The areas of John Hodgman’s expertise do not extend to the Northwest Passage in his new book The Areas of My Expertise (Dutton). The deficiency is more than made up for, in a chapter called “Our 51 United States,” by an entry on the drifting state of Ar (a cloudy plateau that moves from place to place): “the first American to walk on Ar (voluntarily) was Franz Boaz, who landed his solo zeppelin there as he travelled through British Columbia in 1897.” The Areas of My Expertise is a kind of metabook that plays with things that books can do: lists (e.g., of failed palindromes, of lobsters in America), tables (e.g., short words for use on submarines to preserve oxygen), collections of little-known fact (“the word Philadelphia, from the Greek, literally means Pennsylvania”), obscure histories (men’s worst haircuts, presidents who had hooks for hands) and advice (how to win a fight, where to sell your short stories, a guide to tipping at great hotels). In short, a goofy and brilliant book descended from a list (not included) of equally goofy and brilliant work that includes Don Quixote in the seventeenth century, Tristram Shandy in the eighteenth and, in the twentieth century, Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan, Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts by Donald Barthelme, and Life: A User’s Manual by Georges Perec. New levels of wonder are achieved in a list of 700 hobo names, which includes Cholly the Yegg (2nd), James Fenimore Cooper (31st), Nancified Frederick (346th), Iowa Noam Chomsky (600th) and The Unshakeable Will of Wade Terps (699th). The typography is graceful and unobtrusive; it descends from the history of typography via metatypography as practised by McSweeney’s magazine.