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 galvanize us in many ways. Our penchant for social justice as well as our desire to feed the hungry and treat 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.
- The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way. Michael Phillips. Chelsea Green, 2011.
Puzzling over how to incorporate fruit into your yard without resorting to chemical fertilizers and sprays? Dive into this dense but approachable tome to learn how to build soil fertility, select the right species, and manage pests organically. Phillips does a great job of explaining the yard’s role in the larger ecosystem, and the photos alone will have you gnawing on every page.
- 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.
- The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More. Annie Raser-Rowland with Adam Grubb. Melliodora Publishing, 2017.
This ode to a life of non-consumerist pleasure is filled with reminders of free daily delights and the need to let yourself be amazed by them. Jenn laughed so hard during the first pass that she immediately turned back to page one and read through a second time — and will, no doubt, reach for it again when doubting the sanity of our decision to brew six gallons of peapod wine instead of buying a case of burgundy at the bottle shop.
- 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.
- Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way. Lars Mytting. Abrams Image, 2015.
This book has all the makings of a textbook, but the content is delivered with the storytelling aptitude of a novelist (which Mytting is). Want to know what wood makes the best firewood? (Hint: It’s not a species.) Want to know how to properly dry and season your wood? Want to know when to split it? How to burn it most efficiently? Want to learn about the history of chainsaws? Of wood-burning stoves? There are even tables, such as “Volume of a Birch Tree” and “Ash Content as a Percentage of Dry Weight.” The whole thing is filled with gorgeous photos and profiles of the men and women who rely on wood to survive.
(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.