Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s WHAT IF?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions debuts at #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List

New York - Sept. 11, 2014 - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade Publishing announced today that WHAT IF?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by xkcd creator Randall Munroe will debut at #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List for September 21. 

"Randall's infectious curiosity, explanatory clarity, and unique visual style make this the rare science book that appeals far, far beyond a typical science readership,” commented Bruce Nichols, Senior Vice President of General Interest at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade Publishing. “Fans of xkcd already know and love Randall's unique perspective on the world, but just as we'd hoped, this book is appealing to an even broader audience. We’re thrilled."

Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Munroe’s iconic webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. WHAT IF? is based on the wildly popular xkcd question-and-answer blog of the same name, in which Munroe offers concrete scientific answers to charming hypotheticals like “How much Force power can Yoda output?” and “What would happen if someone’s DNA vanished?”

In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of wit and hilarity, complemented by signature stick-figure comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion. The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website.

“WHAT IF? maintains a delightfully free-wheeling tone throughout, especially when complicated calculations lead to whimsical results,” Entertainment Weekly raved. “Despite all the hard facts and gigantic numbers, it never feels like a textbook—and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy it.”

RANDALL MUNROE, a former NASA roboticist, is the creator of the webcomic xkcd and the author of xkcd: volume 0. The International Astronomical Union recently named an asteroid after him; asteroid 4942 Munroe is big enough to cause a mass extinction if it ever hits a planet like earth.


About Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade Publishing
For nearly two centuries, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade Publishing has published some of the world’s most renowned novels, nonfiction, children’s books, and reference works. As part of a leading global learning company, it is uniquely positioned to create educational and entertaining content for multiple channels and in various formats, from hardcovers and paperbacks to e-books and mobile apps. Its distinguished author list includes eight Nobel Prize winners, forty-seven Pulitzer Prize winners, thirteen National Book Award winners, and more than one hundred Caldecott, Newbery, Printz, and Sibert Medal and Honor recipients. HMH publishes such distinguished authors as Philip Roth, Temple Grandin, Tim O'Brien, and Umberto Eco, and a celebrated roster of children’s authors and illustrators including Lois Lowry, Chris Van Allsburg, and David Wiesner. HMH is also home to The Best American series®; The American Heritage® and Webster’s New World® dictionaries; Betty Crocker®, Better Homes and Gardens®, How to Cook Everything®, The Gourmet Cookbook, and other leading culinary properties; the Peterson Field Guides®; CliffsNotes™; books by J.R.R. Tolkien; and many iconic children’s books and characters, including Curious George®, The Little Prince, and The Polar Express.