Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Busy Times

I find myself much busier than usual right now and I am interested to note my reading choices during this time. For example, non-fiction resources with useful snippets are more appealing than the more concentrated non-fiction I had planned to read. I also find that I am reading comfort fiction rather than new and meaty fiction (the sort I might review on the blog).

My light fiction of choice right now is anything by Joan Aiken. In the last week I have wolfed down two of her Jane Austen inspired sequels. I find her ideas and writing style aren’t that divergent from my idea of the Austen spirit. I just completed Mansfield Revisited and The Youngest Miss Ward. The second was especially enjoyable as it followed the histories of very minor characters in Austen and so was mostly original.

Ah non-fiction! Right now I feel the need to sing the praises of The Cake Mix Doctor cookbook by Anne Byrn. Moving to a new home in a high altitude climate, but being very busy, it is welcome to find a cookbook that embraces cake mix – an element easily converted to a high altitude receipt. I have always enjoyed this cookbook, but this week I am especially appreciative. Try the Bacardi Rum Cake (pg. 292) or Banana Cake with Quick Caramel Frosting (pg. 72), two of my favorites.

Other indispensable non-fiction right now?

Sunset Western Garden Book, edited by Kathleen Norris Brenzel. This is THE guide to growing anything in the western half of the country. Covers Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. This exhaustive volume lists EVERY plant that will grow in the western zones, when to plant, when to water and really special sections such as what to plant under your oak tree, deer resistant plants, and plants for windy areas. It also includes a how-to section for gardening novices such as myself that explains things like planting cuttings or how to compost.

Renovating Old Houses: Bringing New Life to Vintage Homes, by George Nash – very useful for wiring projects, remodeling your basement, and examining the quality of your roof.

And for dreaming, I have been enjoying Creating the Not-So-Big House, by Sarah Susanka. Her ideas are complimentary to my own, namely that many newer houses are bigger than the average family really needs and waste space and resources in pursuit of cubic feet. She advocates the use of quality materials and design to create personal spaces that reflect the families that live in them and to eliminate empty, wasteful space. Her ideas mesh well with existing, older homes and remodel projects and her books are full of gorgeous house photos.

What kinds of reading do you do most during busy times?

Your Friendly Librarian

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