Check it out: With simple tasks, grandma knows best

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Review

“How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew”

By Erin Bried; Ballantine Books,

278 pages.

It's officially September, and I'm stressing out. I know this is a recurring theme for me, but where does the time go? I'm pretty sure summer just started, yet the calendar tells me that it's Labor Day weekend. If I were the type of person to believe in conspiracies, I would definitely wonder if a super-secret agency isn't messing around with time because I know for a fact that June, July and August went by faster than ever before. It gets to the point where I'm almost afraid to go to sleep for fear of waking up and finding out Dec. 1 has arrived, and I won't remember buying Halloween candy or stuffing a turkey. But, it's important not to panic, right?

While September is a perfectly fine month (three hearty cheers for gorgeous Indian summer weather, the transition to fall colors, crisp apples, juicy pears, school supplies), it can represent a stressful next chapter in life -- not just for me but for legions of students as well. A new school year means having to get used to different teachers, learn new subjects, tackle mounds of homework, even decide where to sit during lunch hour (yikes!). And if you're a college student, you might have to do all of the above plus adjust to living in a city far away from your family and friends. Living on your own for the first time requires skills -- skills that can turn what might at first appear to be imposing challenges into totally doable tasks.

This is where "How to Sew a Button" comes in to save the day. Collecting a cornucopia of basic, useful and entertaining grandmotherly wisdom from, yes, grandmothers, author Erin Bried has compiled a compendium of practical, DIY (do-it-yourself) advice every young -- and not so young -- person should know. For college students in particular, I think the following tips are especially useful. Taking a cue from the book's title, learning how to sew a button can have a very positive impact on a tight budget -- no need to replace that buttonless shirt with a new one! Or, understanding how to correctly hang a picture means no more cheesy posters stuck to the wall with Scotch tape. For every sophomore's late-night study session, or freshman's party-over-the-top-weekend, checking out page 171, "How to Get a Good Night's Sleep" can be a lifesaver -- if not a grade-saver. Believe it or not, some university students are shy, so spending a little time with "Expand Your Circle: How to Make Friends" might make social networking -- the face-to-face kind, not the sitting-in-front-of-a-computer-screen-tweeting kind -- much more comfortable. And when you send a care package to your homesick loved one, instead of receiving a quick, "Thx" via text, perhaps an honest-to-goodness, handwritten thank-you note will land in your mailbox if your transplanted collegiate has taken the time to look at page 266 ("Express Gratitude: How to Write a Thank You Note") before flying off to academia.

Whether you're a newly hatched high school graduate, or a fifty-something homeowner ready to learn how to unclog the toilet without having to call a plumber, this week's book provides sage advice aplenty for anyone needing a little grandmotherly instruction on life.

Jan Johnston is the collection development coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at readingforfun@fvrl.org