Mostly Harmless

by Alyssa Yenzer

Mostly Harmless

Audrey Swartz, Librarian, Manhattan Public Library
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Turns 35: What It Taught Us | Time

Reading connects us and more than through our Manhattan Public Library. Questions about what you’re reading and what you like to read are familiar icebreakers and even appear as questions on needlessly long online dating questionnaires. For many, these questions about our reading habits are nearly impossible to answer.

Sure, I have a favorite book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt. I even like the movie adaption and have the cover of the book prominently tattooed on my arm. My favorite author? Orson Scott Card. His world building and storytelling drew me in at a young age and have kept my attention since. My favorite genre? I read a lot of romance, but it’s not my favorite. My favorite genre is Science Fiction/Fantasy and within the genre, my favorite series is — hands down — Douglas Adam’s, “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” a six-book-and-one-short-story read. These books have been made into movies, radio shows, comics, and television shows.

I first read “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in middle school where it was a class read that we read aloud as a group. With the iconic “It began with a house,” I was hooked into this story of romance, space travel, planetary extinction, intergalactic politics and just about everything else thrown in … including the kitchen towel.

Adams begins his story with a house belonging to Arthur Dent, British Broadcasting Corporation employee and sandwich maker. His house is scheduled for demolition because it is in the way of a bypass road being built. Through this first book, Adams sets the scene(s) for a much larger universe and offers a taste of his humor and word play. Readers learn Earth is a giant supercomputer meant to calculate the “ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.” Unfortunately for Earth inhabitants, who are also in the way of construction for a hyperspace expressway.

In the series’ second book “Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” we continue following our motley crew of humans, aliens and clinically depressed robots on a very long trip for lunch or dinner. “Restaurant” is the ultimate story of frustration in trying to decide what to eat and then getting everyone there to eat. Do not enjoy your food speaking to you, then don’t bother to dine with our cast as they wait for the universe to end during their meal.

In the third book “Life the Universe and Everything,” we are dropped into a story of a planet full of unhappy inhabitants, who also happen to be robots. Their main complaint is that they hate looking at the night sky. Their solution: destroy the universe. The five main “Hitchhiker’s Guide” characters prove to be all that stands in the robots’ way of total annihilation.

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish,” the series’ fourth book starts with a message from the dolphins. Before the dolphins leave earth, they give a fish bowl engraved with “So long and thanks for all the fish” to our protagonist, Dent. With this gift, he begins another hitchhiking adventure across the galaxy to discover why all the dolphins left Earth. Book five, “Mostly Harmless,” treats us to what happens when you start messing with space and time and misunderstandings. Readers are faced with questions like “Why does Dent have a teenage daughter?”, he’s never had one before and maybe more importantly “How are we on Earth when it was destroyed four books ago?” Unfortunately, this is where our adventure leaves readers.

Douglas Adams passed away in 2001. In 2002, the third book of his Dirk Gently’s series was published, although unfinished. A sixth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, “And Another Thing,” was written by Eoin Colfer in 2009 with support from Adam’s widow, Jane Belson.

I have loved everything Douglas Adams wrote. The “ultimate answer” being 42, always knowing where my towel is, and thinking “oh no not again” will be the highlight of my sixth-grade self’s literary heart. Swing on by Manhattan Public Library and go on a crazy universe-altering adventure with me by checking out Douglas Adams works.

Manhattan Public Library is a cornerstone of free and equal access to a world of ideas and information for the Manhattan, Kansas, community. Manhattan Public Library serves more than 75,000 people in the Riley County area through curated book and other media collections, knowledgeable staff, relevant programming for all ages, and meeting space. Learn more at