Book Review: What Would MacGyver Do?

Brendan Vaughan’s collection of real-life tales of ingenuity, What Would MacGyver Do?, recently republished by Penguin, has a great premise: It’s a collection of true stories featuring the kind of situational hacking (bombs defused with paperclips, sheds converted into aircraft) that the TV show MacGyver made famous in the 1980s. The resulting book does make for some fun reading, if only to guffaw at the haplessness of people locking themselves out of their cars, forgetting to set the parking brakes, ripping their underwear in the heat of passion, or planning parties but forgetting to get the food. Sadly, most of the "MacGyverisms" are little more than standard-fare workarounds to ordinary situations. The young lady with the ripped bikini? She saves her day by tying the ripped ends together. The man whose muffler was dragging along the Henry Hudson Parkway stands around dithering until some guys come along with an acetylene torch. They’re well-told stories, but the level of ingenuity falls far short of that displayed in a typical issue of Make magazine, or for that matter any issue of Martha Stewart Living. In the end, the cleverest hack of all is the author’s: He got a bunch of people to submit these stories to his web site, compiled the results, and published a book — all with minimal effort on his part. Now that’s a MacGyverism!

WIRED Fun, readable stories. Homemade air conditioner project is clever, and has enough detail you could actually build one of your own. Has "MacGyver" in the title.

TIRED Not that much ingenuity displayed in all but a few of the stories — Angus MacGyver would be embarrassed to have his name attached to a story about a new father calming down his baby by dressing in drag.

$11, whatwouldmacgyverdo.com

rating: 5 out of 10

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Book Review: What Would MacGyver Do?