Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities

By Kevin Kelly

Love the subtitle…”A Catalog of Possibilities”! Kevin Kelly’s “Cool Tools” blog has curated awesome, useful tools for years, and this book distills a ton of the best he’s encountered. I recently heard Kelly talk about this book on Tim Ferriss’ podcast; I’d already had my eye on it but after hearing more about how and why he wrote it, I’m even more excited to read it.

This book covers all sorts of topics, all variety of “objects that have withstood the test of time”: from crafts and materials, to clothing and tools, to homesteading and household items, to gardening and travel, to transportation and visual media, to learning, work, and play. There’s even a section called “Big Systems”. All told, it’s a massive corpus of tools with the potential to leverage human abilities in diverse ways; it seems impossible to read this thing without learning a ton.

One small downside is that it looks pretty dense and busy in design, with kind of a crazy DIY collage layout style. Lots of colors, lots of images, and an almost overwhelming quantity of material. Really the only complaint I saw from reviewers is some poor-quality images; if that’s the biggest complaint to be had, so be it. Anyway, this looks pretty damn comprehensive — apparently it covers over 1,500 tools!

One reviewer put it aptly: “Most catalogs are short stories. This one is a catalog novel.” Cool Tools seems like an interesting blend of tools of potentially universal utility and personally curated collection. It’s a “sprawling compilation”; another reviewer says that “half the fun is the insight into the tools of the trade of some activity you may never have considered like beekeeping or world travel on a shoestring budget.”

Originally I thought Kevin Kelly personally used and evaluated every single tool included; it appears it’s actually more of a collective effort than that, but the vision and drive behind it is his and I still find it a really impressive achievement. This isn’t just a buying guide; this sort of collection indicates deep interests in things Kelly’s studied extensively in his other work, like the evolution of technology and how people can better learn and make things. As far as that goes — I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s worth 100x the cover price!

Additional information:

  • ISBN: 978-1940689005
  • Publisher: Cool Tools Lab

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