It amazes me that those of us who bridle at advice from people we know — parents, spouses, neighbors — crave it from those strangers we call authors. Stand in front of any magazine rack and gaze upon the endless lists of promises on the covers: advice on how to publish your first novel, lose weight, or put that spark back into your love life. Think of that corner in the bookstore devoted to “Self-improvement.” Books with “how to” in the title — including my latest effort — number in the thousands.
Here are three astonishing examples of the advice genre, books so different in form and content that I doubt they would gravitate to any other shelf but my own — and now maybe yours.
I realize the shared theme among these three odd volumes: survival. Fisher offers ways of shopping, gathering and cooking that could sustain a family during the deprivations of the war years; Hudson helps us understand the forces of nature that sustain life on this planet in all its wondrous variety; Cahan teaches us that even those crammed on to the Lower East Side of Manhattan Island (where I was born) are not islands unto themselves. We survive together.
Roy Peter Clark’s most recent book is How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times.