New Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual (Reader's Digest, $35.00). This easy-to-use guide is the most basic and definitive for most projects and problems in any home. Buy this book first. Trust us!

Complete Home Wiring (Sunset Guide, $19.95). There are times to call an electrician and times to wrestle with electricity yourself. Simple updates and improvements like replacing outlets or updating to GFCI can make a room look instantly better and improve the value of your home [see "A Monkey Could Do That," pages 15 and 19].

The Complete Guide to Home Plumbing (Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, $24.95). Yes, you can switch out your own toilet. Yes, you can put in a new faucet. No, you can't move the toilet across the room without calling a professional.

Western Garden Book (Sunset Books, 2001 Edition, $36.95). Answers helpful questions like "Aren't gardenias pretty? Can I grow them in my yard?" and "Hey, I hate Cherry Trees and the color of Oregon Grape makes me think of high school football uniforms; what else can I plant?" Includes a glossary of gardening terms and pictures of ugly bugs and ways to kill them.

The Best of Martha Stewart Living: Decorating with Color (Martha Stewart, $19.95). Rub out her face with a black magic marker if you have to. This is still an inspirational classic with good advice on making the colors you like work together, even if you want to paint your house purple and green. The latest edition has keen suggestions on how to decorate a federal prison jail cell.

Mr. Fix-It Introduces You to Your Home (Ballantine Books, $23.95). During the first few days in my new house, I laid awake all night listening to the toilet hum, realizing it was now my problem. This book was like having the dad I always wanted there to calm me down and take the mystique out of how a house works.

Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House (Scribner, $35). Growing up in a single-working-mother-latchkey-kid house, I never appreciated things like ironing or wrapping lavender into doilies under my pillows so everything smells nice. This book teaches that keeping house can be a fine art form. Lots of romantic things to think about while sanding the floor or replacing the septic tank. NICOLLE FARUP