Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thank You, Reader's Digest

“When I have a little money, I buy books. If any is left over, I buy food and clothes.” ~ Erasmus

The year was 1982. We'd been married a little over two and a half years and were living in the Midway section of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. The previous November the we had returned from a year in Mexico and now we were struggling to get on our feet. We were in the downstairs of a duplex with garage sale furniture, a few personal possessions and a shared passion for used book stores.

My favorite at the time was a used book store in Dinkytown, near the University of MN. It also happened to be the closest to where we lived, a little west of us on University Avenue.

There were other book stores around, and we tried them all. The store where I found this Reader's Digest Complete Do-it-yourself Manual was somewhere around Fourth Street in Minneapolis. Four dollars.

What a great companion this book has been over the years. Chapters on interior repairs, exterior repairs, repairing and restoring furniture, plumbing, electricity and more fill this nearly 600 page manual. With illustrations throughout, there is ample advice for even the most novice handyman to take a crack at fixing whatever it is that's gone wrong around the house.

Post-it notes and little scraps of paper serve as bookmarks to remind me sections I have returned to many times over the years, such as how to attach things to solid surfaces. A corner of an envelope is tucked into a page showing how to use ladders and boards to make a safe working platform for painting a stairwell.

This past weekend I had to pull out my manual to review how to repair a leaking faucet. Again.

But times have changed. I don't know if books like this sell much any more because nowadays we have YouTube. Last year, when one of our toilets went on the fritz, three YouTube how-to videos gave me enough confidence to tackle the venture myself. I do not consider myself an A-team handyman, though I have had my share of experience in the painting trades.

It is probable that this Reader's Digest repair manual will one day became a vapor memory, replaced by YouTube and eHow training videos and instructions. But if you need a handy companion around the house, this book is still amazingly relevant. No, it will not show you how to set up your routers, servers or network your computers. But if you need a hand wiring a ceiling fan or building a chair, fixing cabinets or pouring a concrete floor, it's all here. Most plumbing jobs still take three trips to the hardware store, though. And while you're there, be sure to pick that guy's brain, too.


LEWagner said...

I was doing some plumbing in Twig one time. I figured out exactly what I needed, then doubled it, (as I once heard someone say would be a good idea).
I bought the doubled amount, and then returned what I didn't need.
The girl at the return counter at Menards gave me a funny look, though, when I came in with that big bag and a receipt about 18 inches long.
But on that plumbing job, at least, I only had to go to the hardware store twice.

Ed Newman said...

Muy bien.