Considering that my book has zombies in it, I want to learn about the history of zombie culture. World War Z by Max Brooks is just one of many books I could start with on the subject. Though my idea of zombies is different from the typical Hollywood zombie, it's still good to have that background. It will allow me to pick and choose which ideas to stick with - and maybe give me ideas to develop the method of contagion better.
When it comes to herbal medicine, I'm worried about finding a book that won't get into a bunch of hippie/New Age stuff. I just want to know, factually, what the uses of certain herbs and plants are. If I were to judge a book by its cover, this guy's ponytail tells me to stay away. But the reviews I've seen for The Herbal Medicine-Maker's Handbook appear pretty straight-forward (except for the one that discusses the "enchanting energies" of herbs).
I also need to learn about wood carving. None of this fancy stuff done with scrollsaws and power sanders - the old-fashioned methods with a knife are what I seek. I figured that one of the easiest ways to learn these things are to do them. Whittling by Bill Higginbotham (I totally picked it for his name) looks like a straightforward introduction. Wood carving should be easy enough to at least marginally understand on my own.
There are many more things I want to learn yet, like the history of countries in revolt, stone carving, and folk tales and legends (I already know some, but I need more). I plan to interview someone who's a master of the craft for stone carving, and the others will require more book-learning.
I have an awful lot packed into this one little book. Let's see if I can pull it off.