Home Book Review Book Review – What Would MacGyver Do? by Brendan Vaughan

Book Review – What Would MacGyver Do? by Brendan Vaughan


Angus MacGyver was a true engineer; he could take a paperclip, some chewing gum, and a match stick and prevent a building from blowing up.  Whether there is any truth to this is questionable, but the thought is still entertaining.  Building on the idea that a person can turn a situation around quickly with only basic items, author Brendan Vaughan wrote the book titled, “What Would MacGyver Do? True Stories of Improvised Genius in Everyday Life.” 

This book does not tell of everyday people using everyday items to save lives and prevent explosions, but there are still some pretty neat examples of engineering that solve basic problems.  There are between 40 and 45 examples of people solving their tasks using basic materials in this book divided into six separate categories.  The first category is titled, “The Junk in the Trunk.”  The first story talks about a young woman named Cynthia Morse who was moving and driving through Texas, when she pulled off the road due to ice and got her van stuck on the ice.  She did not have any road salt or deicer in her vehicle, so she used the only thing she could: Chex Mix.  To her surprise and ingenuity, the Chex Mix provided just enough traction for her to move her van and get moving again.  The chapter contains several other driving and vehicular situations where common items found in a car or truck are used to save the day. 

The second section is titled, “Home Improvement.”  In this section, people use common household items to fix broken appliances or fix simple issues that arise around the house.  An example from this category is written by Katherine Sharpe whose friend Maria had a bad, reoccurring case of asthma.  Maria had constantly gone to the emergency room to treat her shortness of breath and had an inhaler which worked only sometimes.  Her inhaler was more effective when Maria used a spacer, or a gap between the inhaler and Maria’s mouth to allow the vapor to diffuse before inhaling it.  When Maria had another attack and couldn’t find her spacer, Katherine found a used water bottle went to work on it.  She removed the cap and cut an “x” into the side of the bottle to insert the inhaler.  Maria used the water bottle as the spacer and was able to breathe again.  Not only did Katherine help her friend breathe, she may have saved her life that day.

The third section is called, “The Travel Chapter.”  Paul Padial’s story opens this chapter and demonstrates the true MacGyver spirit of what one can do with basic items.  Paul was known to escape the big city with his friends and camp in the woods with beer and guitars.  After a night of drinking, Paul and friends needed coffee to warm up and work on their hangovers.  However, the guys did not have a coffee maker or filter, leaving them to make their own.  The filter was created from one of Paul’s socks.  He washed it and allowed it to dry near the fire, and attached it to a coat hanger they had laying around.  They put ground coffee into the sock and poured water into the sock which had been warmed by the fire, and what seeped through the sock was fresh brewed, hot coffee.  Their idea was simple, but got the job done.

The fourth category is called, “Love, Lust, and Other Complications.”  One of the more interesting stories in this category is told by Tiffany Funk who was studying abroad in Spain.  She met a nice rugby player who she became interested in only in time for him to leave the country.  To her surprise, he came back one day and asked to visit her.  Tiffany said yes, and just as he arrived at her door, Tiffany’s zipper on her skirt broke.  With ninety seconds or less to fix the problem and knowing that this was the skirt she really wanted to wear, she needed a quick fix.  She grabbed some earrings and took the backings off.  Then she stuck the studs through the skirt and put the backings on in order to keep both sides of the zipper together.  She put on a long shirt over the earrings and her male friend never noticed.  Tiffany showed a great ability to think quickly like MacGyver. 

The fifth category is called, “Trouble With the Authorities.  One of the most amusing of the six stories in this category is told by Evan Rothman.  Evan was extremely intoxicated one night at a bar, and was eventually kicked out for trying to fight a mountain-of-a-man bouncer.  He was walking wobbly down the street when he tripped over a fire hydrant and banged his head on the concrete ground.  Blood was pouring everywhere after his accident due to a large gash in his head.  Normally, you would rush to the hospital, but one of the people around him had a great idea; get him some coffee!  Even did not drink any coffee, but instead had coffee grounds rubbed into the cut to stop the bleeding.  Coffee turns out to be a great coagulant and stopped the bleeding quickly.  Evan was lucky to have the strangers walking by who had the knowledge to rub coffee into a bleeding cut. 

The final section is called, “On the Job,” and deals with acts of ingenuity performed at the work site.  One of the better entries is written by A.J. Jacobs, best-selling author of, “The Know it All.”  In this book, Jacobs read the entire encyclopedia in order to become extremely smart and make an appearance on a popular television trivia show.  However, while out promoting his books and making appearances, he finds that people ask incredibly difficult trivia questions that he cannot answer.  He figured out a way to avoid answering certain questions, making him a type of “social MacGyver.”  Instead of saying he does not know the answer, he provides an alternate answer on the same topic while still avoiding the answer.  He uses his intelligence and his brain instead of physical items lying around to resolve any issues that arise while making appearances. 

Overall, “What Would MacGyver Do?” is an interesting book full of stories where every day people make the best out of their troublesome situations.  While some of the stories are not very interesting and impressive, and none of the stories are on the level of what Angus MacGyver might do, there are still 15 to 20 stories that are very intriguing and make the book worth reading.  I rate this book 3.5 out of 5. 

By Daniel Breedlove

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