Clarkson Potter (December), $25
This title, aka the ReadyMade book, won't surprise fans of the local monthly publication. The volume is cleverly designed to work as a ruler and a picture frame; inside, it's a compendium of good ideas for reusing old crap. The authors are, as usual, humble ("We have no special skills whatsoever," reads the introduction), optimistic, and enamored of artist Marcel Duchamp, from whose work the periodical takes its title. This fascination with surrealism lets the book be unfettered in its subject matter; for example, the chapter on "Metal" includes a thorough essay on, and two buyers' guides to, heavy metal music. But How to Make consists mostly of the project descriptions readers have come to expect: hubcap yard fountain, beer-can room divider, and "Ladder Shelving." Some projects seem a little on the complicated side, the expensive side, or the "Uh, sure" side (is anyone really going to hang clothes on a tower of Tide bottles?). But such concerns may become inspiration for even better ideas. In fact, one of How's charms is its recurring "Remake This" feature involving projects from the magazine that didn't work. Full disclosure: I pooh-poohed ReadyMade's "Murphy Bar" scheme because it called for about $100 worth of lumber and the time and space to make it into something. Instead, spying a discarded medicine cabinet on the street, I turned it on its side and voilà! A photo of my husband with the finished product appeared in the mag's Letters to the Editor section. So who knows? With encouragement from this book, you too could become a notoriously trash-reclaiming do-it-yourselfer.