Book Club: Why I need to know a little about a lot

Working the “Ask Me” desk, I get asked a lot of questions about a wide variety of different things.  

One minute it’s tax information and the next, countries of the world.  

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I don’t know everything (far from it, even if I act otherwise), but I do need to know how to find everything.  

Of course, it does help to know a little bit about a wide variety of subjects, so I know what people are asking about in the first place.

I don’t have a very deep knowledge of a lot of subjects, but I try to know enough to get the idea of where to start searching. 

That’s why I like to read science and trivia books. The Science of Why, by Jay Ingram, is the latest from the former host of Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet and CBC’s Quirks and Quarks.  

This time, he’s addressing common and sometimes odd questions across all sorts of fields, from health and the body to the supernatural, social sciences to space and physics.  

Why do mosquitos seem to prefer biting some people more than others? Why does it seem like campfire smoke follows you around no matter where you sit?  Why does it seem like the moon is bigger when it’s closer to the horizon?

As is his usual style, Ingram is writing for the general public, assuming little or no knowledge on the given topic. He fills in the background as needed in the simplest terms possible, while still being understandable.  

He’s had years of experience with this and with keeping things short, so each question is covered in a matter of four or five pages.  

There are no math formulas or diagrams of molecules.  

It’s illustrated mostly by cute little cartoons to keep things light. 

This sacrifices details, but The Science of Why is mostly about fun little questions to bring up in your more science-minded dinner parties. 

Though this isn’t his most focused book, it is his most accessible.  

His other works, such as The End of Memory: A Natural History of Aging and Alzheimer’s and Fatal Flaws: How a Misfolded Protein Baffled Scientists and Changed the Way We Look at the Brain are equally interesting but far more in-depth.

Steven McCreedy is a library technician at Richmond Public Library.

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