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, and Coincidental Broadcast, which pulls a similar effect with news stations.
- 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."
- In Turnabout Storm, Twilight reads a book called How to Be a Lawyer in 24 Hours after she fires Phoenix. The book turns out to be less than helpful, being quite outdated.
- 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, thought Twilight insists she was actually reading Escaping Maximum Security Holding Facilities — For Dummies. And that book proves astonishingly helpful for Twilight's escape.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the second series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ford and Arthur find themselves trapped beneath an immense rock with no hope of rescue. Ford suggests consulting the titular Guide for advice. Arthur expresses understandable skepticism that even "the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom" in much of the galaxy will have a Specific Situation Article for this particular contingency, but Ford tries anyway. The Guide turns out to actually have an entry entitled "What To Do If You Find Yourself Trapped Under An Immense Rock With No Hope Of Rescue"... Just not a very long or helpful one.
- 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.
- 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.
- Back at the Barnyard episode "Mr. Wiggleplix". It has been a running gag with Abby; she brings out 4 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.
- The Simpsons. Subverted in "Dumbbell Indemnity", when Homer is in prison, he finds a book on the library trolley called How To Tunnel Out Of Prison. He uses it to bash the librarian over the head and runs off.
- 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.
- In the 1935 Looney Tunes 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.
- 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 is How to Build a Burmese Tiger Trap (Tenth Printing). The trap is successfully sprung, but instead of the Roadrunner, guess what it catches?
- 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?
- Happens in El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera
- Frida asks Manny's mother for different books to see if the library actually has a book for everything. She asks for a book about churros, a book about exploding things, a book about guitars, and a book for eating churros while playing an exploding guitar.
- This is a running gag with Manny's mother. Whenever she is discussing something, she always brings a book into the discussion, as in, she literally brings the book with her to show it.
- 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.