While we don’t much approve of all the self-referential Black Friday hoopla each year, the fact is that it is difficult to get through this season without buying something for someone, and books make great presents, especially for do-it-yourselfer types. With that in mind, here’s a round-up of our favorite books of the year:
Wild Drinks & Cocktails: Handcrafted Squashes, Shrubs, Switchels, Tonics, and Infusions to Mix at Home by Emily Han.
Emily visited us on our podcast just a couple of weeks ago. Wild Drinks is a really fun book which teaches you how to wildcraft both fancy artisanal cocktails and unusual non-alcoholic drinks like shrubs and switchels. Her emphasis is on foraged ingredients, but she also works with ingredients which might be foraged at the grocery store or farmers’ market. An excellent choice for the budding mixologist or herbalist in your life, as well as anyone interested in unusual, healthful drinks. (Kelly)
Does anybody really want to get a climate change book for Christmas? Happy happy holidays!!!! Santa’s Workshop is flooding! On the other hand, this might be the best gift you could give the downcast environmentalist or resigned doomer on your list. Here’s my review. (Kelly)
At this point, what more can we say? Many of you followed along as we decluttered using this book as a guide. (Here’s our original review and here’s a link to the whole series of posts inspired by this book.) In the meanwhile, this book became a bit of a media phenomenon in the U.S.. I’d go so far as to say that this has been a KonMarie kind of year, and decluttering has become a buzzword and a lifestyle. Hype aside, we liked this book more than others of the genre, and it helped us. However, decluttering is not a single event, but a way of life so I’m afraid we already need another round of tidying in our house. .. (Kelly)
Of course this book is on the list! We’re talking about it right now on the blog as a part of our garden redesign series, so I won’t repeat myself here, except to say this my favorite new landscape design book. For the thoughtful gardeners in your life. (Kelly)
The Essential Oil Maker’s Handbook: Extracting, Distilling and Enjoying Plant Essences by Bettina Malle and Helge Schmickl.
The Artisinal Vinegar Maker’s Handbook: Crafting Quality Vinegars–Fermenting, Distilling, Infusing by Bettina Malle and Helge Schmickl.
The two books above, The Essential Oil Maker’s Handbook and The Vinegar Maker’s Handbook are both by the same authors and press. I’ve not reviewed them for the blog yet. I’m hard on “how-to” books — the projects have to work, and the project steps have to be clear and easy to follow, with no gaps in the steps or assumed knowledge. The only way to know if this is true of any book is to do several projects in each book to find out, and I haven’t had the time to delve into these two books yet–to actually try one of their projects.
However, I don’t want to pass them by in this roundup, because they are intriguing on first inspection. They look and feel like AP chemistry text books–and I mean that in a good way! They are sturdy hardbacks with lots of pictures, step by step instructions and detailed reference charts. They’re pretty intense in their obsession with detail–a world away from your usual lightweight “10 Quick n’ Easy Projects” type of books.
They strike me as books for a craftsperson ready to take that next step toward making these products as a home business. Malle and Schmickl are scientists–stern Austrian scientists, no less– and they are all about consistency and professional practice. So these books mean to take you from being someone a casual dabbler to a home chemist who could make batches of vinegar or essential oil with consistent, predictable –saleable–results.
I’d say the vinegar book would be good for someone who has already made some vinegar, perhaps in a more intuitive manner, a la Sandor Katz, and wants to make larger batches for gifts or sale, and is ready to really delve into the serious science of vinegar culture.
The essential oil book covers not just essential oil, but also some other basic perfume techniques, like enfleurage, and recipes for beauty products to make with your essential oils and hydrosols. FYI: you need a still to make essential oil, and stills ain’t cheap–so gifting this book could lead to future expenses! They discuss different sorts of stills you could make or buy. They sell their own stills and mention them. This did raise a flag for me, but it’s not obnoxiously done, and they do give alternatives. (Kelly)
If your tiny house seems like a mansion this book is for you. “Deek” is a master of re-purposing junk into cute micro-structures. There’s 59 great examples for inspiration and a couple of detailed plans in the back of the book. If you’d like to build a “thoughtstyling” shed or small outbuilding to escape the pressures of the main house Deek has you covered. This tome was worth it just to discover the PLB formula: pillow, lamp, books. Add those three things and a cardboard box will seem like a home. (Erik)
Korn worked on Fukuoka’s farm in the 1970s and went on to work as his translator. We interviewed Korn at length on episode 64 of of our podcast. Fukuoka’s ideas can be quite challenging to wrap your head around and this book serves as a great introduction. (Erik)
Guerilla Furniture Design: How to Build Lean, Modern Furniture with Salvaged Materials by Will Holman.
Holman plays with our waste stream to craft handsome and easy to build furniture. This book reminds me of classic 60s and 70s DIY furniture manuals such as Victor Papanek’s Nomadic Furniture. Holman was our guest on episode 55 of our podcast. (Erik)
Josey Baker Bread: Get Baking-Make Awesome Bread-Share the Loaves by Josey Baker.
When folks ask me how to learn how to bake bread I send them to Josey Baker. As a former science educator, Baker is the idea person to write a baking cookbook. The recipes go from easy to more challenging and if you work your way through the book you really will make awesome bread. The book also captures Josey’s infectious enthusiasm. I don’t think he’s physically capable of frowning. (Erik)
The following two books are just out. We haven’t seen them yet, but can hardly wait to get our hands on them. They were both written by friends, and we know they’ll be great:
Pascal and his partner Mia Wasilevich are rock stars of the local foraging scene. What they do with foraged ingredients is breathtaking. I can’t wait to see this book. (Erik)
Rob and Chelsea are the dynamic founders of Honeylove.org and are responsible for getting beekeeping legalized in Los Angeles. They are also proponents of treatment-free beekeeping and I’m looking forward to reading their take on this contentious method. (Erik)