How To How To

Somebody brought us an entire box of books on Graphology this week. It contained some of the common or garden variety graphology books as well as deeper studies of the subject, and a book or two on the applications of Graphology in modern business.

Somebody else wandered past and inquired, “Where are you going to put all that stuff on Handwriting Analysis?”

This was actually the subject of a brief argument back around 1987, with the opposing camps holding out for Science Fiction/Fantasy/New Age and How To. The more stubborn camp won out, and Graphology, or Handwriting Analysis, has ever since been placed in How To, or, in more recent years How To – Hands.

We’ve been having these arguments about How To ever since we put in the category. I found one volunteer putting a stack of French textbooks on that shelf one year. “Well, they’re about How To Learn French,” she told me.

Books on How To Buy Stock fluctuate almost as wildly as the Dow, sometimes winding up in How To but other times getting stacked in Business. I sort of agree with my mentor, who divvied them up between the two categories. “That way, everybody can find them,” she said. I also kind of see the point of my more rigid control freaks, who want to know why just any subject can’t go into How To, then. “Here’s a book on How To Travel in China,” they say, “And this one’s How To Watch Birds. Oh, and all these cookbooks are How To Cook, aren’t they?”

They are being facetious. (And, anyhow, to hear the Cookbook Lady discuss it, some of those are about How NOT To Cook.) There have to be some rules at this Book Fair, if only to make sure the books on Donald Duck don’t wind up in Nature.

Other arguments deal with the dividing line between How To – Hands and How To – Head (or, as one volunteer put it, How To Build a Bookcase and How To Feel Good About Yourself.) Since raising a child involves both head games and hands on experience, there is a constant friction between those people who want it in the one division and those who want it in the other. (One year, a volunteer solved this by taking them all and putting them in Women’s Studies. I can see her logic, twisted though it is, but I was asked “Why is this book on How To Be a Good Father in Women’s Studies?”)

I try to explain that the one category is involved mainly with mental and emotional improvement and the other involves things you do with your hands. Somebody always brings up the books on American Sign Language at this point, but Uncle Blogsy is too sly to be caught in that trap. He smiles an innocent smile and says, “What about Foreign Language?” and sneaks out of the room while people argue whether anything American can be a foreign language.

You ant to know how to How To? Here’s a rule: How To is for any book that tells you how to do something that doesn’t have a category of its own. How To Act is going to find its new owners in Show Biz, while How To Play the Banjolele is happiest in Music. How To Fix a Toilet Tank really has no other place to go but into How To –Hands, where it can sit near How To Make Your Studio Apartment Look Like a Chateau in Provence, At Least On a Sunny Day. How To Take Photographs, meanwhile, goes to Photography, How To Draw Ferns into Art, and How To Write a Vampire Romance After Your Own Death will be in Books and Authors.

And just a word to the volunteer who kept asking me if all those magazines on How To Build Model Trains shouldn’t be in Games, or in Children, or in Transportation: You were on the right track. If I had thought to tie you there before the 5:15 came through, I might know How To Avoid Ulcers.

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