cover image The Way the World Works: Essays

The Way the World Works: Essays

Nicholson Baker. Simon & Schuster, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4165-7247-3

Whether it’s his two-page reflection on why he likes the telephone, or his heady tome on why he is a pacifist, novelist and essayist Baker (Double Fold, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award) is a delight to read. In this diverse collection of essays, spanning 15 years, Baker offers gorgeous prose and poses important questions about our era of digital readership. As he notes in his essay on the Kindle 2, there is a distinction between a writer’s work and its presentation in book form. Many essays staunchly defend the reading of print books and newspapers, including “Narrow Ruled,” in which he shares how he reads closely—“when I come across something I really like in a book, I put a little dot in the margin.” A proud defender of libraries and newspapers, Baker acknowledges the perception of him as “a weirdo cultist, a ringleader” for books. While his musings on video games and the neighborhood trash dump are memorable, the collection’s real value lies in its essays on reading. Baker practices what he preaches by collecting his own work, so that somewhere, people will be turning paper pages. Though it would have been wonderful if the collection included a new, unpublished essay, readers of this book will still find themselves agreeing with him: books are still worth getting. Agent: Melanie Jackson. (Aug.)