The Way the World Works, Baker’s second nonfiction collection, ranges over the map of life to examine what troubles us, what eases our pain, and what brings us joy. Baker moves from political controversy to the intimacy of his own life, from forgotten heroes of pacifism to airplane wings, telephones, paper mills, David Remnick, Joseph Pulitzer, the OED, and the manufacture of the Venetian gondola. He writes about kite string and about the moment he met his wife, and he surveys our fascination with video games while attempting to beat his teenage son at Modern Warfare 2. In a celebrated essay on Wikipedia, Baker describes his efforts to stem the tide of encyclopedic deletionism; in another, he charts the rise of e-readers; in a third he chronicles his Freedom of Information lawsuit against the San Francisco Public Library.
Through all these pieces, many written for The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The American Scholar, Baker shines the light of an inexpugnable curiosity. The Way the World Works is a keen-minded, generous-spirited compendium by a modern American master.