Saturday, November 17, 2012

A few of my favorite books - non-fiction

I like books, as you know.  I especially like books related to things I love to do.  Here are some of my favorites, listed by category (Can I also say that I like organized lists??).

Gardening:  I have lots of gardening books.  I mostly like them for the pictures but these are some that I have read and perused time and time again.
Perennials for Minnesota and Wisconsin by Don Engebretson and Don Williams - for those of us who garden in the upper Midwest, we are well aware of the challenges related to our climate.  It is cold in the winter, but blistering hot and humid in the summer.  After paging through many other gardening books, falling in love with particular plants only to find out they only grow in zone 9-10, I discovered this book.  I carry it with me to the garden center, I take it with me to the plant swaps (both to show other people what my plants will look like when they bloom and to look up their plants to make sure they are not horrid undesirable invasive species), I carry it in my gardening bag in case I need to check on a particular plants light or soil needs.  It is well-worn and indispensable.  And it has lots of pretty pictures.  Oh, and I like that the plants are listed by common name but the Latin names are included.  No more confusion about which plant is called "butterfly bush" (there are several - it is best to know the Latin names).
Month-by-Month Gardening in Minnesota by Melinda Myers is another indispensable guide for the northern gardener.  It is divided into sections (annuals, perennials, lawn, veggies and herbs, roses, trees, etc.) and then each section by month.  So if it is September, and I want to know what I should be doing with the cannas, I look in Bulbs, then September, and it tells me what to do with them once I pull them out.  So handy to have everything in one place.  I can never remember which shrubs to prune when or what is the best time to divide which plants. 
Encyclopedia of Flowers by Mary Moody is one that I enjoy even though it is one of them that I find flowers I love only to find out they only grow in Zone 9.  My favorite part of this book is that it is arranged by color, so if I want some red flowers for a hot bed in the front, I can find something I like (and check the zone to make sure it will grow here!).  I also like that this book has full color photos for all the flowers.
I also love Garden Gate magazine - helpful ideas from planning gardens, plant ideas, maintaining gardens and identification of pests and weeds.  And it has beautiful pictures!

Cooking:  I like cookbooks.  I especially like cookbooks with pictures.  I have lots and lots of cookbooks.  These are but a couple.
Betty Crocker's Cookbook - the classic"big red" has been my go-to cookbook since I learned to cook.  Betty has helped me master cream and cheese sauces, soups of various kinds (Corn Chowder is long-time favorite), waffles, biscuits, pizza crust and so many other basic things.  She's not crazy or trendy (not too many tofu recipes in old "big red" which, by the way, is fine with me!), she's just homey and simple.  This book is my definition of comfort food.  And when I got turnips in my CSA and thought, "what the heck do I do with turnips?" I turned to her first.
Taste of Home's Quick Cooking (2002)  I like this one a lot because it was free.  Ha!  Actually, a lot of recipes we use regularly are from this book.  They are quick, easy recipes; the index is awesome (what a geeky thing to say - but so true!) including an alphabetical index for when I know the name of the recipe AND a general index arranged by type of food (e.g., appetizers which are then divided into cold appys, dips and spreads, etc.,) and main ingredients (e.g., carrots, potatoes, ham, etc.,).  I have already posted some recipes from here.
Weight Watchers Pure Comfort: 150 All-time Feel-good favorites - a "diet" comfort foods book - what is not to love?  Pasta dishes, casseroles, sweets and breads, all with easy-to-follow instructions, Points values (old style), and other nutrition info.  These are the tasty dishes that make it easy to watch your diet and get the comfort foods you crave.
Betty Crocker magazines - you know - the little $4 ones that tempt you in the check-out lane at the grocery store.  I only have a couple, but they are well-loved.  Pictures with every recipe, an ever-changing theme (I have Simple Home-cooking which includes casseroles, stews, soups and the like, and a dessert one).  And only $4?  Come on!
Pampered Chef Season's Best - Okay, these are even cheaper than the little BC ones, only $1 but you may need a PC consultant and will probably buy more than just the cookbook.  Pampered Chef has a new one of these little babies every 6 mos.  I have about 10 of them (I used to sell them, remember??) and there are definitely some recurring recipes so they are not 100% new every time, and they do, of course, promote PC equipment.  But I like them and for a dollar you can't go wrong.
I also like Bon Appetit magazine, as I have stated before

Knitting: Knitting books are awesome.  They always have pictures (I am, apparently, all about the pictures) and they give me great ideas and excuses to buy yarn.  I love yarn - I like to handle it, I like to knit it, I occasionally like to crochet it, and I apparently collect it.  All my yarn has a purpose and some of the purposes can be found in these books.  Now if I could get around to using that yarn...
Stitch 'N Bitch Nation by Debbie Stoller - I bought this one instead of the original Stitch 'N Bitch because I liked more of the patterns.  But now that I look at it, I have only made one thing out of this book and that pattern I adapted for my own use (I made what I call "cell phone cozies" and what they call "Mobile Monsters" but instead of the pig or the rabbit they had patterns for, I made my own orange cats - one for my sister and one for me).  But there are really fun patterns in here that I fully intend to make someday - Bzzz Hat for Queen Bees (a hat that looks like a beehive), Later 'Gator Mitts (mittens that look like alligators), Bunny Hat (for babies - guess what it looks like), Fuzzy Dice (for my hubby's truck - LOL!), and a really cool felted, monogrammed bag that looks like a retro bowling ball bag (Letter Have It).  I guess I like apparel and accessories that look like other objects or creatures.  I also like this book (and the original) for the "knitty gritty" how-to section.  I refer to it when I can't remember all the methods of cast on or seaming.
Knitting for Baby - by Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas.  This book has the most adorable babies! And some super cute patterns too.  In addition to the little Harvard Square Cardigan that makes baby look like a little professor, the most beautiful Nordic Snowflake Pullover, and classic Aran Pullover in an un-classic color of green, there are plenty of easy and accessible patterns for blankets, hats, booties and toys.  There is a family of teddy bears that I feel I need to knit at least 7 of them some day (different sizes and colors, of course).

Books about books: This is a somewhat odd category and I don't have a lot of books that fit the category but here are a couple.
Book Lust by Nancy Pearl - written by a librarian and organized by category, this book is a resource of what to read next.  It has an index listing authors and books mentioned in the book, so I have often looked up books or writers I have enjoyed to see what else Ms. Pearl recommends.  For example, I love To Kill a Mockingbird, so when I looked it up, I found a bunch of recommendations under topics "Girls Growing Up", top 10 books written in the 1960s, "Southern Fiction" and "What a Trial that was!"  I have started checking off the books I have read in the index, with my apparent goal to read all the hundreds of books mentioned before I die.
Read To Me: Raising kids who love to read by Bernice Cullinan - I know I do not have children, but I bought this when I was a potentially aspiring children's librarian and have used it when deciding what books to get for children of friends.  It is a good resource for books that may help your child learn to love read, and also for read-aloud books for preschoolers to preteens (I admit I copied some of that from the back of the book).  It has tips on how to get started reading to children, how to make reading a part of your busy life, and lists of books for different age groups.
Along a similar vein but with much more extensive lists is Valerie and Walter's Best Books for Children: A lively, opinionated guide by Valerie Lewis and Walter Mayes.  There are more than 2000 books listed here for children from birth to age 14, with notes on themes (so if you have someone very interested in pirates, for example), reading, listening and interest levels (as you may have discovered, what makes a book good to read is not necessarily the same as what makes a book good to listen to) and also more tips on how pass along the gift of reading to your kids.

Empty books: These are books that started out empty but that I love to buy and sometimes fill.  I have, among others, a book journal (thoughts of books I have read), a food journal (ideas on recipes I have tried and lists of types of recipes (for example, chicken recipes, appetizer recipes, dessert recipes) with location of recipe for easy reference), a gardening journal (what plants are where, how they have done, if I would plant them again, what I would do differently), a knitting journal (lists of projects I could work on if time and interest available, list of needle sizes and types, pattern ideas and sketches.  I could also keep a list of finished projects here but for some reason I have not yet done that.), a wine journal (this one has not yet been started but will someday contain thoughts on wines we have tried - what E thinks, what I think - where we tried them, if we bought them (or would consider buying them or buy them again)), a writing journal (could call this one a "personal" journal but sometimes I just use it for free writing, brainstorming, or other writing exercises).  I think I have an empty book addiction.

So, those are a few of my favorites and this list was in no way exhaustive.

Maybe you have someone on your gift-giving list who might find one of these interesting, or maybe you yourself might like one or two.  If you have opinions on any of these or others you recommend that I might like (or other ideas for my blank book obsession), please let me know.

Happy reading!

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