How To Invent Everything by Ryan North
You have been stranded in the distant past due to an accident involving a personal time machine. Fortunately, enclosed in the user guide of your non-repairable craft is a cheat sheet for rebuilding an industrial civilization from scratch in (much) less than the 200,000 or so years it took us the first time around. How To Invent Everything (Riverhead, $27) by Ryan North is a copy of that guide, found encased in Precambrian rock on a building site, and now made available to anyone who might need to guide humanity from the invention of spoken language all the way through to the design and construction of computers, while avoiding fossil fuels, sexism, and other little mistakes. It made me wonder what “obvious” technologies we’re missing right now. Anyone interested in science, history, bizarre trivia involving birthing forceps, or laughing at how clever and, also, incredibly stupid, people can be, will like this book.