Want to be a 21st century renaissance woman or man who’s self-sufficient, scrappy, and skillful at many tasks? Well then learn how to build a fire — and how to sew a button, too. You’ll learn how to do both in “How to Build a Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew,” a manlier sequel to “How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew.”
Here’s a book that’ll show you how to do everything from reading animal tracks to mowing the lawn to seasoning a cast iron skillet. “How to Build a Fire” tackles all manner of tasks — those you’re too embarrassed to admit you don’t know how to do (like driving a nail properly) to those that’ll impress others (like playing the harmonica). Best of all in a still-recovering economy, learning to do these tasks will save you money, whether by changing your own oil, catching your own fish, or buying the perfect suit — one that’s in a good classic style, good for all seasons, suitable for almost all occasions, and made to last.
Many of the how-tos covered in the book could come in handy for people of either gender, but men will likely find more of the tips useful. Still, the instructions in “How to Build a Fire” often cross traditional gender roles, with directions for changing a diaper, doing laundry and cleaning the house.
Because it covers so many topics, the tone of “How to Build a Fire” is an odd hybrid one, written in the voice of a Don Draper-type who spends all his free time roughing it in the outdoors — yet has the emotional sensibilities of a 21st century woman concerned about gender equity and work-life balance. That woman would be Erin Bried, who wrote the book — with the help of interviews from a group of wise grandfathers.
I’m guessing Bried’s female perspective especially informed some of the touchy-feelier topics — like how to comfort a loved one or how to apologize. Many of the tips certainly focus on developing independent know-how, but many also focus on interpersonal skills, whether it’s knowing how to befriend neighbors or how to tell a clean joke.
Reducing, reusing, and DIYing are green-tinted ideas that inform many of the tips in this book, but some specifically eco-friendly instructions are also included for those who want to learn how to plant a tree or how to buy meat (hint: don’t go for the factory farmed stuff). Published last month, “How to Build a Fire” is available in paperback for $15.