“The Where, The Why and The How” by Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman and Matt Lamothe

Where Why HowHow can a book about science be so sought after that in 3 months it is sold out and the publisher decides to reprint it? Well I now I know. “The Where, The Why and The How” is an odd combination of charming and smart.  The authors pose questions that even the internet cannot answer while providing us with modern day mysteries and reinstating the wonder of life.This book reads like an atlas version of a cabinet of curiosities – an encyclopedic collection in Renaissance Europe of types of objects whose categories were not yet defined – touching on 75 topics ranging from “Why do we yawn?” and “Do immortal creatures exist?” to “Why do humans and ants have so much in common?” Each question is described in a few short paragraphs by a scientist in the field who writes in a style that anyone can easily understand, about what we know and what we still do not know on the topic and then provides us with a range of potential answers. The book gives the impression that it will be a long time until any one of these mysteries is unraveled. Yet, it is intriguing to read that during the writing of the book there was one long sought after discovery made: The Higgs Boson.

Like any cabinet of curiosities, it is both physical and visual with a full page for each topic and another for the image creating a nicely self contained subject spread. The images are particularly wonderful as the artists captured the mystery of the themes in styles ranging from a retro 50’s illustration for Gilbert Ford’s “Why do we blush” to Gemma Correll’s cartoonish “Why do cats purr?” and Julia Rothman’s techy/scientific and mechanistic drawing for “What is earth’s hum?” Each fascinating drawing succeeds in giving the reader the chance to think visually about the topic and to experience the wonderful ways that artists captured in image questions like: “What triggers reversals of earth’s polarity?”

 This is an exciting book that is not like any other I have read. It is one that does not provide easy conclusions or simplistic narrative illustrations. It is a book to reflect on over and over again in many different ways and one to savor.

Find it here: Chronicle Books

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