A thoughtful and enthusiastic analysis of how more and more people are inventing and creating truly remarkable products and...

The story behind modern tinkerers, inventors, and creators of all sorts of good stuff.

In a consumer culture, people are often passive, purchasing items that they may or may not need and becoming defined by what they own. However, a new movement is sweeping across the globe: people are experimenting, inventing, and creating primarily for the pleasure it brings them. Dougherty (co-author: Maker City Playbook: A Practical Guide to Reinvention in American Cities, 2016, etc.), the founder of MAKE: Magazine and organizer of the first Maker Faire as well as a co-founder of O’Reilly Media, analyzes the creativity and grass-roots projects that comprise this new trend. “The Maker Movement signals a societal, cultural, and technological transformation that invites us to participate as producers, not just consumers,” he writes. “It is changing how we learn, work and innovate. It is open and collaborative, creative and inventive, hands-on and playful.” Thanks to the internet and open-source software, people can learn how to do anything online, and with the generosity of donations accumulated through sites like Kickstarter, anyone can see his or her ideas become something tangible. Dougherty closely examines several startups, taking readers through the initial bursts of creativity to the nitty-gritty details of finding manufacturers to produce their products to the satisfaction of having created a useful item, often at a fraction of the cost of similar products. He studies how maker workshops have sprung up across the country, providing people with access to tools, supplies, and training so they can invent whatever comes to mind, and he discusses how schools can incorporate maker activities into the curriculum. As he notes, hands-on learning is ideal for the young, inquisitive mind, combining play with the learning of new skills. Dougherty’s enthusiasm for the maker movement is evident, and it will push readers toward finding their own creative outlets.

A thoughtful and enthusiastic analysis of how more and more people are inventing and creating truly remarkable products and services.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62317-074-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: North Atlantic

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016



A quirky wonder of a book.

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020


Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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