Following up last week’s question about reading writing/grammar guides, this week, we’re expanding the question….
Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?
Do you ever read manuals?
Anything at all?
There are three adults in our household, and three completely different, and largely incompatible, approaches to a new piece of "kit". My husband settles down with the manual before he unpacks anything else, reads it in depth and, if necessary, identifies every component part of the purchase, counting screws and checking boxes. I will have a cursory glance at the manual and then embark on setup, following the instructions reasonably closely and despairing almost immediately because it won't work. Younger son leaves the manual in the box. If you gave us the same object simultaneously and told us to get it working, he'd probably win hands down.
How-to guides? Well, if you count cookery books, then we all read – and use - them. I like gardening books, too, and wouldn't contemplate pruning a fruit tree without reading up\ on it first. When I was growing up my parents had a wonderful book, passed round as a great treasure, which was a compilation of handicraft leaflets published by Dryad Handicrafts (an interesting offshoot of the Arts and Crafts Movement, see here for information). We learnt to make all sorts of things from these: lino cuts (potato cuts for the children), raffia mats, stencilling, french knitting – there was even a leaflet on bookbinding, and one Christmas my stepmother made me an elegantly bound marble-covered notebook, possibly the beginning of my stationery addiction. I often borrow how-to books from the library, particularly books on petit-point and lace knitting. And there's the Access manual, of course. I've spent hours with that. Aargh!
Lastly, self-help guides. These don't loom large on my horizon. I'll borrow them from the library to find out how to deal with something specific – migraine, for instance, and browse them, making the odd note of anything that might prove useful. Really, I use them in the way I use all reference books, to find the solution to a specific problem. I know some people find them irresistible, but I lack the staying power for self-improvement.