The Puzzler: One Man's Quest to Solve ... the Meaning of Life - Book Review
As with all reviews on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete overview of the book; rather, it is to examine how the book relates to the meaning of life.
The Puzzler: One Man's Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life was written by A.J. Jacobs and published in 2022. It is a great book for anyone that is fascinated or even just curious about puzzles of all kinds—from jigsaws and crosswords, to sudokus and scavenger hunts. But the title of the book also includes the meaning of life, so what does the book say about the ultimate question? Honestly, not much, but we include a passage that touches upon the question below:
I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because it's so Kafkaesque. Maybe it's because at least in my darker moments I wonder if it might be the perfect metaphor for life. What if I spend the next 30 years searching for the meaning of existence only to discover on my death bed that the universe is a juvenile prank. Oops, sorry, forgot to mention there's no meaning at all, its just the arbitrary motion of quarks.
Jacobs writes this pondering the why of existence after a "spot the difference" puzzle was published with no solution.
Another interesting fact comes Edward Wakeling who discovered that in Lewis Carroll's book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the white queen's (and also the red queen's) age was 101 years, 5 months, and a day. Including leap years, that comes out to be 74088 days into you combine the two; and what is so significant about this number? 74088 is 42^3. Fans of Douglas Adams may remember that 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. It is unclear if Carroll's work inspired Adams', but it is amusing to say the least. Fans of the number 42 can find an entire article on topic on Wikipedia.
We do get an inspirational passage at the end of the book from Maki Kaji (the godfather of sudoku), while Jacobs also adds a few thoughts of his own:
Puzzles are a journey? → ! The key is to embrace the middle part, the arrow, the journey. Don't be obsessed with endings and perfection. It's about the journey, not the destination.
On that note, we don't get too much more on the meaning of life from the book, despite the title. But perhaps we can also take a lesson on life here. All too often we look towards endings—graduation, getting married, earning that promotion—all these goals, we sometimes spend too much time on the end result and forget about all the moments in-between. What we can say is that despite not answering the biggest question of them all, the book was both unique and a lot of fun; doubly so the bonus puzzle chapters.
We rate the book the following:
Overall - 9
Meaning of Life Relevance - 2
Uniqueness – 10
Did you read the book? If so, what did you think? What did we miss? Did Jacobs hide the meaning of life within some puzzle in the book? Comment below and let us know.