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Specific Situation Books

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Our heroes are in quite a pickle: There's a specific problem that needs solving, but they don't quite have the knowledge or ability to do it. Just before they can start brainstorming a plan, cue some very appropriate help in the form of an awfully specific book about just the very situation they are stuck in.

Due to this trope's silly nature, it is usually restricted to cartoons and other works leaning towards the silly end of the Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness. Furthermore, these books commonly have titles such as X for Dummies, How to X in 24 Hours, and so on.

Sister Trope to Parodies for Dummies. Compare to Great Big Book of Everything, which holds information about every specific situation rather than just a single one, Coincidental Broadcast, which pulls a similar effect with news stations, Oddly Specific Greeting Card, which does a similar joke with greeting cards, and One-Joke Fake Show where a show is based entirely around one simple, specific joke.

If a character has a subscription to a weirdly specific periodical, it's The Magazine Rule.


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  • In the 2008 National Book Festival, R. L. Stine gave an oral story in second-person called The Ghost of Horrorland. At one point, you are on a canoe with a zombie, and you have to choose whether to pick up a guitar pick or a book called How to Get Zombies Out of Your Canoe. The book says "Use the guitar pick."

    Fan Works 
  • In Ascend (xTSGx), Twilight is subpoenaed to testify before parliament and in Chapter Ten, consults a book titled So You've Been Subpenaed to Testify Before Parliament: An Oddly Specific Book on How to Handle a Visit Before Equestria's Legislature. Spike is dubious:
    Spike: I don't know about this one, Twilight. They misspelled "subpoenaed".
  • In Twilight Sparkle Gets a Free Salad, the interrogator Zig-Zag accuses Twilight of reading the terrorist handbook Crippling Equestria's Economy For Dummies. Which is apparently a real book, though Twilight insists she was actually reading Escaping Maximum Security Holding Facilities — For Dummies. And that book proves astonishingly helpful for Twilight's escape.
  • The Palaververse: Mr Stripes Versus A Cthonic Horror: In the first chapter, Mr Stripes is reading a book very relevant to his situation:
    The book’s title was 1001 Possible Presents for Your Teenage Filly’s Birthday (And Where to Get Them All at Extremely Short Notice)

    Films — Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games: In the library, when Pinkie Pie suggests the mysterious figure Sunset saw was "a nighttime statue cleaner" or "a magic portal maintenance person," she manages to produce two books which, going by their covers, are actually on said respective niche topics.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In the first book of the Illuminatus! trilogy, a man takes over his country by following the suspiciously specific instructions of a book on how to overthrow your country in a military coup. He then looks for another book to provide him with similarly precise instructions on how to run a country, and finds The Prince.
  • In John Moore's Heroics for Beginners, Prince Kevin finds his tasks much easier due to his handy copy of The Handbook of Practical Heroics.
  • King Solomon's Mines. The explorers encounter an African tribe deep in the jungle. The tribesmen look like they might be in the mood to kill our heroes. One of the explorers just happens to have a book, an almanac, and said almanac says a lunar eclipse is about to occur. Armed with this knowledge the white people impress the natives by saying they can put out the moon, which they appear to do when the eclipse comes.
  • In Discworld book Men at Arms, a book about How to Kille Insects [sic] is an extreme Door Stopper, and while it's not consulted for the actual situation of killing insects, it does become an Improvised Weapon when the Librarian thinks Cuddy is a burglar.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who episode "The Creature from the Pit". While trying to climb out of the titular pit, the Doctor produces a book from his pocket called Everest in Easy Stages. Sadly, it's in Tibetan, so he produces another book called Teach Yourself Tibetan.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has a sketch in which the characters Mrs Premise and Mrs Conclusion end up having a discussion about the best way to put a budgie down. Incidentally, Mrs Conclusion has just finished reading a big book called How to Put your Budgie Down, and the best methods are either hit them over the head with a book, or shoot them just above the beak.


    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ace Attorney, some specific law books with cartoony covers appear in the series that have about a single page's worth of information, but they always have extremely relevant information.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, the fifth case "Rise From the Ashes" has "Evidence Law", which provides a reminder of both rules of Evidence Law, which comes in handy considering that the current trial had to deal with some sketchy evidence that was genuine but inadmissable unless it fulfills both rules, or outright forged altogether. Said book also contained a secret photo which if used properly, catches the culprit in a major lie. The credits also have Ema's "Forensic Investigation" book by the same company, which has a photo inside of her and Lana when she was first starting out as a cop.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations 2 has the book "Statute of Limitations" in Case 3, which shows what the Statute of Limitations is regarding theft or murder, and special conditions which freeze the time limit if active. This gets used to prove that the true culprit from a years-old murder case can still be tried for his crimes since he left Japanifornia for a while and the wrongly accused defendant was tried and convicted as an accomplice, which took a year to resolve.

    Web Animation 

  • Echo Creek: A Tale of Two Butterflies: In this Star vs. the Forces of Evil fan comic, when Meteora asks Eclipsa about who Miss Heinous is, Eclipsa responds by furiously flipping through a book titled So Your Daughter Wants to Talk About Her Past Life for an answer.
  • Eerie Cuties: When Nina mistakenly believes her older sister is gay, she runs off crying. She is later seen reading a book titled Your Lesbian Sister and You.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • In this title page for Part III of the Painted Black arc, squirrel girl Grace is desperately reading a book called Untying Knots For Squirrels so she can release a securely bound Elliott.
    • When Sarah wants to break up with Elliott, she is seen reading How to Break Up Without Being a Jerk.
  • Girl Genius: Agatha hits a man with a copy of Using Found Objects as Weapons. How meta.

    Western Animation 
  • A Running Gag in American Dad! involves someone, usually Stan, reading a book about the reaction he's about to have from an interaction with someone. Books like how to do a spit take (he hasn't quite gotten the hang of it), or how to gasp dramatically.
  • One episode of Arthur had Arthur and Francine end up getting locked in the library when it closed. They go through the card catalog looking for a book on the subject.
    Francine: How to Escape from Prison, How to Escape from a Desert Island, AHA! How to Escape from a Library!
    [cut to them looking through the stacks]
    Francine: It's not here! Someone must've checked it out! Why would you check out a book on how to escape from a library unless you were already in a library?
  • Back at the Barnyard episode "Mr. Wiggleplix". It has been a running gag with Abby; she brings out four books and a magazine article.
    • What to Do When Your Friend Has an Imaginary Friend He Thinks Is Real but You Know Is Not
    • What to Do When Your Friend Thinks He Has a Second Head Growing Out of His Neck
    • What to Do at Your Friend's Imaginary Friend's Funeral
    • How to Help Your Friend Through the Mourning Process When His Imaginary Friend Gets Crushed by an Anvil
    • What to Do When Your Plan to Dress Up Like Your Friend's Imaginary Friend Goes Awry
  • The Fairly OddParents!, episode "Cosmo Rules": Wanda gets a book to help cure Jorgen's Trick-Ups. Dr. Rip Studwell's 228 Ways to Cure the Trick-Ups.
  • In Hey Arnold! one episode has Sid being paranoid about his friend Stinky being a vampire, and says he will prove it to Arnold. So he goes to the library and finds a book aptly named "How to Prove your Friend is a Vampire."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • From "Look Before You Sleep", there's Twilight Sparkle's Everything You Need to Know About Slumber Parties (But Were Afraid to Ask).
    • In "Pinkie Pride", Twilight has a rulebook for goof-offs. Spike lampshades this.
      Rainbow Dash: She actually has a goof-off rulebook?
      Spike: Are you kidding? Twilight can find a rulebook for everything!
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In the 1935 cartoon Gold Diggers Of '49, Beans the cat finds an old book on how to find gold. The book has only one phrase inside: "Dig for it!"
    • In the cartoon Rabbit Fire, Bugs pulls out a book called "1000 Ways to Cook a Duck" and starts reading it. A minute later, Daffy pulls out "1000 Ways to Cook a Rabbit" and reads that too.
  • The Simpsons: Subverted in "Dumbbell Indemnity". When Homer is in prison, he finds a book on Hans Moleman's library trolley called How to Tunnel out of Prison. He says "This could be useful...", then uses it to bash Hans over the head and runs off.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • In the episode "Squilliam Returns". Squidward gives SpongeBob a book about How to Become a Fancy Waiter in Less Than 20 Minutes.
    • "Rodeo Daze" has a book titled How to Open Things. SpongeBob can't open Sandy's door, but Patrick brings out the book. It conveniently has a whole page about Sandy's door. Also, SpongeBob claims to have seen The Film of the Book of How to Open Things.
  • Happens in El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera:
  • Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Wile E. Coyote often consults books such as these when trying to catch the Roadrunner. One notable example from "Stop! Look! And Hasten!" is How to Build a Burmese Tiger Trap. The trap is successfully sprung, but instead of the Roadrunner, guess what it catches?

    Real Life 
  • This is the very principle behind contingency planning. A prepared plan could be as simple as a single page infographic (such as fire/disaster escape plans for public and office buildings) or as lengthy as a book depending on the scope of the situation being faced.