It’s a delightful, if sometimes surprising, perk of writing a blog that books sometimes find their way to me. Often, unannounced. I might come home from an ordinary day at my coffee shop office to find a compact package marked media mail with my name on it, propped against the radiator in our lobby. (A big word for a dingy entrance with a dirty carpet and an ever-present pile of dusty leaves.)
Sometimes, I admit, these books do not make it up the stairs. They get unpacked and then left on the stoop for someone who might have more of a penchant for, say, barbecue, than I do.
But other times the books are just right and I find myself leaving them in the place of honor on the bookshelf near our front door, where they wait patiently until I have a quiet moment to dig in.
Here are three books that found their way to me this fall that I’ve especially enjoyed spending a bit of time with. In hopes that they might offer similar moments of quiet and inspiration for some of you, a few thoughts:
You know the tumblr, no doubt. You’ve maybe stumbled upon it during a midday break when the sight of anything beyond the sphere of your desk was a welcome distraction. Or perhaps you follow the instagram account. If you’re like me, when a new image pops up in your feed from these guys, you find yourself getting lost for a minute; scrolling backward to see what other tiny and inspiring spaces that you might have missed. A snowcovered hut in Switzerland, maybe. A cabin with a furry grass roof in Iceland. Whatever your preferred access point, the hardbound version offers a treat that the digital versions can’t. With this book, Cabin Porn becomes a phenomenon born of the internet that’s even more perfectly suited to life in three dimensions.The book is just the right size and filled with matte images that inspire the particular kind of wanderlust that I most relate to. That special brand where the wandering is, in fact, more about the destination than the journey. The kind of wandering where you’re actually headed somewhere specific, with four walls and a door. Somewhere where day-to-day habits are replaced with something a little bit slower. I strive for a similar slowness in my everyday home, but I’ve also found that sometimes an actual escape is in order. This book captures the magic of such a pursuit. Stories about specific retreats anchor pages of beautiful photos from the Cabin Porn archive. It’s inspiration overload without being overwhelming. Positively no guarantees it won’t make you want to start drafting plans for a cabin of your own.
Anne’s blog was one of the first that I read. I liked it especially for the sneaky employment of her above-average vocabulary in posts about throw pillows. In the same way, her book is smart. The premise is that we should decorate for the life we want and Anne showcases homes where people have done just that. Sage Living came about in part from a shift in life circumstances that meant Anne’s first solo apartment at age thirty and the associated reflection on house and home. In her book, Anne approaches the subject of decorating with more heart than we’re used to seeing from books on decorating. In a rare treat for books in the genre, the reader gets a distinct sense of the human beings behind the spaces that Anne shares. The homes looked lived in, not only because of artful styling—a rumpled throw blanket here or there—but because the homeowners themselves appear. Emily Johnston’s photographs do the spaces additional justice. The light in a tiny New York City apartment is allowed to be as moody and shadowy as it actual is. In the end, these darker spaces are equally as compelling as the bright white light in a San Francisco Craftsman or Williamsburg loft.No surprise, the chapter on small spaces was most dear to my heart. Anne goes beyond telling small space dwellers to hang mirrors or use convertible furniture (though those smart tips are also included) and gets a little bit philosophical. “Emphasize the features you do like about your space rather than lament the ones you don’t,” is just one wise dictum.
The Kaufmann Mercantile Guide: How to Split Wood, Shuck an Oyster, and Master Other Simple Pleasures
In the tradition of all great do-it-yourself guides, the Kaufmann Mercantile Guide offers simple steps for learning how to do things that you might not readily want to admit you don’t know how to do. Knotting a tie? Sewing a button? Keeping a houseplant alive? We think we know how to do these things, but we can also admit that we mostly just wing it. In the quest for betterment—or at least know-how—it’s nice to be able to reach for a sturdy manual.If you’re feeling fancy, this book will teach you to master the fine art of sabering a champagne bottle. If you’re feeling woodsy, you’ll get tips on starting a campfire. If you’re feeling practical, or just plain perplexed, you’ll get tips on how to care for your cast iron, hang a picture on the wall, and fix a flat bike tire.Each tip is paired with a bit of expert advice. As you might expect from purveyors of fine goods, the requisite tools of the trade are also peppered throughout. It’s a delightful resourse for mastering all manner of skills, pleasurable and practical.
What about you? Any good books that you’ve had your eyes on this fall? More to add to the list?