I think that the best option for writing about this book is to provide a copy of the letter that I wrote to accompany the copy that I gifted to my nephew after I read it (roughly a year ago, in pre-Covid times when he had just started his freshman year of college.
I hope this letter finds you well as you’re about a month into school. I’m sending you a book I recently discovered that I think you might find useful (not too surprising, given its title). When I told your aunt that I was thinking of sending you a copy of this book, she said that everything that’s in it was a Google search away, and this is true, you can almost certainly find all the information in this book on the internet.
So why go to the trouble and expense to send it? Let me digress with a bit of a background for how I came to find the book myself. I’ve had a project going for the past few years where I’m reading my way through the Dewey Decimal system at the library. Not every book—that would be crazy. (Which is not to say that my plan isn’t crazy.) Instead, I’m looking for something interesting in each “decade” (xx0–xx9.999) of the DDS. The big thing I’m getting from this is exposure to things I wouldn’t normally encounter. In this case, the decade that the book comes from (64x) is “Home & family management” and looking for something to read there turned up this book. I’ve found a number of books that I probably would have never encountered otherwise with this technique. There’s something to be said for planned serendipity in life. It’s easy to get caught up in a plan. I have at least a hundred books on my Amazon wishlist and a file on my Dropbox (pro-tip: sign up for a free Dropbox account, or something similar, and put all your documents there. This gives you an instant back-up of everything on the net, easy access to your files via any web browser or a phone app, and you will never have to worry about what happens if your laptop gets lost or stolen or dropped in a pond) with nearly 1000 books that I’ve heard about through various venues that I’d like to read but don’t need to own so I plan to check them out from the library. The problem is that this doesn’t give me the opportunity to discover something by accident. I put a hold on the book at the library and pick it up from the lobby when it’s available. Buying books from Amazon, while it offers similar instant gratification, loses that ability to discover some other book I never realized I might be interested in in the first place.
The Useful Book can serve as a sort of microcosm of this sort of openness to possibility. It’s not merely that you can find out, for example, how to patch a pair of jeans, but that you might entertain the possibility that a pair of jeans can be patched. There are a lot of skills here that you likely won’t need to employ in the foreseeable future, if ever (your need, to clear clogged gutters is likely to be near-zero), but you might find it helpful to browse at random through the book and discover things you hadn’t thought about previously.
And if nothing else, it’s a nice thick book that you could use to raise a monitor to a more comfortable level on your desk.
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