The Useful Book : 201 Life Skills They Used to Teach in Home EC and Shop
by Sharon Bowers and David Bowers and Sophia Nicolay

Overview -

A modern and energetically designed encyclopedia of DIY with everything you need to know to roll up your sleeves and cook it, build it, sew it, clean it, or repair it yourself. In other words, everything you would have learned from your shop and home ec teachers, if you'd had them.  Read more...

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More About The Useful Book by Sharon Bowers; David Bowers; Sophia Nicolay

A modern and energetically designed encyclopedia of DIY with everything you need to know to roll up your sleeves and cook it, build it, sew it, clean it, or repair it yourself. In other words, everything you would have learned from your shop and home ec teachers, if you'd had them.

The Useful Book features 138 practical projects and how-tos, with step-by-step instructions and illustrations, relevant charts, sidebars, lists, and handy toolboxes. There's a kitchen crash course, including the must-haves for a well-stocked pantry; how to boil an egg (and peel it frustration-free); how to grill, steam, saute, and roast vegetables. There's Sewing 101, plus how to fold a fitted sheet, tie a tie, mop a floor, make a bed, and set the table for a formal dinner.

Next up: a 21st-century shop class. The tools that everyone should have, and dozens of cool projects that teach fundamental techniques. Practice measuring, cutting, and nailing by building a birdhouse. Make a bookshelf or a riveted metal picture frame. Plus: do-it-yourself plumbing; car repair basics; and home maintenance, from priming and painting to refinishing wood floors.

  • ISBN-13: 9780761171737
  • ISBN-10: 0761171738
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing
  • Publish Date: June 2016
  • Page Count: 416
  • Dimensions: 10.6 x 8.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Reference > Personal & Practical Guides
Books > Crafts & Hobbies > Woodwork - General
Books > Cooking > Reference

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-04-04
  • Reviewer: Staff

Married couple Sharon Bowers (Candy Construction) and David Bowers (Dad’s Own Housekeeping Book) serve as mom-and-pop guides through the never-ending task of housekeeping in this handy book of how-tos. Organized as a reference guide, the book is divided into two sections, “Home Ec” and “Shop.” The 201 projects start with, of course, how to boil water. “Home Ec” includes all things lemon (zesting, juicing, wedging, and making ade), and “Shop” covers constructing doghouses and birdhouses. Projects in the first section register as much simpler than the ones in the second section; vacuuming does not offer the same challenge as replacing a windowpane. Sometimes the Bowerses recommend a gadget or a professional, but generally they encourage doing the project oneself. Their energetic, confident tone, softened with humor, supports specific directions and detailed illustrations, augmented with histories, hints (credit cards scrape ketchup off of white shirts), recipes, and facts (toilets flush in the key of E flat). Readers learning to live on their own will want to have this book on hand. (June)

BookPage Reviews

Lifestyles: Style, decoded

Andrea Linett, the founding creative director of Lucky, knows a few things about style—and she knows plenty of other smart women who do, too. Here, she gathers their wisdom, along with plenty of photos shot by her husband, Michael Waring, for a crash course on building a wardrobe and achieving a personal aesthetic that seems as natural as breathing. The Cool Factor is actually cool—and not your typical style guide—in part because the “models” are real women whose ages range from the mid-20s to mid-70s, and because, Linett explains in her introduction, “being cool doesn’t involve wearing certain labels, but rather knowing what works for you—even if it’s a piece from a dorky line.” I was surprised to see her give the thumbs-up to the “Canadian Tuxedo” (denim on top and bottom); not so shocked to see lots and lots of neutrals. Here’s one surefire tip: Get yourself a classic trench coat. “Any outfit you slip one over becomes more serious and a bit more French.” 

First published in 1979 as Backwoods Ethics, Laura and Guy Waterman’s newly updated The Green Guide to Low-Impact Hiking and Camping is for avid hikers, backpackers and backcountry campers, but those new to outdoor pursuits will certainly glean knowledge from its pages. The Watermans write with wry humor, yet they are quite serious in their efforts to address the environmental impact of and ethical questions surrounding backwoods exploration today. Reliance on GPS is just one example of how wilderness exploration has changed. “All you have to do is keep your eyes on the screen,” Laura Waterman writes. “But by letting [a GPS] do the work, two things happen: Our skill level with map and compass drops, and we change the relationship we have to the land itself.” The authors also take a close look at the environmental impact of four trends: bushwhacking, growing numbers of rock climbers, the presence of dogs on trails and winter camping. For anyone who loves to experience the natural, wild world up close, this is a must-read. 

The other day, I had a broken dimmer switch. It’s fixed now, thanks to a 10-minute visit from an electrician—but if I’d had David and Sharon Bowers’ The Useful Book, I could have saved myself a chunk of change. Aiming to fill the educational gap left by all those home ec and shop classes no one takes anymore, this aptly named tome gathers a dizzying array of how-tos: everything from folding a fitted sheet to caulking a bathtub, making a household budget to building a table and 197 other skills, projects and repairs that, once mastered, should leave you feeling brilliantly self-sufficient. I almost can’t wait to successfully remove ketchup from a white shirt or knead bread dough or . . . yeah, make that budget. As for cleaning the coffeemaker and catching mice—well, let’s just say I’m not the only one in my household who can benefit from this book. Also, those in need of a handy graduation gift? Your work is done.


This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews