GeekDad Review: Cool Stuff Exploded by Chris Woodford

Geek Culture

It’s difficult to think of a book title more appealing to geek adults and kids than Cool Stuff Exploded. You may be a bit disappointed to discover that no dynamite or C-4 or such is involved, but if so any disappointment will evaporate once you see the inside of the book. Instead of being about pyrotechnics, it’s full of pictures of all kinds of mechanical and digital devices, gadgets, and machines with their parts pulled apart from one-another.

As usual with DK books, the coolness factor is augmented by, and in no way disturbed by, lots and lots of information. All the parts are meticulously labeled with explanations that describe functionality without getting too technical. There are pieces on things as mundane as a piano, a digital camera, or a cordless drill, and on things as exotic as a digital pen, the London Eye, or futuristic smart glasses.

I wish I’d taken a picture of my (seven-year-old) son’s face when he first opened the book—his eyes widened and he grinned. He sat down and read at least twenty pages right away, and he’s gone back to it many times. Which article is his favorite changes each time I ask. I find the book very cool—I’ve learned quite a bit leafing through the pages, just as he has. I mean, I know how mobile phones and espresso machines work, but seeing the insides is still awesome. And seeing a LEGO Mindstorms robot (which is also lenticularly displayed on the book’s cover) taken apart reminds me how much I really, really want one…for the kids, of course.

The CD-ROM that comes with the book is pretty much unnecessary, unfortunately. All it contains is a bunch of animations of the explosions from the book, without any sort of labelling on the parts. They’re sort of fun to look at, but they add nothing to the content of the book and I doubt many kids would want to see them more than once. It really seems to me that the disc was created solely so DK could market the book with "CD-ROM with Amazing Animations" on the cover.

Cool Stuff Exploded, by Chris Woodford, lists for $24.99. I highly recommend it, though the included CD-ROM is pretty much forgettable.

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