Skyfaring is about the feeling of flying; the entire book is devoted to this. It's a mesmerizing experiential journey through the mind of a person who is so intimate with this feeling as a professional pilot yet he shares the magic of it with us all so carefully. A truly philosophical transcendence of place to explain the strange phenomena of how modern plane technology still feels old-fashioned, and how the mind and body tries to catch up with the lingering effects of jet lag when bounding from city to city almost like you are cheating the realities of the world and existing in the space between.
Kate Ascher’s previous books, The Works and The Heights, were transfixing. But The Way to Go transcends the usual matrices for measuring “how things work” books. Ascher combines scrupulous research, detailed schematics, clear descriptions, and illuminating diagrams to build a text that is as accessible to kids as it is engaging to adults. The book’s subject matter ranges from ship hull designs to baggage handling procedures at airports, but every page explores an oft-overlooked aspect of contemporary transportation. The Way to Go is sure to be a classic in its genre; it has the scope equivalent to that of Of Human Bondage, the complexity of The Waste Land (but with clarifying drawings), and, like Moby Dick, it contains a lot of information about boats.
According to the Washington Business Journal, the D.C. metropolitan area is the fourth-worst commute in the country and has seen a surge of aggressive driving. The mounting frustration with our world-class gridlock is an ideal backdrop for Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic (Knopf, $24.95), the new Freakonomics for cars. First, Vanderbilt wants us to know that we all overestimate our driving skills; researchers say there are some 2,000 discrete skills we employ in driving, and many of them we do not employ well. Take merging, for example. Deciding when to merge is the single most stressful activity undertaken in daily traffic; to merge early or to merge late is a decision often cast in moralistic tones. Vanderbilt says he used to be an early merger, thinking it was the polite and efficient move. After researching his book, he has become one of those late mergers he previously thought of as selfish jerks.