Author Topic: How-to books that are also entertaining works of art  (Read 1933 times)

Offline Noah Darco

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How-to books that are also entertaining works of art
« on: December 18, 2016, 01:03:22 PM »
What book did you pick up because you wanted to read about Subject X, but then found yourself drawn in by the author’s personality and idiosyncracies, and the artfulness of the presentation?

I have a short list of how-to books that I love because qualities like humor, great writing and book design, and sheer synchronicity make them great art and entertainment. Each of these books is much more than the sum of its parts, and much more than a technical manual.

These are books I would sit down and read for fun as much as for reference, and they are the kind of books I hope to write in my lifetime. I know I’ve found a good one when I feel it’s worth keeping older and newer editions of the same book, as I have for several of these.

-The Whole Earth Catalog (in many iterations from the 1960s to the 1980s)
by Stewart Brand, et al.

and its spiritual successor,

-Cool Tools
by Kevin Kelly

-How to Be Invisible
and other books by J.J. Luna

-The Humanure Handbook
by Joseph Jenkins
http://www.humanurehandbook.com

-The Art and Science of Dumpster Diving
by John Hoffman

-The Illustrated Herbal Handbook for Everyone
and other books by Juliette de Bairacli Levy

-A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction
by Christopher Alexander and Sara Ishikawa

-The American Boys’ Handy Book
and others by D.C. Beard

-A Reverence for Wood
and many others by Eric Sloane

-The Companion Bible
by E.W. Bullinger
(OK, not a how-to book in the strictest sense, but I don’t keep it in the fiction section on my bookshelf, either. Technically an annotated King James Bible with extensive appendices, but I find that Bullinger’s work enhances and sharpens the spiritual and cultural touchstone around which it was built, much in the way that a frame can be as much a work of art as the painting it surrounds.)

Several books by Gene Logsdon and Boston T. Party also come to mind.

What are your favorite practical books to read for fun?

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: How-to books that are also entertaining works of art
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2016, 03:03:08 PM »
The Loompanics book catalog comes to mind.  I loved that thing as well as the company.  The art wasn't exactly fine art, but it was fanciful and caught the eye.  I could stay lost in the articles stuffed in between the book departments for a week after each new edition came in the mail.

Hard to believe Loompanics has been gone for a decade now.  I miss them a lot.  The path they laid down ultimately brought me here.  Glad I saved back a few of the old catalogs.

Online FreeLancer

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Re: How-to books that are also entertaining works of art
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2016, 06:03:28 PM »
Fine Woodworking, part of Taunton Press, produces magazines and books that are as much collectible works of art as they are instructional material.

This is probably my favorite photo from the magazine, which has been turned into a poster. 


Offline Chemsoldier

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Re: How-to books that are also entertaining works of art
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2016, 11:40:29 PM »
Not exactly a how to book but Sweeny's "1911: The First 100 Years" is an excellent coffee table book full of color photos and meandering through pistol development, competition shooting, the development of open enrollment training schools, custom 1911 work, etc.  Neat book.

https://www.amazon.com/1911-First-Years-Patrick-Sweeney/dp/1440211159/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482127724&sr=1-1&keywords=1911+the+first+100+years


Offline Chemsoldier

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Re: How-to books that are also entertaining works of art
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2016, 11:46:36 PM »
Actual reference works:

Cartridges of the World





Numrich Arms Catalog







Offline Noah Darco

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Re: How-to books that are also entertaining works of art
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2016, 10:08:21 AM »
Hard to believe Loompanics has been gone for a decade now.  I miss them a lot.  The path they laid down ultimately brought me here.  Glad I saved back a few of the old catalogs.

Likewise. I believe it was the Whole Earth Catalog that originally turned me on to Loompanics.