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How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveller

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"How to Invent Everything is such a cool book. It's essential reading for anyone who needs to duplicate an industrial civilization quickly." --Randall Munroe, xkcd creator and New York Times-bestselling author of What If? The only book you need if you're going back in time What would you do if a time machine hurled you thousands of years into the past. . . and then broke? H "How to Invent Everything is such a cool book. It's essential reading for anyone who needs to duplicate an industrial civilization quickly." --Randall Munroe, xkcd creator and New York Times-bestselling author of What If? The only book you need if you're going back in time What would you do if a time machine hurled you thousands of years into the past. . . and then broke? How would you survive? Could you improve on humanity's original timeline? And how hard would it be to domesticate a giant wombat? With this book as your guide, you'll survive--and thrive--in any period in Earth's history. Bestselling author and time-travel enthusiast Ryan North shows you how to invent all the modern conveniences we take for granted--from first principles. This illustrated manual contains all the science, engineering, art, philosophy, facts, and figures required for even the most clueless time traveler to build a civilization from the ground up. Deeply researched, irreverent, and significantly more fun than being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger, How to Invent Everything will make you smarter, more competent, and completely prepared to become the most important and influential person ever. You're about to make history. . . better.


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"How to Invent Everything is such a cool book. It's essential reading for anyone who needs to duplicate an industrial civilization quickly." --Randall Munroe, xkcd creator and New York Times-bestselling author of What If? The only book you need if you're going back in time What would you do if a time machine hurled you thousands of years into the past. . . and then broke? H "How to Invent Everything is such a cool book. It's essential reading for anyone who needs to duplicate an industrial civilization quickly." --Randall Munroe, xkcd creator and New York Times-bestselling author of What If? The only book you need if you're going back in time What would you do if a time machine hurled you thousands of years into the past. . . and then broke? How would you survive? Could you improve on humanity's original timeline? And how hard would it be to domesticate a giant wombat? With this book as your guide, you'll survive--and thrive--in any period in Earth's history. Bestselling author and time-travel enthusiast Ryan North shows you how to invent all the modern conveniences we take for granted--from first principles. This illustrated manual contains all the science, engineering, art, philosophy, facts, and figures required for even the most clueless time traveler to build a civilization from the ground up. Deeply researched, irreverent, and significantly more fun than being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger, How to Invent Everything will make you smarter, more competent, and completely prepared to become the most important and influential person ever. You're about to make history. . . better.

30 review for How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveller

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ryan North

    I wrote it! But I think it's the best thing I've ever written, so great work, past me. In all seriousness though, it was a lot of fun to research and write, and if reading it is anything close to as entertaining and educational as writing it was, I think you'll have a great time with it!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    3.5 stars -- I docked points for the entire bread/beer section, which referred to yeast as animals (????) -- they are fungi! (This is not a one-off either; there is an entire joke about this??) Except for that one glaring error, I really enjoyed this book, its tone, and its humor. The premise was so clever that I knew I wanted to make acquiring this book a priority at SDCC, and I'm fortunate to have gotten a signed copy! The premise: you have a time machine, but it broke. Now you are stranded so 3.5 stars -- I docked points for the entire bread/beer section, which referred to yeast as animals (????) -- they are fungi! (This is not a one-off either; there is an entire joke about this??) Except for that one glaring error, I really enjoyed this book, its tone, and its humor. The premise was so clever that I knew I wanted to make acquiring this book a priority at SDCC, and I'm fortunate to have gotten a signed copy! The premise: you have a time machine, but it broke. Now you are stranded sometime in the distant past (flowchart provided to help you/the stranded time traveller figure out when exactly you are). How are you to survive and thrive in comfort? Well, Ryan North (the one from the AU where time travel has been invented and you have been stranded, not the Ryan North who found the manual and published the book you have in front of real you) has an instruction manual on how to invent everything you need, from written and spoken language to medicine to electricity to radio to just about anything you could want. Some favorite moments: in an entry on horseshoes: before horseshoes were invented: "Humans hadn't helped any other animals wear shoes, which honestly seems like one of our most adorable achievements" in an entry in the chemistry section about chlorine gas: "at high temperatures, [chlorine gas] also reacts with iron to produce chlorine-iron fires, which are about as safe as they sound (they are extremely not safe)." in a section on human anatomy (hey, knowing about the body puts you ahead of 10,000s of years of human history, and can get your new civilization started out on the right... foot!): "Skeleton: there is a spooky wet skeleton hiding inside us all, a truly terrifying thought" -- agree, Ryan North, agree. Skeletons are almost as creepy as veins, which are also terrifying and inside you. In the agriculture section (specifically the potato subsection): "Boil them, mash them, stick them in a stew, even cook them in oil to make delicious fries and potato chips." -- I see what you did there -- someone's a LOTR fan (well, two people -- in this case, Ryan North and also me). Also, I heartily approve of the author's use of the term "horsies" to describe the grouping of horses and protohorses.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Diane Hernandez

    How to Invent Everything is “a complete cheat sheet to civilization”. You’re welcome. Beginning with hilarious FAQs about your new state-of-the-art FC3000 rental market time machine, the book then explains how to invent everything and restart civilization in case the machine breaks down in the past. It starts at a basic level of civilization, language, and continues all the way through making computers to do all the work. Along the way it touches on math, science, agriculture, zoology, nutrition, How to Invent Everything is “a complete cheat sheet to civilization”. You’re welcome. Beginning with hilarious FAQs about your new state-of-the-art FC3000 rental market time machine, the book then explains how to invent everything and restart civilization in case the machine breaks down in the past. It starts at a basic level of civilization, language, and continues all the way through making computers to do all the work. Along the way it touches on math, science, agriculture, zoology, nutrition, sexuality, philosophy, art, music and basic medicine. When I initially picked How to Invent Everything on Edelweiss+, I thought it was non-fiction. Imagine my surprise and delight when I quickly realized it was fictional in the vein of my favorite book, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Except it starts in the future and goes backwards to present day. Sorta. Alas, it is both fiction and non-fiction at the same time. Good luck, time travelers, sorting it out. This is a very interesting book. It includes actual recipes for creating items. However, there is also a disclaimer in the front stating no one is responsible if something happens to you while using the recipes so hmmm. I liked How to Invent Everything for its humor and some of the information is interesting to know. It may be useful in case of a zombie (or other type of) apocalypse. However, if you are a doom’s day prepper, buy this book in paper format since who knows how long those solar chargers in your bug-out kit will be able to charge your kindle. 4 stars! Thanks to Riverhead Books and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    This is an outline of the history of technology, presented as a manual for stranded time-travelers who had rented the FC-3000 time machine. It starts cute: “REPAIR GUIDE: There are no user-serviceable parts inside the FC-3000.” Oops. I think Arthur C. Clarke once remarked that the best evidence against the existence of time travel, was the remarkable absence of time travelers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_tr... Still, it’s a clever handle for the book, but kind of a one-trick pony that quick This is an outline of the history of technology, presented as a manual for stranded time-travelers who had rented the FC-3000 time machine. It starts cute: “REPAIR GUIDE: There are no user-serviceable parts inside the FC-3000.” Oops. I think Arthur C. Clarke once remarked that the best evidence against the existence of time travel, was the remarkable absence of time travelers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_tr... Still, it’s a clever handle for the book, but kind of a one-trick pony that quickly got old for me. The usual problem of writing humor. But who knows? You might like it. The author is a cartoonist: http://www.ryannorth.ca/ The history of technology part seems accurate, although the “future” periodic table in the appendix just irritated me, as a former chemist. About there, I started skimming. Most of the factual stuff was old-hat for me. I don’t think I’m really the intended audience, and my 2-star rating is definitely an outlier. Might be closer to 1.5 stars, really. Not a keeper! I won a copy of the book from the publisher through a Goodreads giveaway. Thanks!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    Occasionally you read a book and think 'I wish I'd thought of that.' This was my immediate reaction to Ryan North's How to Invent Everything. The central conceit manages to be both funny and inspiring as a framework for writing an 'everything you ever wanted to know about everything (and particularly science)' book. What How to Invent Everything claims to be is a manual for users of a time machine (from some point in the future). Specifically it's a manual for dealing with the situation of the ti Occasionally you read a book and think 'I wish I'd thought of that.' This was my immediate reaction to Ryan North's How to Invent Everything. The central conceit manages to be both funny and inspiring as a framework for writing an 'everything you ever wanted to know about everything (and particularly science)' book. What How to Invent Everything claims to be is a manual for users of a time machine (from some point in the future). Specifically it's a manual for dealing with the situation of the time machine going wrong and stranding the user in the past. At first it appears that it's going to tell you how to fix the broken time machine - but then admits this is impossible. Since you're stuck in the past, you might as well make the best of your surroundings, so the aim of the rest of the book is to give you the knowledge you need to build your own civilisation from scratch. We start with a fun flow chart for working out just how far back in time you are stuck (and what you will be faced with as challenges). From then on, there's a mix of practical information and background of theory that might help you rebuild some kind of civilised world. So we get science, technology, the arts, medicine - inevitably cherry picking but sometimes in a surprising amount of detail when focussed on a small part of what's needed. In some ways, what we have here is a modern version of those popular books from a good few years ago that told you how to survive crocodile attacks and the like, but on steroids. Not only is this book far fatter (we're talking over 450 pages) it takes the premise of providing mostly accurate but practically useless how-to information to the wonderful extreme. Since the reader isn't actually stranded in the past, it's not going to be a truly practical guide, but it does put across a surprising amount of information in an approachable manner. It's like having the old Pear's Cylopedia crossed with a science fiction comedy. The were only two things that slightly reduced the enjoyment. I found North's style of humour too knowing - it just got wearing after a while, rather than continuing to be entertaining as someone like Douglas Adams would have managed. So, for example, page after page of this kind of thing can get a bit heavy: 'Cool hats are easy to imagine [without language], but the meaning of the sentence "Three weeks from tomorrow, have your oldest stepsister meet me on the southeast corner two block east from the first house we egged last Halloween" is extremely difficult to nail down without having concrete words for the concepts of time, place, numbers, relationships and spooky holidays.' My other slight moan is that the big sections on growing food and 'common human complaints that can be solved by technology' got a little samey and were distinctly over-long. Some aspects of establishing the needs of basic civilisation are... rather dull. But there was still much to delight in as the book skips its merry way from units of measurement to how to invent music (with a few classical pieces included to claim that you composed, because who's going to know you haven't). The reality, then, doesn't quite live up to the brilliance of the idea. I'm not sure anything could. But it still remains a great way to link together a portmanteau of any random bits of knowledge that North felt it would be enjoyable to impart. It would make a great gift book and will give a lot of pleasure. You may even learn something handy, should you ever be stuck in the remote past.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    This is a fun book which tracks closely with how I used to teach World History--let's domesticate some animals! Here's what you can do once you've got printing as a reliable technology! North lays out the prerequisites for humanity's most useful leaps and explains how to achieve them under primitive circumstances (we all *know* about penicillin, but how may people can isolate and propagate it?). All of this is told in an accessible, smart ass tone, making it both appealing to casual readers and This is a fun book which tracks closely with how I used to teach World History--let's domesticate some animals! Here's what you can do once you've got printing as a reliable technology! North lays out the prerequisites for humanity's most useful leaps and explains how to achieve them under primitive circumstances (we all *know* about penicillin, but how may people can isolate and propagate it?). All of this is told in an accessible, smart ass tone, making it both appealing to casual readers and useful to anyone doing world building or underlining a Tech and Civ lesson. (Also, I never knew that pink grapefruit were a product of the Atoms for Peace program. Mutants.)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Herman Wu

    This guide should be required reading for not only time travelers but world-hoppers too. Steampunk Narnia yo. Ryan North did super good. The book is densely packed with a lot of diverse information, yet an engaging and easy read. And the little tidbits from the future were great (especially the heavily expanded "complete" periodic table that goes up to 172 instead of our lame current 118). Some sections are even pretty useful for someone stranded in a remote location in the present, like the basic This guide should be required reading for not only time travelers but world-hoppers too. Steampunk Narnia yo. Ryan North did super good. The book is densely packed with a lot of diverse information, yet an engaging and easy read. And the little tidbits from the future were great (especially the heavily expanded "complete" periodic table that goes up to 172 instead of our lame current 118). Some sections are even pretty useful for someone stranded in a remote location in the present, like the basic first aid, identifying if a food is safe to eat, and water distillation. Generally speaking, this book will get you (a stranded time traveler) to the Industrial Revolution, further in some fields. You won't be mass-producing laptops and smartphones anytime soon (or even silicon-based computers, though fluidics-based ones are feasible), so steel yourself for that steampunk aesthetic. Just watch out for burning too much coal or hydrogen gas catching on fire. Hindsight is 20/20 even in the future. There are many mentions of how humanity (usually early Europeans, but the Chinese stumbled too) fumbled around without inventing a certain thing even though they had all the prerequisite tech for many years, if not centuries, or how woefully inaccurate scientific theories held up entire fields for just as long. Most of it feels like just tongue-in-cheek griping, but a couple examples did have me shaking my head at past society (hot air balloons, premature infant incubators, and the 7 times European sailors discovered and forgot the Vitamin-C-in-citrus cure for scurvy). Never have I more wanted to travel in time than after reading this book. Obviously I'd take said book (and the nifty bandana it came with) with me. Obviously.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Amazing Hilarious Informative This book deserves to be read in schools for the broad spectrum of information it doles out with humor & insight. It may be a fictional conceit/platform, but this book is great at teaching how history, technology, & society all interweave.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Disclaimer: I received this book from GoodReads as part of the First Reads program. This book is a total delight to read. That's all you need to know, but I'll go into some more detail. The book is a work of history, a work of science, a work of technology and a work of humor, all wrapped up in a veneer of science fiction. In an introductory note to the readers, the author claims to have found this book embedded in rock, made of an unknown indestructible material. It is allegedly a manual to be u Disclaimer: I received this book from GoodReads as part of the First Reads program. This book is a total delight to read. That's all you need to know, but I'll go into some more detail. The book is a work of history, a work of science, a work of technology and a work of humor, all wrapped up in a veneer of science fiction. In an introductory note to the readers, the author claims to have found this book embedded in rock, made of an unknown indestructible material. It is allegedly a manual to be used by persons who have rented the FC3000 time machine, and had the machine malfunction, leaving them in some ancient period in the past. It begins by explaining to you how to determine what time period you're stuck in. It then proceeds to give you instructions on how to survive by inventing such necessities as language, farming, fishing, animal husbandry, make buildings, the beginnings of medicine, art, music, and so on. It actually gives you instruction in how these things and more came to be, how long it took for humanity to learn about them as well as shortcuts to help you shorten the path to various technologies. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning how civilization, and various items we take for granted, came to be.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Billie

    If you ever need to rebuild civilization from the ground up, make sure you have Ryan North with you. If kidnapping is not your thing, then at least make sure you have this book. I wouldn't recommend taking the audio though, because if the power to your portable (music) listening device dies before you get around to "inventing" electricity and/or batteries, you're still screwed. Filled with really useful information (and some eye-rollingly bad puns) and delivered in a charming, accessible manner. If you ever need to rebuild civilization from the ground up, make sure you have Ryan North with you. If kidnapping is not your thing, then at least make sure you have this book. I wouldn't recommend taking the audio though, because if the power to your portable (music) listening device dies before you get around to "inventing" electricity and/or batteries, you're still screwed. Filled with really useful information (and some eye-rollingly bad puns) and delivered in a charming, accessible manner. There is nothing dry or academic here, in spite of the numerous charts and graphs and footnotes and the information is presented in such a way that even a lazy, clumsy person such as myself could probably utilize it to become a Goddess. Or at least the only person in the cave who has fire. This one gets five stars because it is funny and may save your life in the event of the collapse of civilization (or if you get stranded in the past in a time travel accident). And, also because the author has a weird fascination with Salt-N-Pepa's Shoop, which I can respect.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cale

    This book is extremely useful even if you're not a time-traveller stuck in the past. Ryan North manages to provide the fundamentals of civilization in a readable, entertaining manner. I never realized how much of civilization's advancements is stretched out over millennia for NO GOOD REASON. It has all of Ryan North's trademarks - a large number of footnotes, lots of fourth-wall breaking commentary, some subtle fictional undercurrents, and a lot of entertaining information. The book includes all This book is extremely useful even if you're not a time-traveller stuck in the past. Ryan North manages to provide the fundamentals of civilization in a readable, entertaining manner. I never realized how much of civilization's advancements is stretched out over millennia for NO GOOD REASON. It has all of Ryan North's trademarks - a large number of footnotes, lots of fourth-wall breaking commentary, some subtle fictional undercurrents, and a lot of entertaining information. The book includes all kinds of detail on things like basic inventions (running from charcoal all the way up to electricity and radio), quick descriptions of philosophies, basic nutrition, measurement basics, even trigonometric tables (which are very important for sundials, apparently). I checked it out of the library, but know I will be buying a copy for myself (and as a gift) soon. It's just a great resource, well presented, and a lot of fun to read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Montgomery

    One part genuinely useful guide and one part humor, North (of "Dinosaur Comics" fame) presents a guide to reinvent lots of key elements of human life, everything from charcoal (surprisingly fundamental!) to hydroelectric power. It's pretty accessible and doesn't get bogged down in details, so if you ever actually find yourself trying to rebuild civilization from scratch with the help of this book, you may find yourself doing a lot of trial and error. But this brevity helps keep the book readable One part genuinely useful guide and one part humor, North (of "Dinosaur Comics" fame) presents a guide to reinvent lots of key elements of human life, everything from charcoal (surprisingly fundamental!) to hydroelectric power. It's pretty accessible and doesn't get bogged down in details, so if you ever actually find yourself trying to rebuild civilization from scratch with the help of this book, you may find yourself doing a lot of trial and error. But this brevity helps keep the book readable and entertaining — as does the steady stream of jokes. Even people who skim past the more technical discussions of plants and chemicals will likely come away entertained.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nina Usherwood

    A fun book. Written with lots of humour. When sections that I am well aware the subject, the author includes many odd facts or amusing side stories. Truly if as the title suggest one was stuck in the past there is amazing amount of information to re-invent civilization. Inventions that nobody thought of until millennium after it was possible to develop the invention. For example the horse collar could be invented a thousand years before it was. The invention of the horse transformed agriculture A fun book. Written with lots of humour. When sections that I am well aware the subject, the author includes many odd facts or amusing side stories. Truly if as the title suggest one was stuck in the past there is amazing amount of information to re-invent civilization. Inventions that nobody thought of until millennium after it was possible to develop the invention. For example the horse collar could be invented a thousand years before it was. The invention of the horse transformed agriculture and transportation. I could make a horse collar with some leather and a big piece of wood.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    A world history book framed as a how-to guide for the stranded time-traveler, allowing the reader to take credit for numerous inventions, depending how far back you get stuck. Two themes run though all the history - one - most inventions are capable to be made by almost anyone with low tech supplies, so reader should take hope that they can do anything, but - two - humans have taken an embarrassingly long time to figure out many, many basic concepts (i.e. don't deliver babies right after perform A world history book framed as a how-to guide for the stranded time-traveler, allowing the reader to take credit for numerous inventions, depending how far back you get stuck. Two themes run though all the history - one - most inventions are capable to be made by almost anyone with low tech supplies, so reader should take hope that they can do anything, but - two - humans have taken an embarrassingly long time to figure out many, many basic concepts (i.e. don't deliver babies right after performing autopsies!) and, as a species, we should be a little ashamed of ourselves. A very easy read that covers a wide variety of topics to introduce the reader to many aspects of world history.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Montgomery

    A truly excellent read. Through enjoyed reading it from cover to cover, which fit what is arguably an instruction manual is a testament to the writer in making it fun and engaging throughout. The snarky humour and the history lessons that accompany the knowledge of inventions being shared make the whole thing really interesting and engaging. I fit one feel much more prepared for the unlikely eventuality of being sent hurtling into the past.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Josh Hamacher

    I really enjoyed this; it wasn't quite as technical as I expected, but the humor made up for that. I'm not sure I'd want to try to restart civilization with just this single book, but it would serve as a great jumping-off point.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Harry Jahnke

    What a delightful book! I feel like I learned something *and* had a good time! Would highly recommend for fans of Stuff You Should Know. Funny, informative, and just might save my life if I find myself stranded back in time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    This was a total delight and is my new desert island book. It almost makes you want to get stranded back in time, just to see if you could hack it. (I couldn't, of course, but I now believe I could make it further than I would have thought before.)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Book

    Creating society from scratch never seemed so possible!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Harriet

    Loved this! Funny and smart and fascinating.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rena

    Excellent book. Just from the title, I knew this was going to be great for our family. My 16 year old son especially loves this. And it's funny!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Annarella

    This book is very entertaining and full of information. It's a very enjoyable read and I highly recommend it Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Widdowson

    Playful way of learning the basics of... everything.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vitaliy

    Необычная книга-инструкция как создать цивилизацию с нуля, если ты попал в далекое прошлое и у тебя сломалась машина времени. Полезные животные, растения, технологии, константы и философские теории — всё предлагают изобрести из подручных средств и назвать в свою честь. Много иронии и юмора.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tay Aik Tiao

    Brought this book everywhere like a little child.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  28. 4 out of 5

    Srijita Kundu

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  30. 5 out of 5

    Feeby Peels

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