But I Read A Book About It
I did read a flight training manual in my grandmother's library. There were a couple of pages missing, but I'm sure nothing vital... And I'm guessing that there are a lot of similarities between a Sopwith Camel and today's light aircraft.
The higher reaches of the military art were at first denied to these "unprofessional" officers but they embarked on a serious and successful programme of self-improvement. In December 1777, the Hessian captain Johann Ewald noted that it was common to find American officers in posession of the standard texts of Santa Cruz, Frederick, Turpin de Crisse, Grandmaison, Jeney, and Tielke as well as excellant small handbooks recently published by their own countrymen.
Christopher Duffy, The Military Experience in the Age of Reason
You have a friend, who has never actually done whatever task you need to do, but hey, (s)he has read all about the subject so they are going to attempt it anyway. What could posssibly go wrong... right?
This trope is the literary equivalent of I Know Mortal Kombat
and Taught by Television
— that is, the character in question gets their knowledge by reading about it. A character with only book knowledge of a subject may be the Closest Thing We Got
in an emergency situation. Contrast Taught by Experience
, where a person lacks formal knowledge but dives in headfirst into the thing to be learned.
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Anime and Manga
- Eyeshield 21: The Amino Cyborgs team do only a middling amount of training, and spend more time getting juiced up and reading books on how to play football. This leaves them with low stamina and a poor grasp of football fundamentals when they play the Devil Bats.
- In Noir, the Action Girl Kirika reads a book on making tea and henceforth enjoys it to no end. Which is kinda cute, once you consider that making tea is the only thing she can do well besides killing people, and the only thing she ever learned on her own.
- Battle Royale uses this for two of Kazuo Kiriyama's Crowing Moments Of Awesome, both in Flashback. The first has him breaking the arms, nose, and jaw of a bunch of bullies, with the explanation that "I simply used the information I learned from this book" * shows a human anatomy text* . The second has a mean judo coach with a penchant for humiliating his students pick Kiriyama, reading a book in back, for the next spar. Kiriyama closes his book with the title facing the reader: "Introduction to Judo" Read on for more :).
- In Pokémon Special, the main reason Platinum went on her journey was to try out first hand the many things she read about. That said, sometimes she initially sucks at whatever she's trying out even when she recites whatever the book told her on the subject, like when she kept falling down when she was on a bike for the first time in her life.
- Yuu from Holyland first learnt boxing from a book.
- When Gohan of Dragon Ball Z has to play baseball in high school, he notes that he has read about it after admitting that he never played it before. Of course, being a superhuman half-alien who spent a sizable portion of his life in Training from Hell, any physical activity is pretty much a cakewalk for him, once he understands what he's supposed to be doing.
- In the continuation of the story in Dragon Ball Online, Gohan writes a book called "Groundbreaking Science," which explains the concepts of ki control to the general public, allowing people to learn how to fly/shoot ki blasts/etc by reading a book.
Live Action TV
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wesley bragged that in the new Watcher training, he had even taken on two vampires "under controlled circumstances, of course". Giles quickly countered that he wouldn't encounter those in Sunnydale... controlled circumstances, that is.
- Star Trek: Voyager, "Rise." Neelix claims to know everything about orbital tethers (flexible columns going from a planet to an orbiting station, so you can take an elevator to it). He must confess that he really only worked with models. Very detailed models as he's quick to claim, but still models. The practical knowledge he has is more than everyone else's put together, though—and it's enough to avert disaster at the beginning.
- Parodied with Dave in Flight of the Conchords, who acts like an expert in all things, especially being a ladies' man. Judging by his tendency toward malapropisms and the way he (deniedly) lives with his parents...
- The X-Files: "I play Dungeons and Dragons. I know a thing or two about courage"
- On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper attempted to learn to swim on the internet. And to rock climb.
- He's actually pretty good at the climbing. It's when he looks down that it all goes wrong.
- He also tries to find a book on how to make friends. All he can find is a children's book, Stu the Cockatoo is New at the Zoo, but he figures he can interpolate the information to fit his needs.
- Invoked unsuccessfully in A Bit of Fry and Laurie when they try to fly a plane with no experience, not even reading about it.
Hugh: Right now, Sir Peter, you've never flown an aeroplane before?
Stephen: Never flown in my life, Johnny, no.
Hugh: And you've never had any lessons?
Stephen: Oh I've had lessons, maths, geography ...
Hugh: But not in flying?
Hugh: And I've never flown before. Is this something you've always wanted to do?
Stephen: Not particularly. So when you rang up I just leapt at the chance.
- Taken to its logical extreme in Flight of the Conchords.
Jemaine: You'd better watch out. Bret knows karate.
Bret: Yeah, I've got a book on karate. But I haven't actually read it yet.
- Manuel in Fawlty Towers. "I speak English well. I learn it from a book."
- In the All in the Family episode "Edith Writes a Song," Mike tries to placate two African American burglars whom Archie has racially insulted, by explaining that Archie doesn't know what it's like to grow up in the inner city. One of the burglars responds, "Oh, and you do?" Mike sheepishly replies that he learned about it in his sociology course.
- This is actually a knack in Scion. Basically means that the Scion has read so much about stuff they can try them even if they have no training.
- The Factotum class (dungeonscape) in Dungeons & Dragons has this as it's premise. As a result its class skills are "All", even obscure class specific ones are treated as class skills for a factotum.
- Pretty much any CRPG will contain skill books for those all important extra skill points.
- Of course, generally a book doesn't give enough skill points to do much of a difference. Still, "But I Read Books About It" is also covered by this trope...
- Walkthroughs provide this in a meta sense.
- Parodied in Family Guy:
Peter: It'll be okay Brian, I read a book about it.
Brian: Are you sure it was a book? Are you sure it wasn't...nothing?
Peter: Oh yeah.
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, "Fall Weather Friends": Grade-A bookworm Twilight Sparkle enters a big marathon, the Running of the Leaves, alongside her more athletic friends Applejack and Rainbow Dash. The two of them scoff when Twilight claims she's read a book on running techniques in preparation for the race, but in the end she manages a respectable fifth place for a first time race by pacing herself, while Applejack and Rainbow Dash end up tied for dead last because the two of them were too preoccupied with making sure the other doesn't win.
- The entire reason for the Dummies (Wiley), Complete Idiot's Guide (Alpha Books), Teach Yourself (Hodder & Stoughton), and Everything Guide (Adams Media) series' success, as well as websites like eHow and Howcast. Don't underestimate the value of practice though — "instinct" isn't.
- There was a parable in the Eighteenth century about the need for this in a military officer and the fact that street smarts isn't necessarily enough. It goes roughly like this, "There was a mule who served in the army for ten campaigns. At the end it was-a mule."
- Subversion. According to C. S. Lewis in The Discarded Image (a series of lectures about the cultural background of Medieval literature) many medieval beliefs, even those that sound like holdovers from primeval superstition were in fact simply because somebody had read a book about them. Books were so expensive and such fine pieces of craftsmanship that no one could really quite make themselves believe that a book could actually be wrong.
- Among the many lesser-known things the U.S. government habitually does is pay for the creation of (often mind-numbingly) detailed publications and manuals on pretty much any random thing a citizen might need to know how to do. For example, cooking a turkey or safely cutting down an evergreen tree with a chainsaw. Said publications are cheaply (cost of printing and postage) or freely available, especially with the rise of the Internet, and there have been accounts of people (usually in the bureaucracy, who know about them and can find given topics) who learn skills mainly from these.