Ever wanted to know why cicadas sing at dusk? If that’s too mundane, how about what’s it like to die? Or maybe you sometimes wonder how different players’ tennis racquets work? Or maybe you have a burning desire to know what’s it like to be chased by a cassowary?
Pulled from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s ‘explainers’ — a series of brief articles covering complicated topics for the uninitiated
— comes the thirty-one chapters of What’s it Like to be Chased by a Cassowary? Billed as a collection of the most interesting, entertaining, and informative, each chapter comprises an essay and examination of a different question- title, such as: Why do cicadas sing at dusk?; What happens as we die?; and how can a racquet make or break a tennis player?
Felicity Lewis, the national explainer editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald edits together a compilation of the best explainer articles from the publications into a diverse book of factoids, processes, and fascinating answers to perplexing questions. What’s it Like to be Chased by a Cassowary? is intended to be readable, and despite the large task of examining what are at times complex and significant questions (and its contributors’ affiliation with a corporate media company) the book surprisingly doesn’t pull any punches, nor does it try to dumb down.
A wide subset of authors and journalists come together to share expertise to create a book that is wide in the scope of both subjects and writing styles. However, the examination of topics is only at times in-depth, and often feel to be lacking sophistication or substance, particularly on subjects that are a Google away (i.e. What is Ramadan?).
For the intellectually inclined, for fans of non-fiction, and people interested in current affairs, What’s it Like to be Chased by a Cassowary? is an engaging read, either headfirst from one chapter to the next, or as a once-nightly read on a different topic. While good on a coffee table and safe as a gift, some readers may go wanting for some more meat on the bones.