Writing a What If Book Summary

August 19, 2023
David Sunnyside

When writing a what if book summary, it's important to avoid writing an academic account of the plot, which can end up reading like a textbook and detract from the overall experience. Instead, try to include information that is critical to understanding the broader themes of the story and how it is developed throughout the chapters. This can be difficult, but it's essential to the overall success of your book.

In What If, Randall Munroe (author of the web comic xkcd and its accompanying platform for fielding wacky questions) takes a series of absurd hypotheticals and explores the scientific principles behind them. The result is a collection of serious and often amusing insights into the nature of our universe.

Munroe's approach to his subject is different from more traditional popularizers with an explicit educational mission, in that he relies on the work of other scholars rather than attempting to repurpose academic material for a broader audience. Nonetheless, his writing is grounded in rigorous scholarship.

For example, he uses citations of government documents (notably data safety sheets) and international standards to help support his answer to the question "When will there be more dead people on Facebook than living ones?" He also cites the computational knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha for calculations and conversions.

In addition to his scholarly sources, Munroe also uses open access resources, which is a crucial part of the project's success. This reflects the way in which his work reaches its audience, as well as the larger information landscape from which his readers draw their own curiosity about the world around them.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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