Ryan North, author of How to Take Over the World: Practical Schemes and Scientific Solutions for the Aspiring Supervillain recommends a great set of books! Before jumping into the interview, please check out Ryan's book:
Q. Do you have a favourite smart thinking book (and why that book)?
I remember reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman when I was on my honeymoon, and it was really gripping. And only now, answering this question, am I realizing what an effect it had on me. The premise of The World Without Us is basically a thought experiment: if everyone disappeared suddenly, what happens next? Weisman follows that premise through to its logical conclusion, and I feel you can draw a line between that and my work in nonfiction, where I like to take a fictional premise and use that as a candy coating around the nonfiction. ("You've rented a time machine and it's broken down in the past and now you're reading its repair guide to try to rebuild civilization from scratch" for How To Invent Everything, and "what if you really wanted to pull off comic book supervillain schemes in the real world, how close could you actually get with actual science and technology" for How to Take Over the World).
I just love nonfiction that gives you a reason to care, that motivates why you want to learn about it!
Q. What's the most recent smart thinking book you've read (and how would you rate it)?
I've just started The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow. It's early days yet, but I love the ambition of a title like that, and every once in a while you want to sit down with a giant meaty book filled with big ideas and just blow your mind, you know?
Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book?
I do! The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin. It's a simple story about Grover being afraid of the monster at the end of the book, and then realizing it's only him. But Grover breaks the fourth wall and begs you to stop reading, trying to build walls to slow you down, etc, and it just expanded my idea of what a book could be. Here's a text that plays with you as the reader, engages you, and looking it up just now I see that it's considered a modern classic. Good! It's great! Always nice to have your childhood opinions validated. :)
Q. Do you prefer reading on paper, Kindle or listening to an audiobook?
It depends on the circumstance. In bed an ereader is lighter (and can be self-lit) which is great. Driving or walking my dog Chompsky is clearly the domain of audiobooks, but when I'm reading comics I prefer physical, and of course there's nothing like browing a bookstore and coming home with something new. So I kinda go with whatever format fits the moment!
Q. Do you have a favourite bookshop (and why that shop)?
There's so many bookstores in Toronto with such personality, but I gotta give a special shout out to The Beguiling Books and Art - they stock everything from picture books to comics to prose and beyond, and they're such great supporters of both artists and the arts community. I got The Dawn of Everything from The Beguiling and if you're ever in Toronto, it's absolutely worth a visit!
Many thanks to Ryan for recommending a great set of books! Please don't forget to check out Ryan's book How to Take Over the World: Practical Schemes and Scientific Solutions for the Aspiring Supervillain.
Image Copyrights: Penguin Putnam Inc (How To Take Over The World), Ebury Publishing (The World Without Us), Farrar, Straus and Giroux (The Dawn of Everything), Random House USA Inc (The Monster At the End Of This Book).