Book Reviews

Book Review: The Art of Explanation by Lee LeFever

Explanation. It’s the name of the game in public services. So do we really need an entire book explaining this seemingly simple concept? Absolutely. Explanation may be a natural part of how we communicate, but it also is a skill on which we can improve, and The Art of Explanation by Lee LeFever is one resource that will benefit librarians in this area.

LeFever is the founder of Common Craft, maker of such videos as Blogs in Plain English and Augmented Reality — Explained by Common Craft. The book is presented in three parts: Plan, Package and Present, each a step in the explanation process.

LeFever writes that explanation tells you how to do something and why it makes sense. The text details how to assess audience understanding, how to decide which information to include, and how to determine where to start. LeFever emphasizes the role of empathy in explanations, which are intended to increase understanding and build confidence in the listeners. He also notes the importance of identifying the big ideas and having clear intentions, as well as the value of including both facts and stories in presenting information. Clear examples throughout the book and creative diagrams help readers solve their own explanation problems while walking through the steps of the process.

The Art of Explanation is highly recommended across disciplines, and any librarian who has written a research guide, taught an instruction session, or even wanted to improve the quality of reference services they provide will find great value in this work.

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