Do Cool Stuff: Quirky “How-To” Books

It’s astonishing when people say they’re “bored” in 2016. There are thousands of activities we could pick up, or trips we could embark on. Even on the rainiest, coldest, grossest of days we could stay inside and read a book, knit a scarf, build a model ship, or maybe even carve our own rocking horse…

Wait a minute? Do you not know how to do these things? Fear not! The following list is comprised of  an assortment of “how-to” books detailing some interesting and genuinely fun—if a little offbeat—activities and hobbies.

*Disclaimer: some of the following are best done outside, in fact, some are downright dangerous to take indoors. 🙂




Paragliding, A Pilot’s Training Manual by Mike Meier

Have you ever looked out over a scenic area and seen people floating along, supported by weird, almost cylindrical parachutes? If so, you at least have a working, visual knowledge of what paragliding is. If you have not seen this phenomenon in action, you are now at least familiar with that extremely layman description.


This instructional piece is a comprehensive guide to the practice of paragliding for beginners. In a most reassuring and methodical way, Meier lays out the fundamentals in writing and diagram form. Additionally, the book comes with a bonus DVD (for the visually oriented) with follow along visuals to assist your learning and build your confidence.

Making Artisan Breads at Home


Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg

Nothing is more important to a fantastic sandwich than the bread that goes into it. How many times have you sat down to a great dinner that has been drastically been improved by a crusty and somehow simultaneously chewy, buttery piece of garlic bread? How often has your life been improved by by the smell of toasting toast in the morning in accompaniment to your morning coffee/tea?

You could make this bread.

Hertzberg makes the steps to amazing bread simple with only five minutes of active prep to the so-called “master loaf” from which all other recipes are based. This book houses chapter after chapter about everything you ever wanted to know about the art of making bread. You get a comprehensive guide on ingredients, tools, tips, tricks, oven specificities, and more in an easy-to-read, easy-to-follow book about bread. Follow up all of this overwhelming information with recipes from all over the world and get yourself to a kitchen.



…Now to burn off all of the carbs you ate when learning how to bake the perfect bread.

The Competitive Runner’s Handbook: The Bestselling Guide to Running 5k’s to Marathons by Bob and Shelly-Lynn Glover

Even the most seasoned runner will find that there is always (always) more to learn about running. Honestly, running seems pretty straightforward: it’s like walking, but faster. However, something a beginning runner may not consider is what goes into training for a specific distance. It’s one thing to hit the trail/treadmill/track and run until you’re tired (or you feel like you’ve justified eating another slice of your homemade bread) and another thing entirely to set out with the mindset of eventually covering 26.2 miles without a vehicle.

The Glover’s guidebook to running lays it all out there for you: in the book you are given charts to fill out your specific goals along with guidelines for achieving aforementioned goals. Specific workouts are provided ranging from how to increase speed and stamina as well as pure strength training. If you’re planning a race on a certain date, the book can tell you exactly when to start your training and when to start your tapering (it also defines what it means to “taper” your training and how to go about it).



Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book by the editors of Vogue Knitting Magazine

If it’s written by the authors of Vogue Knitting it’s bound to be a solid guide to knitting. Inside this colorfully written instruction manual, you will read the tips and tricks of more than fifty knitting experts from all over the world.

Readers are offered guidance about different kinds of yarns, needles, tools, basic techniques, basic terminology, and more. At the back of the book, you are provided illustrations and diagrams that are self-explanatory and assist in the creation of your own designs. This book is a wonderful guide to help a beginning-to-advanced knitter attain inspiration and the tools necessary for living out that inspiration; no longer will “knit one, purl two” be a meaningless thing people-in-the-know say about yarn manipulation.

Besides, you’re tired now from all that running and bread-baking.



The Complete Book of Woodcarving: Everything You Need to Know to Master the Craft by Everett Elenwood (even his name is dedicated to his craft)

Note that the title does not say “Some Things You Might be Interested in Learning to Have a Working Knowledge of This Craft.” No, it promises to teach you everything you need to know to master woodcarving. If that’s not enough to interest you, you must not be invested in carving hunks of wood into intriguing and useful tools/objects.

This is carved wood...

Written in very clear and concise language, Elenwood’s guide walks the reader through nine step-by-step carving guides. Not only are you given instructions on these specific projects, but readers are also offered bright and detailed photos that inspire even the most menial projects to look fun and interesting. Like many of the best “how-to” books, this particular work is written to satisfy all skill levels from beginner carvers, to the well-versed woodworkers looking for new projects.

Spatially-Conscious Farming

MAXyoMINIfarm (1)

Maximizing Your Mini Farm: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett L. Markham

Having the knowledge that allows you to farm in a confined amount of space is a skill that may prove extremely useful at some point in the foreseeable future. That said, there’s no need to panic about the state of food in this country, but it’s a well-known fact that the produce in this country can be full of pesticides, we don’t know where it’s coming from, maybe a consumer doesn’t like GMO’s, or all of the above. It’s also a fact that growing your own food is budget-friendly.

Markham provides instructions on how to create a legitimately productive farm on 1/4 acre or less by giving you information about ideal produce options, amount of sun required, soils, etc. He goes further and makes the claim that the food produced on your new, pint-sized farm can provide up to 85% of food for a family of four (and the possibility of selling some of the leftovers).

…Pretty Much Anything


Show Me How: 500 Things You Should Know – Illustrations for Life from the Everyday to the Exotic by Derek Fagerstrom

The above list is far from extensive; it’s a collection of a few, widely ranging activities that a person might someday wish to attempt. This guide, on the other hand, has a lot of everything that you might someday wish to attempt, from hog-tying to flirting with emoticons (seriously).

Not only is the content fascinating, but so to is how it is presented. Unlike most guidebooks, 500 Things is concocted almost entirely out of images and diagrams, with no pesky words getting in the way of the action. Not only is this “how-to” equal parts instruction and a fine example of modern-day graphic design, but the vivid colors are oddly inspirational and really make you want to get out there and get crafting—or flirting, or lacing corsets, or making the perfect Caprese salad.