MAKE Asks: Books that Inspire you to Make

MAKE Asks: Books that Inspire you to Make

MAKE Asks: is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

This week’s question: What books have you read that either inspired you to start making, or encourage you to continue making today? Fiction or Non-Fiction, How-To books or sci-fi novels, no holds barred.

As a boy I read the novel Hatchet endlessly. It’s a story about a kid who gets stranded in the Canadian woods with a hatchet as his only tool. I was fascinated with how he made do with what he had, making spears, discovering fire, building shelter, and eventually getting rescued. That feeling of survival often comes back when I’m making something — especially when it’s a part that I’m kludging together.

Post your responses in the comments section.

34 thoughts on “MAKE Asks: Books that Inspire you to Make

  1. zach wilson says:

    I used to read these books called “the mad scientist’s club”, where these rural nerds from like the fifties would get up to all kinds of science related shenanigans.

  2. asciimation says:

    I fondly remember the 1980s Usborne computer and robotics books. They got me into coding and electronics. This one ( in particular lead to me making my own robot hooked up to my Apple 2e. That’s one of my earliest electronics and making memories.

    When even younger I was always fascinated with Robinson Crusoe and all the things he made when stranded on his island.


  3. Erik Brewster says:

    The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking by James Krenov (and his others in the series) were very influential to me. I find his frills free approach to making things of the highest quality is as applicable to cabinetmaking as electronics. Seeing the pretense stripped is a very inspirational thing.

  4. Jeff Faust says:

    “The Bicycle Wheel” by Jobst Brandt is one of the best how-to books I’ve ever found. It took a totally intimidating topic–building a wheel–and made it easy. Nearly twenty years later, I’m still riding the wheels I built.

  5. fzman60 says:

    for me it was the old Boy Scout Handbooks from the 40’s and “My Side of the Mountain”

  6. thecheekydiva says:

    The Dressmakers Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques always inspires me to MAKE stuff, and I’m hoping for a shiny new copy of Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible for my birthday next week. Love this blog! Even though all this stuff is way over my head and far too technical for me to ever attempt, I’m in awe of what you post here. :-)

  7. chuck says:

    I also loved The Mad Scientist’s Club! I discovered The Foxfire Books in 9th grade and built a banjo (and later a still!). I devoured all of David Macauley’s stuff (Castle!), Orson Scott Card’s Hatrack River series about Alvin Maker was pretty influential when I was in high school. John Christopher’s Tripods series, Earth Abides, A Canticle For Leibowitz, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs and all the other great post-apocalyptic novels about folks struggling to hold onto or rediscover technology after a cataclysm reminded me how precious knowledge was. Most of all I think William Gibson had a huge influence on my attitude toward making things. For the past year several of Forrest Mim’s books have been very useful. Musical Instrument Design by Bart Hopkin is a great resource for music related formulas and design ideas. I could go on all night… books are awesome.

  8. gdkonstantine says:

    I’m another person inspired by books like the Usborne ones and sci-fi. Recently, reading about historical inventions puts me in the mood to create something. For example, there is a book titled: “Engineers” (sub-title: From the Great Pyramids to the Pioneers of Space Travel) by DK Publishing that I am currently reading.

  9. Donald says:

    Maybe not making exactly, but “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” made me want to take my maker skills to the next level. A novel that discusses the merits of brazing versus welding, and weaves it into a philosophical discussion? Yes! I would love to find more books like it.

    1. Michael Colombo says:

      Yes! A big takeaway from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is to be curious as to the inner workings of things – not just seeing them on the surface (metaphor between the author maintaining his bike and his companions not touching the engine “because it’s a BMW”) – and doesn’t this mesh nicely with the Maker creed, “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.”

  10. Romilly Cocking (@romillyc) says:

    1) ‘The Eagle’ – an amazing comic published in the UK which had its golden age in the 50’s and 60’s. It was famous for its centre-fold cutaway illustrations of how things worked, and its hero Dan Dare got a generation excited about the prospect of space travel.

    2) ‘Amateur Telescope Making’ Edited by Albert Ingalls

    3) ‘Easy home chemistry for boys’ by F T Oram. It’s a very un-pc title but it got me started with practical chemistry for application in Making projects.

  11. stevepoling (@stevepoling) says:

    How about Robert Heinlein’s “Have Space Suit Will Travel” for a good scifi look at the maker’s spirit. That and “The Mad Scientist Club” were childhood faves.

  12. Bill Meara says:

    “First Light” by Richard Preston. It has a a wonderful discussion of the Palomar Gadgeteers.

    “The Amateur Scientist” by C.L. Strong. Great stuff from the time before we became obsessed with suing each other. Homemade X-ray machines! Build your own Atom Smasher! Really dangerous amateur rocketry!

    On this last one, I’m very biased, but I’m told that it does really inspire Making:

  13. John Honniball says:

    Growing up in England in the 1960s, we had the Ladybird books, of which there were four “Junior Science” titles:
    I read those, and many other books on science and engineering from the local library.

    At university, I was inspired by “The C Programming Language”, “Software Tools” and “Writing Interactive Compilers and Interpreters”, which led to a career in software. Shortly after uni I read the first edition of Horowitz & Hill’s “Art of Electronics”.

    More recently, I have read Tim Hunkin’s excellent compilation of “Almost Everything There Is To Know” and of course in video form the “Secret Life of Machines”. As seen in Make magazine, I’ve read Alexander Weygers’ “Recycling, Use and Repair of Tools”.

  14. Eric Hart says:

    When I was a kid, I always enjoyed looking at David Macaulay’s “The Way Things Work.” The pictures and descriptions turned even complicated devices into a simple collection of parts and processes. It helped me see the objects in our world as things which anyone can make, as long as you can break them down into smaller parts and understand how they work together.

  15. Bill Bradham says:

    ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ :)

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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