody is not a bummer. It can be an amazing thing for everyone.

I was the primary caretaker. My ex had never taken them to a doctor’s visit. I hear women say, “I don’t want to lose time with my kids.” And I felt that way a little bit too, especially in the beginning, because my kids were 4 and 6 when we split up, it’s very young. But in so many ways getting divorced enabled them to actually have a relationship with their father, because I wasn’t taking care of everything. I wasn’t that mediator to their relationship.

You weren’t managing it. 

I wasn’t managing it. And he had to face them. He still does. I think of it rather as a gain for them, because they deserve relationships with the happiest version of both of their parents. Now, they can see that their dad is so much happier and with a person who’s what he wants rather than a person who was not what he wanted, and we are happy in our house. A lot of divorce research really just focuses on the immediate one-to-two-year aftermath of divorce and not five or 10 years down the road. That’s a huge gap in our social understanding, but also our understanding of what kids can comprehend and what they’re capable of. Kids know when their parents are miserable. God bless, my parents are still together, but we knew, you know what I mean?

It’s OK, I hear you. My parents are also still together. They just celebrated their 55 th wedding anniversary.

Good for them.

Good for them. And actually they’re very happy now that they’re retired old people.

I used to think that there were so many things that I would never put up with, and then I did. And now I don’t sit in judgment of people’s marriages anymore. But I’m also just not pretending. Don’t look at me and tell me that that was 55 years of bliss.

I don’t know if this is the same for you, but I really thought that getting in a new relationship would be a betrayal to my daughter. And I really struggled with that. I started going back to therapy just to manage this. And I was told that, actually, the best thing you can do is live your life, have relationships, because otherwise the kid becomes your whole world and they don’t have that freedom you’re talking about to have the bigger space of emotions, because they learn to manage your emotions.

Yes. Because they’re everything to you. They know that. I have been dating, if that’s what we want to call it, in earnest, and having a great time with it, and also a miserable time too. I hid that from my kids for a really long time, because it’s really uncomfortable to be a sexual person to your kids, because if you tell, especially a tween daughter, that you’re dating, she wants to know, are you having sex? And then you have to talk about it. I believe in open honesty, but also I felt really uncomfortable being that person around them and to them and for them. And so I kind of had this wall between the two worlds: There’s the mom that I am when they are with their dad, and then there’s the mom that I am with them.

But recently, as my kids have been getting older, I made a plan. I brought it up with my kids. But their fears were not what I thought. Like you, I thought they were going to think that I was going to upset their world, that they were going to be replaced in my heart, or some sort of thing. And they just didn’t. But it does open up a dialogue to then talk to your kids about those kinds of things. And so I think the lesson is always to be a full and complete human being for your kids. They’re human beings, they get to have their own journeys, and you need to be a full and complete human being so that they can be a full and complete human being.

That’s right. 

And I never want them to be my emotional support animals. They’re humans. I have dogs for that.

I think it can be easy to confuse being emotional support for your child with them becoming that for you. You know what I mean? And once you can see it, it becomes so clear. I was so nervous telling my daughter that Stefan, my husband now, had asked me to get married. It was a total surprise proposal. And my daughter’s reaction was, “We’re going to have a wedding?” He’s not her stepdad. He’s part of our family. He’s my partner. And if you asked her about him, she would say, “Stefan makes things better.” What else could you want?

And that’s the thing: You don’t have to replicate and re-create these rules. My kids don’t need another dad. They have a dad. They don’t need that. If you’re in my life, it’s because I want a relationship with you. It’s not because you have these other roles. You’re not my supporter or my caretaker. You’re just a partner. And I do think there’s a problem with masculinity where men don’t know what to do with themselves. “Well, if I’m not the provider, if I am not the father, then what am I?” You’re just, like, a human, dude. You’re a human being.

Yeah, just be a person. 

Oh my God, be a person, my dude. And that’s really, that’s a hard thing to ask of a man. They just melt down. But that’s their problem, it’s not my problem. That’s a different book. And this book is for our liberation.

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  • February 9, 2024   •   36:55 Reading Recommendations From Book Review Staffers
  • February 2, 2024   •   40:55 ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ From Page to Screen
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Reading Recommendations From Book Review Staffers

Here’s what they’ve enjoyed in 2024..

Hosted by Gilbert Cruz

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The early part of a year can mean new books to read, or it can mean catching up on older ones we haven’t gotten to yet. This week, Gilbert Cruz chats with the Book Review’s Sarah Lyall and Sadie Stein about titles from both categories that have held their interest lately, including a 2022 biography of John Donne, a book about female artists who nurtured an interest in the supernatural, and the history of a Jim Crow-era mental asylum, along with a gripping new novel by Janice Hallett.

“It’s just so deft,” Stein says of Hallett’s new thriller, “The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels.” “It’s so funny. It seems like she’s having a lot of fun. One thing I would say, and I don’t think this is spoiling it, is, if there comes a moment when you think you might want to stop, keep going and trust her. I think it’s rare to be able to say that with that level of confidence.”

Here are the books discussed in this week’s episode:

“Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne,” by Katherine Rundell

“The Other Side: A Story of Women in Art and the Spirit World,” by Jennifer Higgie

“The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels,” by Janice Hallett

“Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum,” by Antonia Hylton

(Briefly mentioned: “You Dreamed of Empires,” by Álvaro Enrigue, “Beautyland,” by Marie-Helene Bertino, and “Martyr!,” by Kaveh Akbar.)

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

In Lucy Sante’s new memoir, “I Heard Her Call My Name,” the author reflects on her life and embarking on a gender transition  in her late 60s.

For people of all ages in Pasadena, Calif., Vroman’s Bookstore, founded in 1894, has been a mainstay in a world of rapid change. Now, its longtime owner says he’s ready to turn over the reins .

The graphic novel series “Aya” explores the pains and pleasures of everyday life in a working-class neighborhood  in West Africa with a modern African woman hero.

Like many Nigerians, the novelist Stephen Buoro has been deeply influenced by the exquisite bedlam of Lagos, a megacity of extremes. Here, he defines the books that make sense of the chaos .

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .

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Book Reviews

Kelly link's debut novel 'the book of love' is magical, confusing, heartfelt, strange.

Gabino Iglesias

Cover of The Book of Love

For years, fans of Kelly Link, one of the finest purveyors of contemporary short fiction, have wondered what the author would be able to do with a full novel — and have eagerly waited for her to deliver one.

That wait ends now with the release of The Book of Love , Link's debut novel. And the author has embraced the freedom granted by a longer format, delivering a 600-page behemoth of a novel that shatters reality while pulling readers into the lives of several characters and obliterating any perceived dividing line between speculative fiction and literary fiction.

As an avid reader and book reviewer, I'm looking forward to seeing how other reviewers tackle a synopsis of this novel. The narrative starts late one night when Laura, Daniel, and Mo find themselves in a classroom with their music teacher and a strange entity. The youngsters are dead, but they're not. They disappeared a year ago from their hometown of Lovesend, Massachusetts. They were presumed dead, and they are, but now that they're back, their teacher, who possesses magical powers, alters reality. Instead of dead, they're all coming back from a long trip to study in Ireland. Their teacher knows what happened...maybe.

With their story in their heads and their new reality in place. the teenagers are sent back to their previous lives, where they must cope with everything that happened during their absence while simultaneously trying to figure out what will happen next. Also, there was a cryptic message for them on the blackboard of the room where they appeared: "2 RETURN/2 REMAIN." What does it mean? How does that math affect the outcome of their return? Their life as the undead is already complicated enough, but their bizarre revivification has brought something other than the teenagers from the other side; supernatural entities that have their own agendas. As Laura, Daniel, and Mo navigate their new situation and adapt to their new realities, they must also crack the mystery of their return, and more than their own resurrection hangs in the balance.

That's a lengthy synopsis, but it barely scratches the surface of The Book of Love , which also delves into the complications of love and friendship, family drama, grief, resilience, and the unlimited power of adaptability while delivering a tale of supernatural menace that also explores what it truly means to be alive. After years of award-winning short stories in some great venues and a few outstanding short story collections like Get in Trouble , which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and White Cat, Black Dog , this novel is proof that Link can be as strange, entertaining, and witty in novel form as she is when writing short stories.

The Book of Love is a narrative about love — and death and resurrection and kissing people and growing up and sibling rivalry and horror. This is a story about stories that even touches on writing. Mo's grandmother, Maryanne, who passed away while Mo was away, was a prolific writer who wrote 73 books in 42 years. Writing allowed her to build a good life and to take care of Mo after his mother passed away. She was also a Black woman. Little details like that open the door to new things, so while Link is telling us about Mo, she also gives us Maryanne's biography while also discussing publishing and the intricacies of a Black woman writing a very popular series about a white woman. Stories within stories, narratives that delve into memories, and expansive passages what go deep into the psychological and emotional inner worlds of the characters are common. In fact, this book will be too much for some readers. This is an entertaining novel, but it's also a barrage of ideas and minutiae, a veritable onslaught of language and narratives that deviate from the core of the story.

This is a long book that's simultaneously dazzling and dizzying. Some lines cut with their clarity and sincerity while some plot elements are puzzling. Link is a wizard writing spells that obey a dream logic only she fully understands. At once a book for adults that's full of elements that make it feel like a fantasy YA novel, a story about survival and danger that starts with a group of dead kids and only gets weirder from there, and a narrative that shows a mighty writer with a unique voice at the height of her powers, The Book of Love is, simply put, a magical, confusing, heartfelt, strange, wonderfully written novel that delivers everything fans of Link's short fiction expected while also packing a few surprises.

Gabino Iglesias is an author, book reviewer and professor living in Austin, Texas. Find him on X, formerly Twitter, at @Gabino_Iglesias .

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Immigrants on the deck of ship bound for the USA in 1893.

Melting Point by Rachel Cockerell review – the hunt for a homeland

A fabulous family history expands into an account of the origins of Zionism and the extraordinary project to bring thousands of Russian Jews to Texas

W hen she started work on this fabulous book about her family, Rachel Cockerell was most intrigued by her grandmother Fanny and great aunt Sonia, who “raised [seven] children together in a giant, Edwardian north London house in the 1940s”. She envisaged only a few sentences about their father, David Jochelmann, who brought them over from Kyiv at the start of the first world war and lived in the same house until he died in 1941. But although the family remembered him only as a “businessman”, research soon revealed a fascinating backstory – a strange and largely forgotten project that saw about 10,000 Russian Jews set sail for Texas in the years between 1907 and 1914.

The Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl founded political Zionism with the publication of The Jewish State in 1896. The cause was mainly taken up in the Russian empire, where a series of pogroms convinced many Jews they no longer had a future there. But the Zionist movement was deeply divided about where they should go. Some held out for Palestine as the only possible Jewish homeland. Others desperately scoured the world, from Angola to Australia, for somewhere to establish some sort of colony or enclave, at least as a temporary staging post. Such “territorialists” were led by the celebrated British novelist and playwright Israel Zangwill.

By 1906, however, he was convinced that nowhere could accommodate the more than 200,000 Jews expected to leave Russia that year. While many wanted to go to the US, he told an audience: “You could not forever go pouring emigrants into New York, or New York would burst.” By diverting them to the port of Galveston in Texas, they would be able to settle all over “the Great American West”. It was Jochelmann who took charge of the Russian end of operations.

Unfortunately, there are only passing references to him in the historical record and he left no written description. Cockerell’s first draft of this book offered a conventional account, with her “own narrative woven through primary sources”. But when she read it back, she began to feel “irritation at [her] own interventions”, which tended to “take the reader out of the story”. She therefore made the bold decision to let the people of the time speak for themselves, and to rely solely on extracts from articles, speeches, memoirs and letters.

Melting Point opens with a range of contemporary reactions to the regal Herzl and the clumsy and ill-kempt Zangwill, both major public figures in their day. It includes poignant eyewitness accounts of the terrible Kishinev pogrom of 1903; competing voices at a series of fractious Zionist conferences; Texans’ first impressions of the incoming Russian Jews and the immigrants’ first impression of Texas. One was initially thrilled by San Antonio as the long-imagined “golden land” but soon became disappointed by the streets “overgrown with thorny bushes” and the “miserable little Mexican shacks, constructed of boards, covered with rusted tin”.

Rachel Cockerell.

Cockerell has an unerring eye for selecting, editing and juxtaposing the most revealing quotations. So the result feels deeply immersive and dramatic. One gets a thrilling sense of history unfolding in real time, of people confused and flailing about in response to immediate events without any sense of what we know now.

Zangwill pioneered the idea of the US as a “melting pot” in his play of that title , and Zionist history obviously touches on issues of identity, assimilation and the meaning of “home” that remain tragically relevant today. The second half of this book, which turns to Jochelmann’s children, reprises such themes in a minor key.

A son by his first marriage became a radical American playwright, while his two daughters shared a house in London. Five of their own children provided Cockerell with rich and evocative reminiscences.

Fanny and Sonia had contrasting skills and personalities but made such a great team that they signed their joint letters “FanSon”. They created a warm, chaotic and arty home for their families at the end of the road where I live in Willesden Green. Fanny emerges as a particularly engaging character, constantly losing children, getting into traffic accidents, using potatoes instead of flour to make a chocolate pudding or rescuing a Christmas pudding which had exploded all over the walls from a neglected pressure cooker.

Yet even this charmingly shambolic world was haunted by political divisions. Sonia had married a fellow Russian Jew deeply committed to Zionist causes. Fanny’s husband was an archetypal Englishman who attended Passover meals in a bowler hat. It was probably inevitable that Sonia and her family should move to Israel in the early 1950s and so split an intensely close-knit family along what Cockerell calls “two paths that have been inching further and further apart ever since”. Although now in his 80s, Michael – Fanny’s son and Cockerell’s father – still clearly feels a deep sense of loss. His words make a poignant end to an exceptionally vivid and compelling family history.

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  4. Which books of 2023 have stood out for you so far? 🤍📖 #booktube #bestbooks

  5. Books I thought were 5 🌟 Vs Books that actually were 5 🌟 #bookrecommendations #booktube

  6. what if... part 4 #shorts


  1. What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypotheti…

    Far more than a book for geeks, WHAT IF: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions explains the laws of science in operation in a way that every intelligent reader will enjoy and feel much the smarter for having read. Genres Nonfiction Science Humor Audiobook Physics Comedy Popular Science ...more 303 pages, Hardcover

  2. Book Review: What If?

    Book Review: What If? Books and recommendations from Scientific American By Clara Moskowitz September 2014 Issue The Sciences What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical...

  3. Book Review: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd

    Rhett Allain Science Dec 19, 2014 9:05 AM Book Review: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Here is a book review of Randall Munroe's What If? Serious...

  4. What If? 2: Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd

    AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An NPR Best Book of 2022 "The questions throughout What If? 2 are equal parts brilliant, gross, and wonderfully absurd and the answers are thorough, deeply researched, and great fun. . . . Science isn't easy, but in Munroe's capable hands, it surely can be fun." — TIME The #1 New York Times bestselling author of What If? and How To answers more of ...

  5. Book Review: 'What If' by Randall Munroe

    Book Review: 'What If' by Randall Munroe Physics can be fun—when you're trying to build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns. What would happen That laconic comedy is typical of the...

  6. 'What If? 2' Review: Serious Science Can Be Silly

    Buy Book. When the students threw up their hands, Fermi would walk them through a rough-and-ready estimation process that went something like this: If we know Chicago has a population of about 3 ...

  7. What If by Randall Munroe

    This book is a must have for all scientists and other curious minds. What If? - Serious Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe is exactly as the title and subtitle describes. Engineer Randall Munroe answers the absurd questions that he receives on his blog in an extensive, scientific way - and he does so in a ...

  8. WHAT IF? 2

    Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller's existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence. A quirky wonder of a book. 7.

  9. What If? 2 by Randall Munroe: 9780525537113

    Praise for What If? 2 "Delightful. . . Randall Munroe has made a career out of sharing his joy in science and engineering. . . . This book and its predecessor inspire us to believe that, even in a vast and mysterious universe, there's a lot we can figure out with nothing but a sharp pencil, come basic scientific knowledge and a vivid ...

  10. What If? (International Edition): Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd

    Randall Munroe is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller What If?, the science question-and-answer blog What If, and the popular webcomic xkcd. A former NASA roboticist, he left the agency in 2006 to draw comics on the Internet full-time, supporting himself through the sale of xkcd t-shirts, prints, posters, and books. He likes candlelight dinners and long walks on the beach.

  11. Book Review: "What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd

    One of my favorite journeys is from the ridiculous to the sublime, and Randall Munroe's entertaining and interesting new book, What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is filled with and defined by such journeys. You may recognize Munroe from the excellent and popular online cartoon, xkcd, which employs stick figures, witty framing, and science jokes in service of ...

  12. What If Scientific Hypothetical Questions

    Randall Munroe Follow What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Kindle Edition by Randall Munroe (Author) Format: Kindle Edition 4.6 30,172 ratings Part of: What If? (2 books)

  13. What If? (book)

    The What If? book contains a selection of questions and answers from the original blog, as well as nineteen new ones. Furthermore, Munroe selected a few unanswered questions from his inbox and collected those in separate sections in the book.

  14. What If Book Review : r/books

    What If Book Review . Truly, a book of nerd royalty. The book is Randall Munroe, the absolute king of nerds, answering absurd and ridiculous questions using math, science, and comics. One of the questions Munroe answers is "What if you were trying to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light." Long story short, the ultra-fast ...

  15. What If... Book Review

    Parents need to know that What If… by Samantha Berger ( Crankenstein ), illustrated by Mike Curato ( Little Elliot, Big City; All the Way to Havana ), has a simple rhyming text with a first-person narration by a girl wondering what she'd do if she didn't have her pencil… Community Reviews See all Parents say Kids say

  16. Anthony Browne's 'What If . . . ?' and More

    The young heroes of Aaron Becker's "Quest" don't seem nervous at all — admirable, or perhaps foolhardy, given the scope of their adventure. "Quest" is the sequel to Becker's ...

  17. Book Review: What If? and What If? 2

    Randall Munroe is a physicist who previously worked for NASA. He is probably best known for his scientific cartoon website xkcd, familiar to most physics teachers and probably many of their students. These two what if? books are based on questions submitted online. His claim is that he gives serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical ...

  18. Book Review: What if it's Us?

    "What If It's Us?" is a YA Fiction book written by two best-selling authors: Becky Albertalli (author of "Simon vs. the Homosapien's Agenda) and Adam Silvera (author of "They Both Die ...

  19. What If It's Us Book Review

    What you will—and won't—find in this book. Parents need to know that What If It's Us, the first novel co-written by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, is a sweet contemporary romance told from the alternating points of view of two teen boys. Arthur (written by Albertalli) is Jewish and only in New York City for the summer; he struggles with ...

  20. 17 Book Review Examples to Help You Write the Perfect Review

    A book review will offer an evaluation of the work. A book review will offer a recommendation for the audience. If these are the basic ingredients that make up a book review, it's the tone and style with which the book reviewer writes that brings the extra panache. This will differ from platform to platform, of course.

  21. Book review of What If They Knew

    Book Review. What If They Knew by T R Hendrick is a brilliant meld of historical and political themes in a thriller, a novel that invites the reader into a discussion on the documents that define the American states. In writing that is beautiful and fluid and evoking historical characters and important historical moments in American history ...


    Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is "quirky and odd," while Finny is "sweet and shy and everyone like [s] him.". But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an ...

  23. What No One Wants to Tell Women About Divorce

    The book is intimate, persuasive, funny, and compassionate. And it's the opposite of bitter. Lenz walked away from her marriage to rebuild her life in her 40s, and to find out what freedom feels ...

  24. Reading Recommendations From Book Review Staffers

    Here's what they've enjoyed in 2024. In Lucy Sante's new memoir, "I Heard Her Call My Name," the author reflects on her life and embarking on a gender transition in her late 60s.. For ...

  25. Kelly Link's debut novel 'The Book of Love' review : NPR

    Short-story writer Kelly Link's first novel delves into the complications of love and friendship, family drama, grief, resilience, and the power of adaptability, while delivering a supernatural tale.

  26. Melting Point by Rachel Cockerell review

    W hen she started work on this fabulous book about her family, Rachel Cockerell was most intrigued by her grandmother Fanny and great aunt Sonia, who "raised [seven] children together in a giant ...