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Stuff You Should Know

An Incomplete Compendium
Of Very Interesting Things

Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant

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Stuff You Should Know by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant

About the book

An exploration of the fun and fascinating world around us, from the duo behind the massively successful and award-winning podcast Stuff You Should Know.

Armed with their inquisitive natures and a passion for sharing, Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant are taking their near-boundless curiosity from your earbuds to the pages of a book for the first time. Follow along as they uncover the weird, delightful, or unexpected elements of a wide variety of topics, digging into the underlying stories of everything from the origin of Murphy beds, to the history of facial hair, to the psychology of being lost.

Come join them and escape into Stuff You Should Know—where you can get curious about the world around you and find the magic in the everyday. With Josh and Chuck as your guide, there’s something interesting about everything (…except maybe jackhammers).

Get a peek inside SYSK

Direction Head

Excerpt from Chapter 1

How to Get Lost

Do you want to hear an astounding number? 65,439. Sure, it’s not so astounding on its own, so you have to know the context: That’s the number of search and rescue (SAR)39 missions launched for people who went missing inside America’s national parks between 1992 and 2007.

65,439! Basically, the entire population of Jupiter, Florida.

Over a fifteen-year period, that’s nearly twelve lost people per day. One every two hours who just went *poof* and disappeared into the wilderness somewhere across America. Like we said, astounding. Fortunately, the period of time people are typically lost for is rarely ever very long. The average search and rescue mission for a lost hiker or hunter—who make up more than 40 percent of those national parks cases—lasts about ten hours, which usually isn’t a life threatening amount of time, although it’s probably several hours longer than it takes to scare the bejeezus out of them.

There are a million different ways to get lost, but what’s interesting is that when people get lost (particularly out in nature), they all act in the exact same ways. This is the discovery of psychology professor Kenneth Hill, who studies the psychology of being lost at Saint Mary’s University way up in Nova Scotia, Canada. Independent of race or gender or nationality or outdoor experience or even age, when people get lost, they kind of lose their minds—but in predictable ways. They forget their training (if they had any). They forget what they were taught by parents and teachers—some forget themselves entirely and just kind of go berserk. And they engage in some combination of the same eight behaviors, kind of like robots that have been programmed with outdated guidance software that’s chock full of bugs: random traveling, route traveling, direction traveling, route sampling, direction sampling, view enhancing, backtracking, staying put.

The thing is: when you take a closer look at each of these “lost person behaviors,” as they’re called in the search-and-rescue field, it’s easy to see how each one of us could fall prey to them. Including you—yes, you!—and everyone you know and love. All of you: lost, lost, lost!

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Excerpt from Chapter 3

Mr. Potato Head: America’s Toy

Vegetable Heads

We love toys. New toys, old toys, big toys, small toys. Toys that need batteries, toys that only require your imagination. It doesn’t matter to us. We love toys the way Brick loves lamp.

Those of us who were raised in America are all probably familiar with the same basic version of Mr. Potato Head: the smiling, quasi-legless Russet potato that, when fully assembled, looks a bit like a Portland mixologist, if mixologists were allowed to smile in Portland.

But he didn’t always look like that. For the first decade or so of his life, Mr. Potato Head wasn’t even really a potato head. He was barely even a mister. He was an oddly configured, thirty-piece “funny face man” kit that cost 98 cents and required buyers to provide their own potato—an actual potato— to use as the head. Potato in hand, obtained by who knows what terrible means, a kid could commence to attach said funny face and build said man.

It’s weird to think of a world where Mr. Potato Head never existed, because you could make a pretty strong case that Mr. Potato Head is the toy of the American century. In fact, we’ll just say it: Mr. Potato Head is the toy of the American century. Yes: a legless plastic potato person, who started out as a collection of disembodied plastic parts and accessories with pins attached to them so kids could stab them into the sides of an actual potato, isn’t just some disposable, forgettable childhood distraction. It turns out he is a reflection of America’s recent history and cultural evolution. As Mr. Potato Head went, so went the country (or vice versa, but let’s not split hairs). You could even say Mr. Potato Head is America. You could even say Mr. Potato Head is America.

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