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The Way The World Works Hardcover – Aug 7 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Edition edition (Aug. 7 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416572473
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416572473
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.8 x 21.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 440 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #105,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“Baker is one of the most beautiful, original and ingenious prose stylists to have come along in decades . . . and takes a kind of mad scientist’s delight in the way things work and how the world is put together.” (Charles McGrath The New York Times Magazine)

“His prose is so luminescent and so precise it manually recalibrates our brains.” (Lev Grossman Time)

“Nicholson Baker is such a swell, smart writer that he rarely—maybe never—tips his hand. . . . In Baker's view, the mundane, closely enough observed, may be the skate key to the sublime.” (Carolyn See The Washington Post)

“Baker writes with appealing charm. He clowns and shows off rambles and pounces hard; he says acute things, extravagant things, terribly funny things.” (Richard Eder Los Angeles Times Book Review)

“[A] winning new book. . . . This singular writer . . . can mount an argument skillfully and deliver an efficient conclusive kick.” (The San Francisco Chronicle)

“A fundamentally radical author . . . you can never be sure quite where Baker is going to take you. . . . [He] is an essayist in the tradition of GK Chesterton and Max Beerbohm, writing winning fantasies upon whatever chance thoughts may come into his head.” (Financial Times (London))

“Baker looks at the world around us in a way that is not only artful and entertaining but instructive.” (Charleston Post & Courier)

“Mr. Baker is a wise and amiable cultural commentator worth listening to. . . . [his] prose is polished, witty . . . his essays are always provocative and entertaining.” (Cynthis Crossen The Wall Street Journal)

“Baker's new essay collection, The Way the World Works, is always absorbing, merging his interest in solid, tangible objects with his devotion to the life of the mind. . . . simply dazzling.” (Seattle Times)

“Exhilarating . . . Eye-opening . . . Baker continues his project of bringing new dimensions and idiosyncrasies to the personal essay, which he is devoted to reviving and reinventing.” (The Boston Globe)

“If only more of the literary world worked the way Baker does. . . . You cannot deny the courage of the writer. . . . Baker is singular.” (The Buffalo News)

About the Author

Nicholson Baker is the author of nine novels and four works of nonfiction, including Double Fold, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in Maine with his family.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Cerebral Recalibration Aug. 10 2012
By The Ginger Man - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Baker's essays range in length from a page ("How I met my wife") to 27 pages explaining his stand on pacifism. His subject matter varies just as widely. He writes about the difference in the reading experience between a book and text on a Kindle. He decries the destruction (or "weeding") of books from the San Francisco library system as it converts to digital content. Baker lovingly describes Venetian gondolas, New York Times content in 1951, the works of Daniel Defoe and John Updike, Flash Papers from 1841 and Sundays spent at the dump.

As always, Baker turns his eye to things that most of us either do not see or do not know we are seeing. He is intrigued by the writing on the wings of airplanes that can be viewed from his seat ("Press here on latch to ensure locking.") He has noticed that quote marks are no longer used to delineate a characters thoughts in works of fiction and wonders if this is a bad thing. He can talk at length about earplugs or telephones or string.

In a collection of summer memories, Baker juxtaposes the important with the seemingly forgettable. In this essay, he challenges the reader to consider why some events, smells, persons, etc become stuck in memory while others fall out as lost pieces of the past. What is the mechanism that catches shards of time while letting other moments, perhaps with more resonance, drift away forever?

In the end, the most important feature of Baker's essays is not the content but the style of his writing. Lev Grossman of Time summarizes perfectly: "his prose is so luminescent and precise, it manually recalibrates our brains." Because of this, these entries should be selected in a leisurely manner and read slowly. They allow entry into a literate and fascinating mind, much as the reading experience is described by Baker in the essay "Inky Burden." Once the reader has done this, he may not necessarily see the world more fully but he should at least be increasingly aware that there is more to see within the limits of perception and that there is much that is being missed.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Essays that (mostly) work Dec 24 2012
By Sam Quixote - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a collection of Nicholson Baker's essays from the 90s to 2011, taking in subjects as far ranging as libraries and their stock, bits of string, learning to play "Modern Warfare" on Xbox, reviewing the Kindle, as well as providing short bios of Steve Jobs and David Remnick. As you would expect, the essays vary in quality but for the most part they are entertaining, informative, and compulsively readable.

I actually read his article on Kindle 2 a couple of years ago in the New Yorker and still found it interesting to re-read even if his arguments are moot as a lot of the problems he identifies - screen transitions and resolution, placement of buttons - have been fixed in newer versions of the device. But after Baker's effusive recommendation of Michael Connelly's novel "The Lincoln Lawyer", I ended up reading it, loving it, and reading and loving more of Connelly's books - and to you reading this, I as effusively recommend "The Lincoln Lawyer".

Baker writes fascinating and funny articles on Wikipedia, Google, Daniel DeFoe and his book "A Journal of the Plague Year", and David Remnick. He's also able to take mundane objects like string and turn them into hypnotic essays, while I thought the structure of his essay of events that happened one summer to be an inspired and riveting approach to memory and recollection, as well as some vivid and poetic observations.

Not that the whole book was brilliant, I did have some problems with a few essays. The book is divided up into categories like "Life", "Reading", "Technology", "War" and so on. His numerous articles on libraries and archiving went on a bit too long. The first few were interesting to read but by the end of the section "Libraries and Newspapers" I didn't want to read any more essays critiquing libraries sending thousands of stack books to the dump. I get it, you like old stuff, move on!

I abandoned his essay on gondolas as it was too boring - Baker has a habit, oftentimes good, of over-describing things and while I usually enjoy this approach, the extensive descriptions of gondolas and their history overwhelmed me with boredom. The same could be said of his description of a protest march in DC against the wars in the Middle East, while his essay on computer games was strangely humourless and uninteresting. It read like exactly what it was: an old man doing something he hadn't done before because he knew he wouldn't enjoy it and proving that he was right while misunderstanding why people younger than him enjoy them. Disappointing.

While it's not a perfect collection, when I read an essay I liked, it was always brilliant and enlightening and I can away feeling wiser and happier, and that's a rare gift for any writer to possess. Also having read a number of Baker's novels it's interesting to see the passing interests he mentions being the root of certain books. Like he mentions studying how to write erotic novels in 2006 and, sure enough, in 2011 he published an erotic novel called "House of Holes" while his essays on libraries led to his book "Double Fold" and his discovery of newspaper articles from the 1930s would lead to his controversial revisionist history book "Human Smoke". Altogether "The Way The World Works" is an oftentimes brilliant collection of essays from a superb writer which is well worth a look even if you end up skipping a few articles along the way.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Another Excellent Collection of Essays July 3 2014
By H. J. Romero - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Common to all the author's efforts (I've read about 6 of his books), Baker has a hypersensitive awareness of the minutiae of day-to-day life that is unsurpassed by any other writer that I've had the opportunity to read (the one possible exception being William Gibson). He is able to effectively communicate that awareness to the reader with an intimacy that is rivaled only by that which is shared in late night, quiet discussions of commonalities with a close friend over coffee or beer. It is always a pleasure to read Baker's essays to see what new, unexpected observation might be revealed on the next page. It may be something you might have noticed as a subtle connection in your seemingly ordinary experience that you didn't think anyone else had, or else something that had never occurred to you at all, but seems obvious in the telling.
A variety show March 15 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Much entertaining writing that displays a person of wide interests and a clever way of writing them. A good guide for looking at our daily experiences.
some parts are very interesting but others utterly boring Jan. 7 2015
By Ron-book - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One gets the impression that Mr Baker wrote part of this collection as an ' aide-memoire' while other chapters give the reader new perspectives on important human issues. While Baker tries to be unique in is rumbling thoughts, the result is usually boring, a waste of time, paper and ink.