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Book Review: How to Invent Everything

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

How to Invent Everything is a fun book with a unique premise – you’re a time traveler who’s somehow gotten stranded in the past, and you’re unable to fix your (rented) time machine on your own…so you check out the manual from the time travel company (aka this book).

Only it isn’t really a manual for the machine. Instead, since fixing the machine is so complicated, they’ve provided you with a manual for how to make past!Earth more like an Earth you’d want to live on, including instructions for how to do things like inventing standardized measurements, figuring out which animals will help you most, and building machines to do all sorts of things for you.

It’s a fun book with all sorts of stuff I didn’t know, and I do think it’s useful for a general overview of human technology/civilization.


There’s two major problems.

First, the instructions aren’t always clear. If I really wanted to learn how to program a computer, for instance, this isn’t the book I’d go to. Even something simpler, like building a kiln or a mill. The basics are there, but not enough.

On a similar note, the book tells you where and when you’d find certain plants/animals, but it doesn’t include enough to identify them. Even a simple description would been helpful; a picture would have been better.

Generally, the book needed a LOT more images. I get that ebooks do have file transfer fees, but still. This needed to be an image-heavy book, and it wasn’t nearly image-heavy enough.

Second, the premise gets a little…


I get what the author was going for, but in some ways it would’ve been better if he hadn’t hammered it in so much.

I did mostly enjoy the book, and it does have some useful information.

But the problems were big enough to knock it down a star.

Therefore it gets

Four Stars

If this is your jam, you can get it here.

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