Made by Hand - Review
There's a certain type of book that we really dislike. And we must be in the minority because we're constantly seeing examples of it on the new release shelf at the bookstore. It's those tedious books centered around someone's 'voyage of personal discovery.' They're all sort of the same: Some dude (or dudette) decides that their life is lame and lacking so they get involved in some new hobby/lifestyle/passion, etc, and 250 agonizing pages later, we find out that they're a better person because of it and, golly, look at all the quirky people they met along the way!
So anyway, a couple weeks ago Penguin Publishing sent us a copy of Mark Frauenfelder's book, Made by Hand. Frauenfelder is one of the founders of the mega-blog Boing Boing, as well as the Editor in Chief of Make Magazine (he also looks like he has a closet full of Weezer bootlegs). Anyway, once we got started on the book, we started to get that sinking, 'personal discovery' feeling, but we kept reading anyway...
In Made by Hand, Frauenfelder, recounts his journey over to the DIY side of life. Being an Editor of Make Magazine, it appears that he knew that the lifestyle was out there, he just hadn't fully embraced it. Frauenfelder uses the DIY idea in the macro sense, putting under its umbrella more than just house fix-it type stuff. He uses the term to include everything from food preparation to spoon making to chicken raising. With him it's more of a self-sufficiency thing than a 'I just fixed the squeaky hinge' thing.
Each chapter in the book is dedicated to one of his forays into this new found world of technology, carpentry, animal husbandry, food preparation, and just general homesteading, some successful and some not. Because he understands that failure is a pretty good teacher, he almost seems to relish in revealing his mistakes along the way, which gives the book a nice wide-open honesty.
Although the book is mostly an account of his actions and the people he meets, it does delve into ideas from time to time, but things never get all that deep, which is fine. The book stays nice, light, and humorous throughout, which is really its strongest point. The grand theory of the book, which is repeated about once a chapter, is that if you start making things by hand you'll gain satisfaction and knowledge and you'll have a finer appreciation of your surroundings. It's a simple idea, and one that's impossible to refute.
And the bottom line is that Made by Hand is a fun book to read. The style is engaging and the author doesn't really take himself all that seriously, which is good and places the reader right with him as he tries, tries, and tries again. It all makes for a 'voyage of personal discovery' that is not only tolerable, but enjoyable.
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Posted by Doug Mahoney at July 7, 2010 5:50 AM
Like you, I am constantly amazed at folks who "discover" DIY. Maybe it is because I grew up less than affluent, or the way I was raised, but I've always prefered to make it myself rather than buy it.
Every so often you see lists printed of the "50 Things Every Man Should Know" things like changing tires or oil on the car, or the proper way to build a lean-to in the woods. I typically score well, but am often really surprised at how many young men I know who have no clue about anything like this. One 24 year old I know thought that his mechanic was trying to rip him off when told that a wheel weight had fallen off his tire!
Anyway, I had seen this book, maybe based on your recommendation I'll pick it up for my summer reading list.