The Way the World Works
Simon & Schuster: 319 pp., $25
Nicholson Baker's new book, "The Way the World Works," is a miscellany: a collection of 34 essays originally published in magazines such as the New Yorker, McSweeney's and the American Scholar between 1996 and 2011. And yet, as Baker makes clear in the final essay, "Mowing," there is method to his madness, a shape that becomes fully apparent only with the book's closing lines. "I want to write a short book called 'The Way the World Works,'" he declares there. "I want it to be a book for children and adults, that explains...