Read The Way the World Works by Nicholson Baker Online


New York Times bestselling author Nicholson Baker, “who writes like no one else in America” (Newsweek), has assembled his best nonfiction writing over the last fifteen years, a trove of original and provocative pieces.The Way the World Works, Nicholson Baker’s second essay collection, ranges over the map of life to examine what ails us, what eases our pain, and what givesNew York Times bestselling author Nicholson Baker, “who writes like no one else in America” (Newsweek), has assembled his best nonfiction writing over the last fifteen years, a trove of original and provocative pieces.The Way the World Works, Nicholson Baker’s second essay collection, ranges over the map of life to examine what ails us, what eases our pain, and what gives us joy. Baker—recently hailed as “one of the most consistently enticing writers of our time” by The New York Times Book Review—moves from political controversy to the intimacy of his own life, from forgotten heroes of pacifism to airplane wings, telephones, paper mills, David Remnick, Joseph Pulitzer, the OED, and the manufacture of the Venetian gondola. In the book’s title essay, Baker surveys our fascination with video games while attempting to beat his teenage son at Modern Warfare 2; in a celebrated essay on Wikipedia, he describes his efforts to stem the tide of encyclopedic deletionism. Through all these pieces (for The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and other publications), Baker shines the light of an inexpugnable curiosity; The Way the World Works is a keen-minded, generous-spirited compendium by a modern American master....

Title : The Way the World Works
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ISBN : 9781416572473
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Way the World Works Reviews

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-03-27 10:24

    If you liked The Bible, you may enjoy The KoranBecause you liked The Texas Chain Saw Massacre you may also like 30 Minute Meals: Quick And Delicious Recipes For People With Busy Lives. Step-By-Step [Kindle Edition] by Jeff Steel Because you are currently reading In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower by Marcel Proust, we suggest Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody and Lolita Japanese Fungirls by AnonBased on your I Hated These Books shelf we think you’ll love The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho and The Bible by AnonFrequently bought together : Middlemarch by George Eliot and The Human Centipede Full Sequence (Blu-Ray)Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought a signed photograph of George W Bush, garden secateurs and a pocket badminton setWhat Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item? : Ilse, She-Devil of the SS, House of 1000 Corpses and Bikini Bloodbath Carwash. We suggestWe suggestBased on your past life, you ought to read : The Bhagavad Gita or How to Save Your Marriage - When Your Spouse Doesn't Want To (Growing in Love for Life Series Book 7) [Kindle Edition] by Liam Naden or Lonely Planet Guide to North AlbaniaBased on tracking every data point in your life, every bar code, every thoughtless purchase, every unguarded remark, every CCTV appearance, every social network phatic throatclearing and self-deprecatory handwringing, based on your kinship network and professional affiliates, your charitable donations, your travel plans, all those photographs stored in the Cloud, based on all of this, we suggestWe suggestWe suggest you may We suggest you mayhave a problemWe suggest you meet us one evening around 8 pm on Pont Saint-MichelCustomers you love frequently buy : household cleaning items such as : Omo, durable floor cloths and pet accessories and toys like The New Three Layers Pet Toys Intelligence Crazy Play Cat Tray

  • Andy
    2019-03-22 08:59

    I've always been a big Nicholson Baker fan and this offering didn't disappoint. Collection of essays ranging on his more typical writings on everyday minutiae to two very good sections devoted to Technology (including a look back on the Kindle introduction) and War (featuring a thought-provoking piece, "While I'm a Pacifist.."). Great way to sample a unique writer.

  • Owain Lewis
    2019-04-03 11:05

    A charming read. Baker is brilliant at interrogating the everyday and throwing new light on the things most of us take for granted. I think he is best when he starts meandering but there's some really insightful stuff here on the importance of actual books and research collections as opposed to digital content. My only real criticism is that I felt the section on war was possibly a little misplaced. Although it is a perfectly legitimate thing to write about it altered the tone too jarringly for me. I was enjoying the reasonably unweightyness of the banter up until that point.

  • Kate
    2019-03-24 04:06

    After I read the final essay, the acknowledgements, and the 'about the author' I flipped back through the book and thought, "Oh, man, why did I finish this? Now I'm no longer reading it!" I guess it had to happen. This is a pretty awesome book, especially if you don't mind meandering in unexpected directions. Nicholson Baker writes essays that make me love life, the bad with the good. It's just so Interesting to be alive.

  • Sam Quixote
    2019-04-01 06:57

    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.

  • Alice
    2019-03-22 05:23

    Essays from the master of minutiae, divided by subject. I got a bit bogged down in the 'Libraries' section (saving libraries is a worthy cause, and Baker perhaps got a bit carried away), enjoyed the 'Technology' even though some of it is, inevitably, already out of date, but my favourite pieces were those filed under 'Life'. Writing beautifully about the ordinary things that so often go unnoticed is this author's superpower.

  • Edward Sullivan
    2019-03-25 06:56

    A mixed bag as it usually is with collections like these. Some of the essays are great, some good, and a few so-so. Baker is a writer who is consistently eloquent and interesting. I especially enjoyed his essays on libraries and reading.

  • Chance Lee
    2019-03-23 08:57

    I read more of this for school, so most of this "review" is my discussion board post copy/pasted. I flipped through Nicholson Baker's essay collection The Way the World Works. Baker is an author of fiction (from semi-autobiographical stream-of-consciousness works The Mezzanine and Traveling Sprinkler to pornographic fantasy novels The Fermata and House of Holes), non-fiction (topics range from the history and future of the American library and the Holocaust), and personal essay/memoir (he has a book about how much he loves John Updike). I love this man and his writing and love any opportunity to squirrel into his brain and stay there for a while, whether he's at a Korean technology expo or playing video games with his son.With that gushing out of the way, I have to say that this collection of essays, as a collection, is exhausting. Baker is a meticulous collector of the minutiae of every day life (like a walking library). The work he does is so important. When human civilization is gone, his books will be some of the few things that show, well, the way the world works. He talks in detail about tying shoes, why sandwiches are best eaten after being cut into triangles, and what the box that the Kindle 2 came in back in 2009 looked like ("There was another pull strip on the side, which said, 'Once upon a time.' I'd entered some nesting Italo Calvino world of packaging. (Calvino's Italian folktales aren't yet available at the Kindle store, by the way.) I pulled again and opened. Within, lying faceup in a white-lined casket, was the device itself.") None of this may seem important in the grand scheme of things, but these small details are like the DNA that constructs our culture. Easy to overlook, but without them, we'd cease to exist. There would be no grand scheme of things. He alludes to this in an essay about Wikipedia, saying, "A librarian, K.G. Schneider, recently proposed a Wikimorgue -- a bin of broken dreams where all rejects could still be read, as long as they weren't libelous or otherwise illegal. Like other middens, it would have much to tell us over time. We could call it Deletopedia." I love that. Baker's works, like these deleted articles, are things that many people might deem irrelevant and deletable, but what we delete often says as much, if not more, about us than what we keep. I can see why he relates to these deleted articles.Baker is a great choice for a discussion about details. He is a details-for-details-sake kind of writer, but I don't mean that in a bad way. He collects details in a near-anthropological sense. His details give a vivid view of the world, and that's what many of his essay are about -- the way the world works. They reveal facets of human nature in an interesting way, and he allows the reader to do with the details whatever the reader wants to do.The Way the World Works is divided into five sections: Life, Reading, Libraries and Newspapers, Technology, and War (although Baker cheats a bit and includes his PlayStation 3 essay, "Painkiller Deathstreak," one of the most brilliant pieces of videogame writing I've read, in the War section, perhaps because he talks about Call of Duty.) Most of these essays were printed elsewhere, and some are transcripts of speeches Baker has given or are introductions he wrote for other books.The essays in "Life" are the most memoir-y and experimental. He writes about how he met his wife, a day at the dump, and what happened on April 29, 1994. I enjoyed these the most. Baker's characteristic sweetness is present. He comes across as charming and likeable by the wide-eyed innocent way he catalogs every minute detail and brings them to you, saying "Look what I found!" He often includes lots of opinion and reflection as well, before moving on to the next little heap of details, and most of the essays end with a strong image that sums up his essay. His essay "Sunday at the Dump" is about going to the dump, watching people at the dump, and how sometimes you can find perfectly good things at the dump. Like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. The Dump = Life. Baker concludes: "A few times every Sunday, one of the crew drives the toothed bucket of a backhoe deep into the container full of cardboard to compress it: as the motor strains, the dropping arm of the machine disappears into the welter of boxes [...] and then it withdraws, like a hand reaching into a basketful of tickets at a raffle to pick the winner." His vivid descriptions paint the scene before your eyes and his simile evokes the lottery-like atmosphere of the small-town dump.The rest of Baker's essays are a mixed bag. As the writings are for a specific audience in many of these (for a magazine or a journal) they are often extremely specific. I love libraries as much as the next guy, but Baker's long essays about libraries feel like they're written for librarians and other library employees, so I skimmed a lot of them. This is the flip-side of Baker's technique. When he's talking about something I can relate to or that I find interesting, I LOVE HIM SO MUCH OMG, but sometimes he can't convince me to care about what he's talking about, especially in his more "academic" essays. (I can read his fiction, even though it's very autobiographical, over and over and over.) I do enjoy that he works his wry humor into all pieces. Here's a line in an essay about libraries being "upgraded" and over-weeding their collecitons, which results in thousands of books being thrown away: ("Question 67 on page 90 of Sanitation Workers [a discarded boo] asks you to choose the last phrase of the following jumbled sentence: 'the book / the top shelf / of the bookcase / wanted was on / which she.' The answer is 'of the bookcase':'The book which she wanted was on the top shelf of the bookcase.' Not in the back of a DPW truck.")Many of his essays on reading also double as essays on writing, since Baker is also a writer. There's a thoughtful essay called "I Said to Myself" about the nature of thought and how it is depicted in writing. Should internal thoughts be enclosed in quotation marks (as many classic authors like Henry James and Joseph Conrad did) or italics (like pretty much everyone today) or is it time to evolve this thought further? I'd recommend this essay to anyone interested in writing. I haven't read the War section yet, but I found essays I like in all sections. As a collection, this is valuable for the Baker completist, but I'm not sure anyone else would really benefit from owning the entire collection. Look him up in the New Yorker archives and sample him there, or read some of his fiction.

  • Devi
    2019-03-25 10:16

    Nach diesem Band mit persönlichen Essays von Nicholson Baker über seine "early years", Das Lesen, Bibliotheken, Kriege und Technikkram ist er mir noch sympathischer. Baker kann unglaublich gut Dinge beschreiben und sie damit auf dem Papier lebendig werden. Er hat sehr viele tolle Dinge über das Lesen und über die Notwendigkeit von Bibliotheken / Archivieren von analogen Büchern geschrieben. Ich gehe mit Bakers Ansichten über Kriege, politische Interventionen sehr d'accord. Eine unbedingte Leseempfehlung.

  • Douglas
    2019-04-11 09:04

    I had seen news stories where Mr. Baker was protesting electronic card catalogs. I had assumed he was some sort of silly Luddite. Shows how wrong news can be. As a successful writer, he's been using computers since DOS and he totally understands the digital world, from the ones and zeroes to the huge server farms in the cloud.Excellent, thought provoking and entertaining essays. I highly recommend all his work. Even the ones I don't entirely agree with.

  • Matt
    2019-03-24 12:26

    I'll admit that I didn't read every last essay in this book--just the ones that grabbed my interest upon perusal. But Baker makes for amusing and occasionally rather insightful company.His essays on technology and libraries give us pause in turning libraries into vacuous temples of technology, bereft of the serendipity of browsing stacks, of a sense of diachronous time, and of... books! Though his critique of the Kindle is by now dated, he helped me put a finger on what I don't like about "e-readers": they are simply reading in two dimensions instead of three. A physical book has thickness as well as length and width, and you progress through that thickness. Further, a book bears the memory through time of its existence, as the pages yellow and you notice signs of previous readers which remind you that you read in the midst of a community. Books are more than bare, spare, easily uploaded and downloaded, context-bereft collections of data.These essays were also dangerous for me at a time where I was just about to justify downsizing my collection of physical books, lol! The joy of cultivating a collection, of having such books selected and accessible, even if no one reads them for a good many years, is something Baker describes ably.His essay on pacifism, "Why I'm a Pacifist," is about the bravest attempt to argue a pacifist approach to WWII that I have ever read. In short, he argues that the Allies "absolute surrender" approach to Germany actually exacerbated the Holocaust rather than (eventually) putting an end to it. "The Holocaust continued, and the firebombing continued: two parallel, incommensurable, war-born leviathans of pointless malice that fed each other and could each have been stopped long before they were... [Pacifists proposed:] Create safe havens, call an armistice, negotiate a peace that would guarantee the passage of refugees. We should have tried. If the armistice plan failed, then it failed. We could always have resumed the battle. Not trying leaves us culpable." (p. 275-273) He quotes Jessie Hughan that war is "an ineffective and inhuman means to any end, however just" (p. 274). His arguments give you pause at least.Some of his essays are lighter and more humorous, such as "The Charms of Wikipedia." There, he describes the appeal of Wikipedia and other such "social" websites and games as follows: "They hook you because they are solitary ways to be social: you keep checking in, peeking in, as you would to some noisy party going on downstairs in a house while you're trying to sleep" (p. 193). "Solitary ways to be social"--exactly.Lastly, reading him writing about playing video games with his son--"Painkiller Deathstreak"--is just pure amusement and wry observations that I identify with all too easily.

  • Jonathan Karmel
    2019-04-05 10:05

    These are mostly short, autobiographical stories, with some non-fiction pieces that were published in magazines. Not sure why this kind of book is classified as "essays."Baker is a great writer, even when writing about some pretty mundane topics. The first piece, "string," about flying kites, is good. I also liked "Sunday at the Dump," which captures what's great about "dumps"; actually, I think he's talking about what I would call a transfer station, where people bring trash, recyclables, compost and other stuff like dirty oil, and separate them into different bins; then, the stuff is taken elsewhere. It is the place in town where everyone goes, everything has its place, and everyone seems to be happily discarding what they don't want, or perhaps picking up a used item that someone else no longer wants.There are a couple of essays advocating pacifism, including one that argues that the pacifists in America during World War II were right. I don't agree, but I still thought this was interesting to read.There are a number of pieces about reading, writing, newspapers and libraries, including one about different ways that writers indicate a character's thoughts. There's a great review of Ammon Shea's book Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages. Shea discovered the following words: acnestis--the part of an animal's back that the animal can't reach to scratch; bespawl--to splatter with saliva; deipnophobia--the fear of dinner parties; kankedort--an awkward situation; petrichor--the loamy smell that rises from the dry ground after a rain; prend--a mended crack; the "near-homonyms" incompetible--outside the range of competency; repertitious--found accidentally; vicambulist--a person who wanders city streets.There are peons of praise for David Remnick (and the New Yorker generally), and Steve Jobs (and Apple products generally). There are a few essays extolling the pleasure of real books and newspapers, and the libraries that preserve them, as opposed to "digital content." The author himself helped preserve old copies of New York World.I also really liked "The Charms of Wikipedia," which contains some examples of articles that have been edited in funny ways as a joke. For example, the Wikipedia article for "Pop Tarts" for a certain period of time apparently just said "NIPPLES AND BROCCOLI!!!!"

  • Michael
    2019-04-01 11:13

    Although I grew up in a household with a computer, and attended an elementary school that acknowledged Apple Computers as being a potential advantage in their curriculum, I find myself lacking the underlying principles and ground work for truly effective computing. I do not program, build information architecture, code, work in dos, have an encyclopedic knowledge of great hacks throughout history - what I do know is that much of life is capable of efficiency with or without computers and the steady flow of reliable information they can occasionally produce. A lot can be said for a simpler life, without the constant interaction of information.It is nice to read a series of essays that attempts to quantify the need to seek greater and greater control over that information - in order to more thoroughly profit from it. It is also nice to know when the information being provided is deliberately falsified, in order to subvert the work or time one might spend posting photos, sharing stories, writing jokes, building and burning bridges - it's even nice to know that yes, it can actually happen. A hacker can easily place bad information anywhere on the internet, an innocent person can pick it up as truth, and proceed to utilize that piece of erroneous information as a battering ram on all of the hard work he or she may have accomplished. One bad apple spoils the bunch, as they say.Baker's Wikipedia essay does a great job in making this clearly evident. Maybe not all people can comprehend the humor or the insight of misplaced information, and rely instead upon a lack of irony to guide them through their dealings on the internet - the conflict must surely arise out of these two groups never actually meeting in real life, and carrying out their "...flame wars..." in an environment completely of their own creation. Read through the Rants and Raves of your local Craigslist, write down some of the things that are said. Memorize them. Then, walk through a mental health wing of your local hospital. Go to an insane asylum. Visit the Criminally ill. You'll find a lot of the same words, phrases, rhetoric and played out misconceptions being used by people who, given the opportunity, would harm and injure strangers for no other purpose than their own profit.

  • Kurtbg
    2019-04-03 07:18

    I usually like essays... or thought-provoking collections of stories from writers from of major publications, like Nicholson Baker. I enjoy Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Jay Gould, and I would even say Oliver Sacks falls into this category. Those writers often explore the peculiar, or the natural world, and deliver something unto the reader to educate, entertain, and tickle the brain. On the other end of the spectrum I would put Garrison Keillor, or Helen Husher who write of a local nostalgia, culture to give a flavor of somwhere and somewhen else.I'm not quite sure where to place JB. The stories are kinda offbeat, but i rarely found the little spark that allows a reader to connect to the writers wonder of what would at first glance, seem offbeat. It seemed to me like the writings are for a time capsule for a local town, and the government reviewer is explaining to kept it straight-forward, don't rock boats. What, you want to talk about old periodicals that few remember, that sounds ok.I'll admit, perhaps these stories were wonderfully crafted and assembled to provide abstracts buckets that tackle how the world works - but I didn't get it.I do enjoy nostalgia, and the fact that something was once embraced, or had it's time ran it's course. There's an interest in understanding why things changed. Was it fair? Was it for the better?There was one story that put a blip in the general flatline of my reading brainpulse, and that was the one titled, "Why I'm a pacifist". It just seemed wrong, and it irritated me. Not because of what was written, but that one aspect of a much larger and complex piece during a specific historical time was removed from a bloodied gordion knot, and they used to state a case for a viewpoint, which the author believes, is the correct one. That's like saying swedish fish candy is the best candy without having included chocolate malt balls in the assessment.

  • Amanda
    2019-04-20 09:01

    It seems like I started this book long ago. It's a book of essays by Nicholson Baker. Baker makes me understand the possibilities of being a writer. If you are a writer, you can write about anything.I liked a lot of essays here. There was a good mix of super duper scholar nerd essays and goober guy moving through the world with curiosity essays. Some memories: The essay about the guy who reads the OED, where Baker explores words and linguistics. The chapter on preserving books and magazines from library weeding. The essay on wikipedia in its forming stages with really detailed snapshots of changing definitions, the essay on playing video games, going to the dump,the gondolas and the trip to Venice, essays on Kindle and Google adwords, on the papermill closing down, on being a Pacifist.In terms of titles,a few stick out. Like I think he heard his wife say when flipping through old mags, "Take a Look at that Airship," So he wrote an essay, "Take a Look at that Airship" so he could say how his wife said that. It's like taking all of the kitchen conversations and putting them into a book, but making it really about topics and not about his life. Another title was, "We Don't Know the Language We Don't Know" an antiwar piece talking about a Vets for Peace protest, where someone talks about the timeline of US participation in wars. Now, the United States puts trillions of dollars and lives into fighting a war where "we don't know the language we don't know." The last essay brings it all back to being a writer, and writing the book, how it all gets into a flow in one place.I do enjoy reading Nicholson Baker but I suspect I wouldn't like meeting him in real life.Oh. There was reading while snuggling. It's true.Oh. Investigate Madeline the book dealer in Lower Manhattan who owns twenty thousand dictionaries. Links author Baker and Ammon Shea: Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages.

  • JoanneClarke Gunter
    2019-03-25 10:13

    I love Nicholson Baker. Okay, I don't actually know Nicholson Baker, but I love his writing and the part of him that always comes through in every book, every essay. He writes detailed stories quite often about the everyday and the mundane or about things that interest him. And what interests Nicholson Baker usually interests me, even if I didn't know it interested me until I read what he wrote. While I enjoyed every essay in this book, as is usually the case with collections of essays or short stories, there are stand-outs. These were the stand-outs for me: 1. "The Nod" - A tribute to John Updike upon his death which was read by the author at the Kennedy Library's "Tribute to John Updike".2. "David Remnick" - A wonderful essay about the esteemed editor of The New Yorker. 3. "The Times in 1951" - A loving essay written for the 150th anniversary issue of the New York Times.4. "Grab Me a Gondola" - An interesting and admiring essay about Venetian gondolas and their proud owners. A treat for me because I have such fond memories of enchanting rides in Venetian gondolas.5. "The Charms of Wikipedia" - A very charming essay about Wikipedia and its editing craziness, especially in the early days. 6. "Kindle 2" - An essay about the pluses and minuses of the e-reader. I don't use an e-reader, so I found this essay especially interesting and likable. 7. "Painkiller Deathstreak" - An essay about the author and his son trying out various popular video games. I am not a gamer, but I loved this essay because it gave me a clearer understanding of the excitement that draws in gamers and keeps them hooked. If you are already a Nicholson Baker fan, this book will not disappoint. If you aren't a fan as yet, this book could make you one.

  • Full Stop
    2019-03-23 10:21 by Sam KrowchenkoI pegged Nicholson Baker as a Luddite midway through his new essay collection, The Way the World Works. In a speech titled “If Libraries Don’t Do It, Who Will?” he chides research libraries for digitizing their collections rather than keeping “the obscure things, the cumbersome things that even though they’re used only once in ten years or thirty years or fifty years are valuable because they are what people published and read.” But later he confesses, “I’m fond of Google.” And admits, “Wikipedia is just an incredible thing.” And praises the iPad as a “brilliant, slip-sliding rectangle of private joy.” What happened to the crank who wanted library shelves overflowing with “cumbersome things?”Time, maybe. He wrote the speech the same year he published an entire book on the subject (Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper). The first of those technology pieces, “The Charms of Wikipedia,” arrived eight years later. Yet the Wikipedia piece also reveals the underlying cause that links Baker, Champion of Paper with Baker, Champion of Internet: preservation. In it, he chronicles his efforts to protect Wikipedia articles on smaller, more obscure topics from deletion. “I have a secret hope,” he writes. “A librarian, K.G. Schneider, recently proposed a Wikimorgue – a bin of broken dreams where all rejects could still be read….[It] would have much to tell us over time.”Read more here:

  • Mark Buchignani
    2019-03-20 11:00

    Nicholson Baker is an extraordinary recorder of the everyday. His work – when the primary topic isn't sex, not that sex isn't everyday, but those novels have a different tenor – unjoins the nuts and bolts of life, displaying the threads, the grease, the wear and tear. And soon the reader is in among tiny bits – bits littering roadways, sidewalks, backyards, office buildings, automobile trunks, auditoriums – littering everywhere there are people dropping life minutia and walking on. The Way the World Works is a collection of essays, each of which sets the record straight about Something – or exhibits the record according to Baker. And an enjoyable record it is.Learn of Ammon Shea's book about reading the whole of the OED, and about the wars of deletion under Wikipedia's hood, and about the authors’ pacifism, and about the Way the World Works. All interesting tidbits, often inconsequential to the lives of most, but fascinating and vital to the whole of life.Baker introduces his book by in part saying that he "allowed myself to believe that I was helping to bring back the personal essay, which had fallen out of fashion." Here's to Baker's contribution to its reinstatement, and an entertaining collection.

  • Richard Watt
    2019-03-31 04:24

    Essays written in Baker's effortlessly elegant prose on many of his favourite topics. Ultimately, your response to this will be driven by whether you share his obsessions and concerns - in particular, if you are not offended by the way American libraries are not preserving print newspapers, fully a quarter of this collection will be less than enthralling to you. His Wikipedia entry is, perhaps, showing its age a little now, and several others are of their time, but the essay on pacifism is, while not perhaps as compelling an argument as he thinks it is, nevertheless powerful and thought-provoking, and - almost - worth the price of admission on its own.If the art of the essayist is close to being relegated to the pages of history, let Nicholson Baker be its standard bearer in a world of 'op-ed' pieces and whimsy. This kind of thing is all too uncommon these days, and it ought to be encouraged - there is much to enjoy here, not least the prose.

  • Mike
    2019-03-26 10:26

    Could revisit with pleasurenotes/quotes50..copying passages..commonplacing84..lant..add urine to wine to give street wanderer89..the Nod..Updike tribute206..Kindle 2, an alpenhorn blast of post-Gutenbergian earthKen auletta....Googled238..the old days, the antegoogluvian era239..line text ads..load fast and are supposedly "polite"..don't flicker and popup240..G-VOICE..CAN EMAIL TRANSCRIPTS OF VM MESSAGES....242..S Jobs..copy247..WHY I'M A pearl harbor & solution accelerated by US entry to the war....Jews lost their value as hostages313..I want to write a book called "The way the world works"..get this ambition most powerfully when I have the feeling that i have right now, that everything is simple. I know I'll never write the book.

  • Hannah
    2019-04-12 06:03

    Baker's "personal" essays, collected under a subsection of this book titled "Life," have a likable tendency to turn out to be about the functioning of some everyday object or the execution of some invisible but necessary task: his description of how to extract pennies from an indoor fountain is enough to make you jealous of the job. Since the tone throughout the first several sections - on the mechanics of old telephones, on the practice of putting interior monologues in quotation marks, on the preservation of defunct newspapers - is one of good-natured conservatism (in the sense of respect and affection for the status quo), the few explicitly political essays strike a slightly jarring note, but I at least was too grateful for Baker's excursuses on the "flash press" and the history of the gondola to care.

  • Kyle
    2019-03-26 08:14

    The gentle wisdom of Nicholson Baker is on display here - his atomic exploration of how we got to be who we are and why. He's a funny investigator of society and its inhabitants on a scale that is micro rather than macro, and his close examinations inform our understanding of the big picture. There is one major misstep - his essay on pacifism is less about why he is a pacifist (which would be a terrific personal essay) than in defending his tin-eared history of World War II, "Human Smoke." An historian he is not, but perhaps that's to be expected given that history on a grand scale - World War II - is the opposite of why I like reading Baker in the first place: his insistence on bringing to light the smallest and least expected parts of our world.

  • Travis Todd
    2019-04-11 05:12

    This is, I believe, the ninth Nicholson Baker book I've read. He pays attention to stuff at a level even most other writers can't approach. After I've spent an extended amount of time in his world I feel as if I'm more awake, and more perceptive, and even more capable of acting as a moral being, although my actual follow-through is usually lacking. And he's funny and unembarrassed to write about sex. Sometimes he'll write about something I am initially bored shitless by but a lot of times I'll come around and appreciate a subject in a way I never would have on my own. The Fermata is still probably my favorite of his, though.

  • Joe
    2019-04-03 11:17

    I review “The Way the World Works” The essays in “Life” are mini-meditations on Baker’s life. In the allegorical “String,” Baker recalls the joy and challenge of flying a kite as a child and always wanting more from the kite, for it to fly higher. Baker plugs his phone-sex novel “Vox,” (1992) in a tiny and droll reminiscence on his fascination for the telephone; in another piece he makes treasure hunting at the dump sound thrilling.Go to my blog:Have Words Will Write ‘Emand then to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.--Joe

  • B. Mason
    2019-03-23 11:17

    Some of the essays in this collection are great, outstanding really and there are others that are quite a bore and not really worth much consideration. The ones in the latter category fall under the purview of introductions (mostly) or quippy pieces that Baker likely dashed off for one publication or another. The really great ones, which the exception of "One Summer", are the longer, more intricate explorations, pretty much all of the pieces in the Technology section and the War section, notably "Painkiller Deathstreak" and "Kindle 2". Read these essays, they're awesome but don't spend your time in the whole collection.

  • Davy
    2019-04-16 05:16

    Nicholson Baker is getting old and cranky and repetitive. I still consider him a favorite, but this collection was pretty uninspired, and the tone was surprisingly dour for him. Even when I basically agree with him, I find myself wanting to disagree just because he sounds so unpleasant. As a librarian, I could certainly do without his antagonism and destructive idealism, as well. Even the pieces regarding his childhood were sort of rote and glum -- and that's the sort of thing he usually knocks out of the park. The book ended on a high note, however, with the video gaming essay. That was definitely entertaining (if a little light), and makes me glad I decided to finish the book.

  • Al
    2019-03-25 03:56

    This was largely "fine," save for two very good essays, one explaining why Baker sued the San Francisco Library, and another explaining his pacifism. There was also one embarrassing essay about the Kindle 2, which was somehow published in the New Yorker? The opening, which I have memorized: "I ordered a Kindle 2 from Amazon. How could I not? There were banner ads for it all over the web." From there it reads as a longer version of the type of personal op-ed one might find in a suburban newspaper. Sort of baffling.

  • Jean
    2019-04-02 06:16

    A collection of essays. Some topics I liked, some I didn't care for - but each was written with carefully selected interesting words and I like that kind of thing. One essay I esp. liked is "One Summer". The author makes me think about and see things in a way I haven't before.Here's an example of a sentence I liked: "A tree was balancing big buds on the finger-ends of its curving branches; the brown bud coverings, which looked like gecko skins, were drawing back to reveal inner loaves of meaty magnolial pinkness."

  • Wj
    2019-04-06 09:02

    If it's simply a collection of essays about everyday life, say so honestly and spare us the big title. Stapling a number of blog like essays together, selling them as a book, and naming it "the way the world works"? It won't do even if the essays are sorted into a few vaguely defined categories. For a book named "the way the world works", one would expect some overarching theme, or at least some deep insights making a coherent picture. But this turns out to be such an "over-promised and under-delivered" book.

  • Mackenzie Brooks
    2019-03-23 10:14

    Baker and I have our differences. He writes well as a journalist, I'm not sure I'd like his fiction. When he describes things I don't know about, he is interesting, but when he describes things I do (libraries, the internet) he comes off like one of those old people trying to explain a young person thing to another old person. That's not very nice, but he needs to watch his get-off-my-lawn vibe. Romanticizing paper and whatnot. The Wikipedia chapter was good.