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A Walk Around the Block: Stoplight Secrets, Mischievous Squirrels, Manhole Mysteries & Other Stuff You See Every Day (And Know Nothing About)

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A simple walk around the block set journalist Spike Carlsen, bestselling author of A Splintered History of Wood, off to investigate everything he could about everything we take for granted in our normal life—from manhole covers and recycling bins to bike lanes and stoplights. In this celebration of the seemingly mundane, Carlsen opens our eyes to the engineering marvels, h A simple walk around the block set journalist Spike Carlsen, bestselling author of A Splintered History of Wood, off to investigate everything he could about everything we take for granted in our normal life—from manhole covers and recycling bins to bike lanes and stoplights. In this celebration of the seemingly mundane, Carlsen opens our eyes to the engineering marvels, human stories, and natural wonders right outside our front door. He guides us through the surprising allure of sewers, the intricacies of power plants, the extraordinary path of an everyday letter, and the genius of recycling centers—all the while revealing that this awesome world isn’t just a spectator sport. As engaging as it is endearing, A Walk Around the Block will change the way you see things in your everyday life. Join Carlsen as he strolls through the trash museum of New York City; explores the quirky world of squirrels, pigeons, and roadkill; and shows us how understanding stoplights, bike lanes, and the fine art of walking can add years to our lives. In the end, he brings a sense of wonder into your average walk around the block, wherever you are. Guaranteed. 


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A simple walk around the block set journalist Spike Carlsen, bestselling author of A Splintered History of Wood, off to investigate everything he could about everything we take for granted in our normal life—from manhole covers and recycling bins to bike lanes and stoplights. In this celebration of the seemingly mundane, Carlsen opens our eyes to the engineering marvels, h A simple walk around the block set journalist Spike Carlsen, bestselling author of A Splintered History of Wood, off to investigate everything he could about everything we take for granted in our normal life—from manhole covers and recycling bins to bike lanes and stoplights. In this celebration of the seemingly mundane, Carlsen opens our eyes to the engineering marvels, human stories, and natural wonders right outside our front door. He guides us through the surprising allure of sewers, the intricacies of power plants, the extraordinary path of an everyday letter, and the genius of recycling centers—all the while revealing that this awesome world isn’t just a spectator sport. As engaging as it is endearing, A Walk Around the Block will change the way you see things in your everyday life. Join Carlsen as he strolls through the trash museum of New York City; explores the quirky world of squirrels, pigeons, and roadkill; and shows us how understanding stoplights, bike lanes, and the fine art of walking can add years to our lives. In the end, he brings a sense of wonder into your average walk around the block, wherever you are. Guaranteed. 

30 review for A Walk Around the Block: Stoplight Secrets, Mischievous Squirrels, Manhole Mysteries & Other Stuff You See Every Day (And Know Nothing About)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenna ❤ ❀ ❤

    "Knowledge is power; and when you know more about how the world works, you make better decisions as you walk through it." Once upon a time in the days of yore, I took for granted how easy it was to head out the door for a walk around the neighborhood. Such a mundane act that I never thought twice about.  It has now been ten months since I had the luxury of carelessly opening my door, stepping out into the hall, walking down the stairs, opening the door to the outside world, and walking around the "Knowledge is power; and when you know more about how the world works, you make better decisions as you walk through it." Once upon a time in the days of yore, I took for granted how easy it was to head out the door for a walk around the neighborhood. Such a mundane act that I never thought twice about.  It has now been ten months since I had the luxury of carelessly opening my door, stepping out into the hall, walking down the stairs, opening the door to the outside world, and walking around the block. Ten months since many of us felt safe engaging in such an ordinary act.  Perhaps if I had direct access to the outside world, rather than having to first walk through my apartment building where hardly anyone wears a mask and there's no ventilation in the halls for all these people's germs to dissipate... perhaps then I would feel safer heading outside for the simple delight of a walk. Then again, next to none of the people I see outside my windows wear masks either so maybe I still wouldn't venture outdoors.  (This is where I let loose on a massive bitch session, but lucky for you, dear reader, I have pressed the delete key all the way back to the end of the last paragraph.) Let's move along..... Since I can't presently indulge in a carefree stroll, it was fun to set off with author Spike Carlsen for a walk around the block. After dealing with frozen water pipes one cold winter morning, the author realized he knew little about where his water came from, and little about the rest of the world right outside his front door. He decided to figuratively take a walk around his neighborhood, learning about things close to home.  Mr. Carlsen begins with the history of the front porch and then moves on to things like trees, electricity, telephone wires, sewers, asphalt, and alleys. My favourite chapters were the ones on recycling (hint: most of us do it wrong), pigeons, (they "have been trained to distinguish between paintings by Monet and Picasso and music by Bach and Stravinsky. They can recognize all twenty-six letters of the alphabet.", and squirrels (of which there are 278 species worldwide. North America alone has 66 species, including the prairie dog, chipmunk, and marmot). Though some of the topics felt overdone with too much detail, for the most part this was an entertaining book to read. Trivia lovers will find much to appreciate in A Walk Around the Block. I highlighted so many cool facts but you'll just have to read the book to find them out for yourself. You won't be disappointed!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Moonkiszt

    Crack this egg open and you will be soooooo busy running after the spreading fun you won't even be slightly irritated at the mess, the randomness, and the sharp turns ("now, for something completely different!). In fact, you may be as amused and soothed by the author's choices as I was. I loved this surprise book. It was in my list, don't know how it got there really, and just wanted something different. Boy, did I get it! Spike Carlsen clearly knows a lot about things that are not in my database Crack this egg open and you will be soooooo busy running after the spreading fun you won't even be slightly irritated at the mess, the randomness, and the sharp turns ("now, for something completely different!). In fact, you may be as amused and soothed by the author's choices as I was. I loved this surprise book. It was in my list, don't know how it got there really, and just wanted something different. Boy, did I get it! Spike Carlsen clearly knows a lot about things that are not in my database - but are things that I use in my regular life. (. . .and, yes, it could have been the name that landed him in my list. I will do anything for a person named Spike.) I usually pick up references from authors for next book reads, and this one dropped A Pattern of Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. So far not easy to find, and when I do it is more than my budget allows. I shall overcome, however. Still, it is a good indicator as to where Spike's head is. . . .not exactly a harlequin reader. . . . Just a look over the table of contents can show the variety of topics to be considered: front porches, electricity, water, mail, telephone wires and waves, sewers, trash, roadkill and litter, bike lanes, asphalt, alleys, concrete, parking, walking, the block, pigeons, parks, lawns, trees, squirrels, snow, signs-lines-lights, green-red lights-roundabouts, road signage, street names and numbers, graffiti. . . .all of these are a festival of free-associating on a walk around the neighborhood. Just things you wonder about and never, ever, pursue again. Well, kudos to Spike because he did! You looking for something completely different? Consider this. It nailed it for me. I'm still smiling, and hugging all this new and disparate information to my chest.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This was right up my alley. I love know how things work. While I knew quite a bit of the material, there was a lot I didn't & some things I wouldn't have thought of. This would be a good bathroom read in text. The chapters are short & self-contained. They all end with some fun trivia. Highly recommended. It took me forever to get through this & the review looks only half done. In some ways it is, but I'm sick, so this is all I'm doing. Table of Contents Introduction Part I: Incoming        Chapter This was right up my alley. I love know how things work. While I knew quite a bit of the material, there was a lot I didn't & some things I wouldn't have thought of. This would be a good bathroom read in text. The chapters are short & self-contained. They all end with some fun trivia. Highly recommended. It took me forever to get through this & the review looks only half done. In some ways it is, but I'm sick, so this is all I'm doing. Table of Contents Introduction Part I: Incoming        Chapter 1: The Front Porch: Rocking Back and Forth with the American Dream: didn't ring completely true, but was interesting.         Chapter 2: Electricity: Birds on Wires and Sparking Pliers: I really liked the quick overview on how much alternative energy it takes to replace a single coal plant & how he acknowledges that any sort has an environmental cost.        Chapter 3: Water: Towers, Faucets, and Meters - too brief         Chapter 4: Mail: First-Class Diamonds, Babies, and Rattlesnakes - As odd as some of the things were that he mentioned, there's plenty more. I highly recommend Neither Snow nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service, especially if you're bitching about mail delivery.         Chapter 5: Telephone Wires and Waves: From Tin Can to iPhone (to the Bieber) - He barely scratches the surface of how communication tech has changed the world, but it's a good quickie. Part II: Outgoing         Chapter 6: Recycling: From A+ to D in One Hour Flat - Read the book for this chapter, if nothing else. How could I be so ignorant?!!! When in doubt, throw it out. Seriously, you'll help the process if you do.         Chapter 7: Sewers: The Lifesaving World of Wastewater Below - It's a mess & SO IMPORTANT.         Chapter 8: Trash: How to Fit Three Tons of Trash into a One-Pint Jar -         Chapter 9: Roadkill (and Litter): Squished, Plucked, and Plogged - Part III: Surfaces       Chapter 10: Bike Lanes: Pedaling Uphill and into the Wind -       Chapter 11: Asphalt Streets: Pavement, Potholes, and Mummy Paint -       Chapter 12: Alleys: One Man’s Love Affair -       Chapter 13: Concrete: Sidewalks, Dams, and that Damn Joan Crawford -       Chapter 14: Parking: The Secret Cost of Free Parking - Impressive stats on how much space it takes, thus money & problems.       Chapter 15: Walking: Soles for the Body, Mind, and Soul       Chapter 16: The Block: The Feast of a Great Community Part IV: Nature       Chapter 17: Pigeons: Vindicating Rats with Wings       Chapter 18: Parks: Where Cities Pause to Catch Their Breaths       Chapter 19: Lawns: Caring for Your Seven Million Little Plants       Chapter 20: Trees: Stiletto Heels and Stumping to Survive       Chapter 21: Squirrels: The Gnawing Truth       Chapter 22: Snow: The Fate of My 3,358 Inches Part V: Signs, Lines, and Lights       Chapter 23: STOP! Green Lights, Red Signs, and Roundabouts       Chapter 24: Road Lines and Signs: The Language of Signs and Dashes       Chapter 25: Street Names and Numbers: Stravenues and Psycho Paths       Chapter 26: Graffiti: Making a Mark on the World Epilogue

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter Derk

    Pretty good, pretty interesting, though the opening and closing sections were more up my alley than some of the middle. I do take issue with one brief section about shoveling snow. Because I am entering the territory of being an old man who cares about things like shoveling snow, let's take a look. The book's claim is that heart attacks increase when it's snow shoveling time, which is true, but it attributes cardiovascular events to two main factors. One is that people are shoveling in the early m Pretty good, pretty interesting, though the opening and closing sections were more up my alley than some of the middle. I do take issue with one brief section about shoveling snow. Because I am entering the territory of being an old man who cares about things like shoveling snow, let's take a look. The book's claim is that heart attacks increase when it's snow shoveling time, which is true, but it attributes cardiovascular events to two main factors. One is that people are shoveling in the early morning, before they've "warmed up," (in quotes because I mean that in the musculoskeletal sense, not the temperature sense, I mean, it's fucking cold outside), and the other is because of the Valsalva manuever. Exercising in the morning probably won't kill you if you're used to even a moderate level of exercise. Especially because with shoveling, it's not like you rolled out of bed into the driveway. Unless you live in some bizarre version of semi-homelessness, where you have a driveway and nothing else. And if that's the case, I'd skip shoveling. I mean...what is someone gonna do? Where is the city planning to send the ticket for not shoveling? Third crack in the sidewalk from the north, that's where you get your mail? Sure, first thing in the morning is not ideal for peak performance, but if your body can handle shoveling at 10 am, it probably won't kill you, in the literal sense, at whichever time you're usually awake, just not moving around a ton. The Valsalva maneuver is the usually involuntary act of holding your breath when lifting something heavy. This is a controversy in the exercise world. Some say it's bad because you'll increase your blood pressure and therefore the chances of a cardiac event. I don't find this concept very compelling because it's an extremely natural thing to do, and I don't think your body tends to naturally do things that kill it instantly. I also think it's interesting that people often discuss the Valsalva maneuver as likely to kill someone, but holding in a big breath while NOT lifting something heavy would be fine? You don't hear diving or swimming critiqued this way. You don't hear baseball critiqued this way, even though you're surely holding your breath when you take a hard swing at a pitch. You don't hear the Valsalva critiqued in basketball, even though you're almost certainly holding your breath when you go for a rebound or monster dunk. I can only assume the Valsalva in this case because I have not experienced monster dunks myself. Or even regular dunks of the non-monstrous variety. The closest I've come was a hoop they had at the pool I visited as a kid, which was basically a circle hung a couple feet above the water so that lifeguards could yell "Don't hang on the rim" over and over all day. Why we hung on the rim I do not know. Normally this is like a celebratory thing, but when a hoop is in a swimming pool and so low that a 5-foot middle schooler can dunk, there's really not much to celebrate there. It's like spiking a football because you successfully purchased one. Most research has shown that the maneuver does increase stability, especially of the spine. You need your spine. You're going to want to take care of that. And most research does not conclusively show the maneuver is dangerous. There are people who have cardiac events while lifting heavy weights and doing the maneuver...and there are people who have identical events while lifting heavy weights and not doing the maneuver. And while jogging. And while lifting light weights for more reps. And while doing TikTok dances (this is totally unproven, but let's start this rumor so that we can slow down the stupid dances). My guess, based on being a human with a brain, is that shoveling is a "dangerous" activity not because of the early hour or the Valsalva, but because most people aren't used to doing anything remotely strenuous, and then suddenly they wake up two hours early to get to work on time, missing two hours of sleep (lack of sleep does contribute to this shit), and then they're working harder than they've worked in years to get the driveway clear. Shoveling is a pretty strenuous activity, especially if you do it fast. The way most people do it, it requires more strength than conditioning, so even if you're getting in 10,000 steps or whatever every day, it's still going to feel difficult because it's a different kind of effort (this is the same phenomenon as thinking you're in pretty good shape, going up a staircase quickly, and being totally winded). What are Pete's Shoveling Tips for the Average Shoveler? 1. Think about shoveling in layers. Let's say there's 4" of snow. From a standing position, scrape the first 2" off and toss it aside. Then, in the same spot, get the next 2". Then move to the next spot. This makes it less heavy and more like light conditioning. 2. Shovel the sidewalk perpendicular to the direction of travel. This keeps you from building up huge mounds of snow. 3. Try to shovel towards the sides of your driveway, not up and down. This makes it so you don't have to twist to throw the snow, which is where a lot of people get into trouble. It feels natural to go from top to bottom, but unless you've got a pretty steep driveway, this isn't really going to matter. 4. Don't use a shovel with one of those huge, wide, snowplow blades. That only works if you're strong as hell or if the snowfall where you live is dry and light. Sure, you'll get more snow for each push of the shovel, but you can't lift that shovel when it's full, so forget it. Get a shovel with a blade you can lift when it's full of snow. 5. Usually the law is you have to clear the snow within 24 hours after accumulation has stopped. That means you can do it when you get home from work. Which means you can take your time. 6. If you have to pick one or the other, shovel the sidewalk. It's impossible to navigate streets safely after it snows if you've got even a fairly minor disability. The sidewalk usually goes faster anyway, and if you do it in the manner suggested above, it's easier and a good warm-up for the driveway. 7. If you HATE the cold, put on all your gear and then hang out inside for 10 minutes to the point you're almost overheating. Then when you go out, it'll feel okay. Some morons will tell you that if you sweat in the cold, you're headed towards hypothermia. This really only applies if you're going to be outside for hours. 8. Shovel BEFORE you get showered and dressed for work. 9. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that your breath is going to freeze. Way, WAY before that would happen, your skin would be completely frostbitten. So if you're not getting severe frostbite, you're not going to freeze your lungs.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Zach Carlsen

    I got this book on Audible today and I am already four hours into it. I can't stop listening. It is really well written and well narrated. The author takes the most basic things in our surrounding and then gives a "deep dive" on the history and use of each thing--manhole covers, telephone poles, graffiti, squirrels. I was actually looking out the window as I listened to him describing the things I was looking at. It actually changed the way that I saw and see the world around me, which is the be I got this book on Audible today and I am already four hours into it. I can't stop listening. It is really well written and well narrated. The author takes the most basic things in our surrounding and then gives a "deep dive" on the history and use of each thing--manhole covers, telephone poles, graffiti, squirrels. I was actually looking out the window as I listened to him describing the things I was looking at. It actually changed the way that I saw and see the world around me, which is the best thing that a book can do!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    3.5 stars This book examines everyday things we don’t think much about: plumbing, electricity, sewage, recycling, the post office, road repair and construction, snow removal, pigeons and squirrels, and so on. I learned a lot, and most of it was cool, though I did zone out here and there. The author lives in Stillwater, Minnesota, so much of his focus is in that area and the U.S. ((view spoiler)[He describes a snow plow being forced off the road by a semi on Utah’s Highway 6 and plummeting 300 feet 3.5 stars This book examines everyday things we don’t think much about: plumbing, electricity, sewage, recycling, the post office, road repair and construction, snow removal, pigeons and squirrels, and so on. I learned a lot, and most of it was cool, though I did zone out here and there. The author lives in Stillwater, Minnesota, so much of his focus is in that area and the U.S. ((view spoiler)[He describes a snow plow being forced off the road by a semi on Utah’s Highway 6 and plummeting 300 feet. This is an incredibly dangerous canyon road that my husband calls Suicide Six. It’s narrow and winding and has no guard rails or lights. (hide spoiler)] ) I learned a few useful things: • Do not flush anything besides pee, poo, and toilet paper. “Flushable” wipes aren’t. • If you’re not sure if something is recyclable or not, toss it. • Traffic light sensors (if you’re lucky enough to have them) are underground magnets that detect the metal in your car. • Many crosswalk buttons aren’t hooked up to anything. Contains rare strong language.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Pop Bop

    Brisk, Cheerful, STEM Fun I like trivia books, lists, and bathroom compendiums. This is along those lines, but with a bit more to it. There is a theme of sorts, although "frequently overlooked things around you" qualifies as a rather broad theme. That's fine, though, because such a broad canvas allows for a wide range of surprisingly interesting essays and mini field trips. Of special importance, the book has an engaging narrator and an appealingly mellow point of view, so you are always in good c Brisk, Cheerful, STEM Fun I like trivia books, lists, and bathroom compendiums. This is along those lines, but with a bit more to it. There is a theme of sorts, although "frequently overlooked things around you" qualifies as a rather broad theme. That's fine, though, because such a broad canvas allows for a wide range of surprisingly interesting essays and mini field trips. Of special importance, the book has an engaging narrator and an appealingly mellow point of view, so you are always in good company. We start with broad larger categories - Incoming, Outgoing, Surfaces, Nature, and Signs,Lines and Lights. Within those categories we have individual chapters, (electric transmission, water works, mail delivery, bike lanes, pigeons, traffic signals), and we often follow each service from its source to your house. Along the way we meet with and chat with the people involved in getting all those services delivered. Interspersed as mini-sidebars are factoids and brief colorful facts and historical tidbits. There are some photos, drawings, and other illustrations, but as is often the case with books like this, there are only a few. This isn't a work of academic scholarship. It is a very entertaining and engaging work of popular science and cultural history. This struck me as a particularly good choice for a younger reader with a taste for STEM topics and general nonfiction. It is accessible and engaging, with a reader friendly, almost conversational, tone. For every kid who is alert, aware, and observant, this could be a rewarding treat. And everyone should have a thorough understanding of manhole covers. (Please note that I received a free advance will-self-destruct-in-x-days Adobe Digital copy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carin

    I like to walk. And I love random facts. This book was made for me. Spike goes for a walk around the block and along the way, he wonders about the composition and cost of sidewalks, where the water goes down the drainage grates, and why there's a metal number on telephone poles and what it means. You'll find out the answers to all of these and much more in this book! Where does the water coming into your house come from? When and how were road surfaces invented and developed? Some facts: squirrel I like to walk. And I love random facts. This book was made for me. Spike goes for a walk around the block and along the way, he wonders about the composition and cost of sidewalks, where the water goes down the drainage grates, and why there's a metal number on telephone poles and what it means. You'll find out the answers to all of these and much more in this book! Where does the water coming into your house come from? When and how were road surfaces invented and developed? Some facts: squirrels chew on your house not to be assholes, but because if they don't wear down their teeth, they will grow too long for squirrels to be able to eat. Their teeth continue growing throughout their life. Also: there is water in your concrete. It binds with the cement in the mixture and while it "dries" (it's not drying), it's forming crystals through chemical reactions. So even "dry" concrete still has about 10% water. And yes, you can add way too much water and no, it won't just take longer to "dry"--it will be terrible concrete that is weak and not functional. You'll learn about the different types of electrical poles. I was fascinated that the highest wires, which are the ones with the most high power, aren't insulted. That would cause the wires to be enormous, heavy, and expensive--in ways that just won't work. So they're super duper dangerous if they were to come down. Which is why they're so high. Also the reason birds can sit on wires and not be electrocuted is because A) they're so little that they're not very useful to electricity as a conductor and B) they'd need to be touching something other than the wire for the electricity to go through them. Electricity just go into things that touch it--it travels through things to get somewhere. While Mr. Carlsen doesn't state it specifically, the implication is that humans also could sit on a wire and be safe--if they don't touch anything else. What do you wonder about when you go on a walk? Would you like a fun walk companion who will tell you all sorts of trivia? Invite Mr. Carlsen along. He's an excellent walking companion.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    Such an informative and fun romp through all those things we see and use every day yet never give a second thought. Spike Carlsen takes complex systems that get water and power to us as well as getting rid of the waste we leave behind and explains them in easy to understand and entertaining bits. You will never look at a highway sign, manhole cover or even a squirrel quite the same way again - now go for a walk. Fans of Bill Bryson and trivia games will be delighted and find themselves sharing i Such an informative and fun romp through all those things we see and use every day yet never give a second thought. Spike Carlsen takes complex systems that get water and power to us as well as getting rid of the waste we leave behind and explains them in easy to understand and entertaining bits. You will never look at a highway sign, manhole cover or even a squirrel quite the same way again - now go for a walk. Fans of Bill Bryson and trivia games will be delighted and find themselves sharing interesting tidbits from the "Hacks and Facts" sections. Thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    This is the perfect sort of book to sit by your side and dip in and out of. Carlsen has identified a whole range of things we never really pay much attention to (duh) and written essays about them that are both amusing and informative. Some things, like manhole covers, might be familiar to those who lived where they were blowing off a few years ago, but I still learned more. I loved the bits about the squirrels (the scourge of my bird feeder but still...) and how trash is handled and recycled. T This is the perfect sort of book to sit by your side and dip in and out of. Carlsen has identified a whole range of things we never really pay much attention to (duh) and written essays about them that are both amusing and informative. Some things, like manhole covers, might be familiar to those who lived where they were blowing off a few years ago, but I still learned more. I loved the bits about the squirrels (the scourge of my bird feeder but still...) and how trash is handled and recycled. This is about the mundane and you might find some subjects more intriguing than others, but you'll definitely walk away with good trivia and better informed. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. A fun read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    John Behle

    Spike Carlsen keeps it fun and entertaining through telling us about the infrastructure of our world. The chapters bound from the making of concrete to the duration of red traffic lights to the science of walking as sport. Thankfully, one of the largest sections is a deep dive into recycling. So, walking...I see from other reviews there are many walkers. I am one. Carlsen, a proud Minnesotan, trumpets the ease of the sport--there is no equipment needed other than comfortable shoes. There is no wr Spike Carlsen keeps it fun and entertaining through telling us about the infrastructure of our world. The chapters bound from the making of concrete to the duration of red traffic lights to the science of walking as sport. Thankfully, one of the largest sections is a deep dive into recycling. So, walking...I see from other reviews there are many walkers. I am one. Carlsen, a proud Minnesotan, trumpets the ease of the sport--there is no equipment needed other than comfortable shoes. There is no wrist band, no ticket required, open your door and the world is ripe. Our planet is a no-fee, always open, nature lab. You can see a lot by looking around. This book is raw non-fiction. Carlsen MRIs the hardware and the actions of this planet, then whips it up in an engaging presentation.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ed Smith

    Why producers would have somebody who sounds like he's twenty-something read a book by someone who is in his sixties and writing about what he's learned about being around the block is freaking puerile. One example of where so much is lost in the audio reading is the part where the author commits his own acts of graffiti on the streets of Paris. Hearing a young whippersnapper like the reader here deprives listeners the opportunity for so many moments of humorous incongruity. Oh, well. Good book Why producers would have somebody who sounds like he's twenty-something read a book by someone who is in his sixties and writing about what he's learned about being around the block is freaking puerile. One example of where so much is lost in the audio reading is the part where the author commits his own acts of graffiti on the streets of Paris. Hearing a young whippersnapper like the reader here deprives listeners the opportunity for so many moments of humorous incongruity. Oh, well. Good book anyways.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    I really enjoyed this one! I’m a fan of random, fun facts so this was right up my alley. Spike did such a good job of taking several different topics that don’t seem like they’re all that connected and shows you that they actually are. Even after just a few chapters I found myself looking at these everyday things a little differently than I did the day before.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Onceinabluemoon

    I love books like this, love learning tidbits of life!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karen Troutman

    A Walk Around the Block Stoplight Secrets, Mischievous Squirrels, Manhole Mysteries & Other Stuff You See Every Day (And Know Nothing About) by Spike Carlsen HarperCollins Publishers You Like Them You Are Auto-Approved HarperOne Nonfiction (Adult) | Science Pub Date 20 Oct 2020 | Archive Date 15 Dec 2020 I really enjoyed reading this book. Thanks to Harper Collins and Net Galley for the ARC, Its books like this that make me smile. I will recommend it to our patrons. 5 star

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joe Jones

    Great for learning about things you never think about in your neighborhood/city! I loved all the interesting facts and have a new appreciation for what’s around me! Perfect for fans of Bill Bryson.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    This book is remarkable in that the author, Spike Carlsen, takes ordinary things and makes them interesting. I had no idea how fascinating the world of garbage, recycling and sewers could actually be! There are so many things in our world that we take for granted and think very little about, but supports our infrastructure and daily lives. This book is a dive into these little known things we thought we didn't care about, but that I am now grateful for in a whole new way. Interesting facts, stor This book is remarkable in that the author, Spike Carlsen, takes ordinary things and makes them interesting. I had no idea how fascinating the world of garbage, recycling and sewers could actually be! There are so many things in our world that we take for granted and think very little about, but supports our infrastructure and daily lives. This book is a dive into these little known things we thought we didn't care about, but that I am now grateful for in a whole new way. Interesting facts, stories and humor made me eager to turn the pages. Highly recommend.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Betts

    Blog post - https://bit.ly/CarlsenAndMontgomery Blog post - https://bit.ly/CarlsenAndMontgomery

  19. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    The description of this book sounded really cool and I was looking forward to learning about all this stuff around me I knew nothing about. Except it turned out I actually did? Either I learned everything I needed to know from How your house works (King) or the amount of information in each section was small enough for me to have picked it all up already. I can’t recommend it because there are much better books both for beginners and more in depth.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Schultz

    Read if you: Want an entertaining and thoughtful look at the things that make your neighborhood work and thrive--from traffic signs, to waste management, front porches, and even squirrels! Librarians/booksellers: This is a fun read--and a unique idea for a book! Many thanks to HarperOne and Edelweiss for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Charity Barlass

    This book is creative, engaging, and informative! I have learned so much about a vast range of things from squirrels to stoplights. The author informs while entertains, truly making the ordinary extraordinary! A must read in my book. 😎

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    Like watching a great docuseries on Netflix. Short, easy to understand, and you become more and more curious about the topics being discussed.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    The author was unfortunate to get a frozen water service line during one harsh, cold winter in Minnesota and wondered how water got to his home. Or how he managed to even contact the water department. And so started this book - From the porch on your house to the asphalt that covers your road (and how potholes are formed), Carlsen takes a light look at lots of things that we have managed to take for granted. The electrical power lines, the sewer that takes all sorts of things away - most which s The author was unfortunate to get a frozen water service line during one harsh, cold winter in Minnesota and wondered how water got to his home. Or how he managed to even contact the water department. And so started this book - From the porch on your house to the asphalt that covers your road (and how potholes are formed), Carlsen takes a light look at lots of things that we have managed to take for granted. The electrical power lines, the sewer that takes all sorts of things away - most which shouldn't be put down the toilet or sink - the trees that hold street lights and stoplights as well as the traffic signs. Squirrels and pigeons and roadkill. Walking and biking and roundabouts and painted lines on the road. Why manhole covers are round. Parks and caring for your lawn and the trees that live there. Recycling and trash collection. How water and the mail gets to your house. How streets are named - the most popular seem to be numbers with Main coming in at #7 and Park at #5 - and the unspoken agreement between some graffiti artists and the owners of train cars (don't cover the tracking number of the car). It's a fun read that will satisfy the curiosity regarding many things that surround you. Great for that trivia game once we're allowed back into bars and pubs. BTW - I know that traffic stoplights are uniform red at the top down to yellow/amber to green at the bottom save on one hill in the Irish community in the city I grew up - Syracuse, New York. The stoplight is green at the top on the top of Tipperary Hill and there is even a statue nearby called the 'Stonethrowers' commemorating the boys/men who would regularly break the red lens at the top of the light until the city eventually made the exception in this one case. Oh, and why manhole covers are round - to prevent them from falling into the hole as well as making them easier to move about since they roll even with being a couple hundred pounds of solid metal 2021-085

  24. 5 out of 5

    Margaux Smith

    Spike Carlsen’s 2020 A Walk Around the Block surveys various unseen realms of urban life through brief explanatory chapters, typically involving interviews and tours with passionate oddballs uncovering the unseen locations and processes of urban infrastructure. Carlsen’s inquisitive spirit and enthusiasm for learning about the less-glamorous dimensions of urban life is contagious. He manages to bring a sense of awe to the mundane, full of facts and unusual anecdotes that animate our environment. Spike Carlsen’s 2020 A Walk Around the Block surveys various unseen realms of urban life through brief explanatory chapters, typically involving interviews and tours with passionate oddballs uncovering the unseen locations and processes of urban infrastructure. Carlsen’s inquisitive spirit and enthusiasm for learning about the less-glamorous dimensions of urban life is contagious. He manages to bring a sense of awe to the mundane, full of facts and unusual anecdotes that animate our environment. His tone is pragmatic, the book left me feeling disturbed about the scale of pollution, with multiple chapters outlining the massive impression that cities leave on earth, such as through our use of salt on roads in winter, the limits of recycling and the contamination of water. I found it equal parts inspiring and eye opening, I felt informed and a little less ignorant on the basic infrastructure of the city. My favourite sections were the two on urban animals- Squirrels and Pigeons, where you learn about the exceptional capacities of these underrated creatures, such as the exceptional flexibility and squirrels, and the advanced sensorial capacities and intense longing for home experienced by Pigeons. It reads more like a collection of articles or a reader’s digest than an analytical book, but I found it crisp, informative and satisfying. I was left with a sense of the mind boggling scale, coordination and ingenuity involved in making cities work, and a new appreciation for the underappreciated workers who make things work.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Porter Young

    Have you ever wondered where the water in your tap comes from? Where the, uh, water in your sewer goes? Who started painting white lines on roadways? How many squirrels live in an average neighborhood? Well, author Spike Carlsen has an answer for those questions and about a thousand more that you may have had float through your head as you walked through your neighborhood. In a sort of anthology of essays, Carlsen's deep dive into the dull world of "infrastructure" around us opened my eyes to th Have you ever wondered where the water in your tap comes from? Where the, uh, water in your sewer goes? Who started painting white lines on roadways? How many squirrels live in an average neighborhood? Well, author Spike Carlsen has an answer for those questions and about a thousand more that you may have had float through your head as you walked through your neighborhood. In a sort of anthology of essays, Carlsen's deep dive into the dull world of "infrastructure" around us opened my eyes to the hidden world of sewer lines, twisting roads, power lines, and concrete giants that we live in, practically oblivious to the beauty of their mere existence. More importantly, he painstakingly lifts the curtain on the people behind these modern marvels, heralding their heroic efforts to keep our towns clean, our roadways safe, and our communication flowing. I found myself taking a walk after each section, just to catch a glimpse at the amazing history he was describing. He also takes time to highlight parks, porches, bike paths, and other overlooked neighborhood bastions as places where we can gather and better recognize the wide world of community just outside our doors, a sentiment that has never been more important than it is now. A fascinating read, or a great audiobook companion for your, well, walk around the block.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Miller

    An entertaining and informative collection of long-form magazine features about the things that we take for granted that make our neighborhoods—and our lives—better. I’d read every one of these chapters if I saw them individually, and here they are collected for me. Thanks to the glimpses offered in this book, I have a better basic understanding of the hidden things that help my day-to-day life.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Janet Hartman

    As with any collection, some parts were more interesting than others. Overall, a good collection on a varity of subjects with sources identified chapter by chapter at the back. The chapter on how recycling happens made me realize I should continue to rinse containers. I always found squirrels entertaining to watch, but now I know how much they actually contribute to the environment. The author interjects just the right amount of humor. This book would make a good gift - the recipient could not esc As with any collection, some parts were more interesting than others. Overall, a good collection on a varity of subjects with sources identified chapter by chapter at the back. The chapter on how recycling happens made me realize I should continue to rinse containers. I always found squirrels entertaining to watch, but now I know how much they actually contribute to the environment. The author interjects just the right amount of humor. This book would make a good gift - the recipient could not escape being interested in some of the topics.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I chose this book for its cover (seriously - as part of a reading challenge). I learned some things (yes, you absolutely need to wash out food containers before recycling), but overall, I can say it’s not a book I would return to.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nan

    A breezily-written, yet well-researched look at things in our neighborhoods that we take for granted: postal service, front front porches, manhole covers, etc.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Bosma

    Interesting way to write a book. Kind of like an "interesting things about x" book for kids, but fleshed out and written around things you'd encounter on a walk. I learned about pigeons, recycling, alleys, stoplights, sewers, squirrels, bike lanes, roadkill... Interesting way to write a book. Kind of like an "interesting things about x" book for kids, but fleshed out and written around things you'd encounter on a walk. I learned about pigeons, recycling, alleys, stoplights, sewers, squirrels, bike lanes, roadkill...

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