42: From crosswords to jigsaws to the meaning of life

Another exciting book from A.J. Jacobs!

42: From crosswords to jigsaws to the meaning of life is not the title of the book. As Lewis Carroll might say, it’s not even the name of the book. Nor is it what the book is called. The title of the book is actually The Puzzler. The title of this post is a mashup of the answer and the subtitle of the book.

The answer to what? You probably know.

I hope that’s clear.

And who, you ask, is A.J. Jacobs? Well, I’ve reviewed two of his books in the recent past: The Year of Living Biblically back in 2014, and It’s All Relative: The World’s Family Tree just a few months ago. So check out both reviews, and you’ll learn something about who Jacobs really is.

This fascinating book is all about puzzles: crosswords, jigsaws, Rubik’s solids, puzzle hunts, and so forth. It’s told in Jacobs’s usual engaging style. Definitely not an encyclopedia, it’s a personal account of the author’s journey to find out about—and solve—as many types of puzzles as possible. Usually he goes right to primary sources to find out about them. Along the way the reader meets the author’s family, his friends, and most of all gets to know Jacobs himself.

The Puzzler is a multifaceted work. In addition to all that personal stuff—which permeates all the chapters—you get histories and descriptions of various puzzles; you get a whole bunch of actual puzzles to try for yourself, including a contest!; and you get a well-organized compendium of 18 types of puzzles. You can glean what most of them are by scanning the table of contents:

So…patronize your local library, check out a copy of the book if they have one, or get it through the miracle of Interlibrary Loan if they don’t, read it, and enjoy!

Categories: Books