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There are plenty of books out there that aim to tell you how to do something. Whether its DIY home repair or computer programming or self-help or what have you, there’s probably a book that purports to tell you how to do it. These books bill themselves as offering straightforward instructions on doing whatever it is you seek to do.

But maybe you’re not looking for straightforward. Maybe the how-tos (hows-to?) you’re looking for are needlessly complicated, convoluted and/or flat-out absurd. And if they’re illustrated with goofy graphs and jokey stick-figure comic strips, so much the better.

If you fall into the latter category, then Randall Munroe’s “How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Real-World Problems” (Riverhead, $28) is the book you’ve been waiting for. The NASA-roboticist-turned-beloved-webcomic-artist aims his unique perspective and skill set at coming up with ridiculous and technically correct (the best kind of correct) advice for dealing with an assortment of everyday – and occasionally not-so-everyday – issues.

The blend of smart and simple that has marked Munroe’s work since the earliest days of online comic sensation xkcd is in full effect in this new book; he takes real joy in finding that weird intersection of scientific thought and anarchic absurdity … and that joy is evident on every page of this book. He wants you to laugh and to learn as you look at the workings of the world through his own peculiarly and particularly cracked lens.

Published in Tekk

Few writers today have been working the cultural criticism beat as long and as successfully as Chuck Klosterman. To many, his is THE voice when it comes to pop analysis and contextualization. But while his latest book might explore some of those same ideas, it does so through a different literary lens.

“Raised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction” (Penguin, $26) offers the same sort of quick-hit cleverness that permeates Klosterman’s nonfiction, but via a delivery medium of short fiction. Flash fiction, really – none of the 34 pieces that make up this collection is more than a handful of pages and some are considerably shorter.

The book’s subtitle is an accurate one – the tales contained within are brief, fictionalized explorations of the same ideas and hypotheticals that feature prominently in Klosterman’s nonfiction work. They are strange and offbeat, small and skewed glimpses of the zeitgeist through weird-colored glasses – think “Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror,” only in a much bigger hurry. And while they vary in length, style and tone, all of them ring loudly with the author’s distinctive voice.

Published in Buzz

Short story collection finds the exquisite within the unpleasant

Published in Buzz

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