The New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically goes on a rollicking journey to understand the enduring power of puzzles: why we love them, what they do to our brains, and how they can improve our world.
“Even though I’ve never attempted the New York Times crossword puzzle or solved the Rubik’s Cube, I couldn’t put down The Puzzler.”—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before
What makes puzzles—jigsaws, mazes, riddles, sudokus—so satisfying? Be it the formation of new cerebral pathways, their close link to insight and humor, or their community-building properties, they’re among the fundamental elements that make us human. Convinced that puzzles have made him a better person, A.J. Jacobs—four-time New York Times bestselling author, master of immersion journalism, and nightly crossworder—set out to determine their myriad benefits. And maybe, in the process, solve the puzzle of our very existence. Well, almost.
In The Puzzler, Jacobs meets the most zealous devotees, enters (sometimes with his family in tow) any puzzle competition that will have him, unpacks the history of the most popular puzzles, and aims to solve the most impossible head-scratchers, from a mutant Rubik’s Cube, to the hardest corn maze in America, to the most sadistic jigsaw. Chock-full of unforgettable adventures and original examples from around the world—including new work by Greg Pliska, one of America’s top puzzle-makers, and a hidden, super-challenging but solvable puzzle that will earn the first reader to crack it a $10,000 prize*—The Puzzler will open readers’ eyes to the power of flexible thinking and concentration. Whether you’re puzzle obsessed or puzzle hesitant, you’ll walk away with real problem-solving strategies and pathways toward becoming a better thinker and decision maker—for these are certainly puzzling times.
*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. U.S. Residents, 18+. Ends May 3, 2023. Additional terms and conditions may apply. See book for details.
About the Author
A.J. Jacobs is a journalist, lecturer, and human guinea pig who has written four bestselling books—including Drop Dead Healthy and The Year of Living Biblically—that blend memoir, science, humor, and a dash of self-help. A contributor to NPR, The New York Times, and Esquire, among other media outlets, Jacobs lives in New York City with his family. He was once the answer to 1-Down in the New York Times crossword puzzle.
“Sprightly, far-reaching.”—The Washington Post
“[A] weirdly fascinating new book . . . a romp, both fun and funny. Jacobs explains, in a way I never could, how at various points in our lives puzzles can save us.”—The New York Times
“A.J. Jacobs’s fascinating, hilarious investigation of our human love for puzzles is packed with intriguing real-life stories, information, and research—and he illuminates ways that we might play our way toward solutions for an often puzzling world. I’ll never look at a jigsaw puzzle or a sudoku page the same way again.”—Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before
“As a devotee of crosswords, anagrams, and A.J. Jacobs, I knew I would love this book. What I did not anticipate: The Soviet Camping Puzzle! The Ellis Island Jigsaw! A visit to CIA headquarters! Most puzzle books are all brain; this one has heart. As Jacobs learns with his singular performance at the World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship, puzzles bring us together—as families and as Earthlings. Even better, they brought A.J. Jacobs gobs of grade-A fodder for another charming, funny, winning book.”—Mary Roach, New York Times bestselling author of Fuzz
“Humans are obsessed with puzzles, and A.J. Jacobs is obsessed with figuring out why. Of all the gifts he possesses as a writer, his second-greatest is his ability to make you think and make you laugh at the same time. In these delightful pages, you’ll find a clue about what his greatest gift might be.”—Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife
“A barrel of monkeys’ worth of fun.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A must-read for puzzle enthusiasts of all skill levels.”—Library Journal