We dabble a lot. You might’ve noticed this. And as a result we are really masters of none. So when people hit us up for advice, we usually do our best to answer with what we know, then point them to someone who’s written a book that really digs into the matter. We thought it might be nice to add a catalog of our favorite tomes here, for everyone to see.
We’ll add titles as we have time — and as we discover new ones. The photo up there is also a good resource, until we get around to blurbing up everything.
Cooking and Eating
- Josey Baker Bread. Josey Baker. Chronicle Books, 2014.
Baker (his real name) is not infallible, but he’s a hero at making breadmaking approachable to newbies, building more and more complex techniques after quelling your appetite for fluffy, white bread almost immediately. We struggled with making sourdough starter from scratch following his instructions and had to go elsewhere for help there, but otherwise, he’s got nothing but encouragement, solid advice and great recipes. We’ve chronicled our love–hate relationship with this book on the site.
- The Grapes of Wrath. John Steinbeck. Penguin Classics, 1939.
It’s not here because it won a Pulitzer Prize. It’s here because it helped galvanized us in many ways. Our penchant for social justice, wanting to feed for the hungry and treating the land with respect were inspired by or reinforced by this book. It also steered us toward taking the Food Stamp Challenge, or SNAP challenge, which changed our lives in just a week. The Dew did an entire book club around this novel, which you can read about starting here.
- Eat the City. Robin Schulman. Crown Publishers, 2012.
A lively written book that purports to tell the history of growing, farming, fishing, brewing and butchering food in the Big Apple ends up also informing a lot about the history and sociology of the capital of the world. It’s often laugh-out-loud funny, and it’s often environmentally tragic. But the can-do attitude of the urban farmers and growers in an uber-dense urban environment is always inspiring.
- DIY Projects for the Self-Sufficient Homeowner. Betsy Matheson. Cool Springs Press, 2011.
Matheson may have just been an author for hire for this book, which is something like what you’d find on the shelf of the checkout stand at Lowe’s. But the content is solid, well-chosen and thorough, with plans for building raised beds, cold frames, beehives, root cellars, rain barrels, greenhouses, chicken arks and a solar dehydrator, which we built and use annually. Sure you can Google most all of this stuff these days, but having it all in one volume that you can have sitting next to you at the mitre saw is worth something.
(We live simply, but we’re not savages)
- The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining. Colin Spoelman and David Haskell. Abrams Books, 2013.
Diagrams. Floorplans. Whiskey family trees. What’s not to love in this book? It has the tactile feel of a textbook, which would make it the best textbook ever. It’s filled with great insight and great humor — Chapter 4 is titled “How to Make Whiskey,” and begins with, “So, you want to break the law…” — from a duo who began moonshining in Kentucky before legitimizing their act and moving it to New York. The book is as much about enjoying whiskey as it is about making it. We have come nowhere near distilling our own, but adore this book. We talk more about it here.
- The Drunken Botanist. Amy Stewart. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013.
This book’s 360 pithy pages, with line-drawn illustrations, monochrome charts, and alphabetized one- and two-page entries may look encyclopedic, but it’s a joy to read and offers loads of great information on plants, herbs, trees and other biomatter that is fermented, distilled, or otherwise transformed into boozy beverages. In three parts, it talks about the fermentation/distillation process, the natural things that can infuse said alcohol, and the botanical that can serve as mixers or garnishes at the point of consumption. It’s filled with drink recipes and looks as great on a coffee table as it does on the kitchen shelf.