Friday, 19 December 2014

Review: '100 Skills for the End of the World as we Know It' by Ana Maria Spagna

I requested this book because I really think I need to work on my skills before the end of the world! Thankfully 100 Skills is a great way to make you into a a regular Robinson Crusoe!
What skills will you need after a global catastrophe? Whether it’s the end of oil, an environmental disaster, or something entirely unforeseen, Ana Maria Spagna outlines 100 skills you’ll find indispensable for life after the apocalypse. Once the dust has settled, you’ll need to know how to barter, perform basic first aid, preserve food, cut your own hair, clean a chimney, navigate by the stars, stitch a wound, darn socks, and sharpen blades. You’ll also want to build a stable and safe community, so you’ll need to master the arts of conversation, child raising, listening, music making, and storytelling. This fascinating and entertaining book, full of quirky illustrations by artist Brian Cronin, will provoke surprise, debate, and laughter while it provides a road map to greater self-reliance and joy, whatever the future brings.
This book is  very accessible and readable. Manuals about anything can be very dreary and long at times. Just page upon page of advice, half of which isn't useful or relevant and lacking any kind of order. Thankfully 100 Skills suffers from none of those problems. Spagna clearly spent a lot of thought on which skills to include and how to describe them. How much can be said about daydreaming or about lumbering without becoming repetitive and too didactic? By keeping her descriptions and examples short and too the point, with the occasional joke thrown into the mix, Spagna makes sure that the skills are both interesting and fun.

Spagna writes very clearly and precisely. On the one hand she has to actually describe the skills and on the other hand she has to keep the reader slightly engaged. What I think she decided to go for was to create the kind of book that you can flick through, open up on random pages and have a short read, rather than a book which is read continuously. Reading about one skill after the other might get tiresome eventually, whereas 100 Skills works best when it is occasionally picked up. Brian Cronin's drawings are great and offer some humorous asides to the different skills. They are very colourful as well, which kindly distracts you from the fact you're preparing for the end of the world.

To a certain extent I had hoped for a bit more humour in this book. When I requested it I thought it might be a crack book, in the sense that it would recommend hoarding on spam because that's exactly what you want to eat during the apocalypse. Instead, I accidentally learned something while reading through this book! It was fascinating to see how many options humanity has to provide for themselves if we could not rely on electricity etc. The wide variety of skills upon which our society relies is quite astounding, especially when it comes to provision of food etc. Although I won't spontaneously start keeping bees or become a blacksmith, 100 Skills has definitely made me very aware of how many processes go into maintaining the life most of us lead at the moment.

I give this book...

3 Universes.

I really enjoyed flicking through this book and teaching myself about the different skills needed to survive the world. Unfortunately there isn't a lot to keep the reader completely fascinated for the whole book, but as a coffee table book 100 Skills is definitely recommendable. Cronin's drawings go beautifully with Spagna's writing, creating something that's not only interesting but also beautiful to look at.

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