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★ From Harvest to Home

Let me be a voice in passionate support of relishing all things fall: Pile those pumpkins! Bust out the mums! Go big on apples and cinnamon! I am here for it. With From Harvest to Home, lifestyle blogger Alicia Tenise Chew speaks right to the deepest autumnal cravings with recipes, low-key crafts and lists of scary movies and top Thanksgiving TV episodes. Nachos get a fall twist (and healthy upgrade) with sweet potatoes, French 75 cocktails go goth with the addition of activated charcoal, and there’s a pumpkin gnocchi with cinnamon sage brown butter sauce that I most certainly will be requesting of my home-cook husband. Chew provides checklists of activities you might enjoy during each of the three fall months, a welcome inspo tool for us easily overwhelmed types, as well as self-care tips for the return of short days and cold weather. You don’t have to do all the fall things, of course. But you can more deeply delight in a few faves with the help of this book—and feel not a shred of shame for loving flannel and pumpkin spice lattes. 

An American in Provence

Perhaps you’ve heard this story: Highly successful urban professional departs the rat race, decamps to the countryside and achieves a slower, simpler, even more beautiful life. But you’ve never seen rustic expatriation evoked quite so lusciously as it is in An American in Provence, artist Jamie Beck’s pictorial memoir. Beck is a photographer, and alongside romantic self-portraits, still lifes, sweeping landscapes and tablescapes, she shares generously of her expertise. There are tips for photographing children, getting the most out of your smartphone camera and working with natural lighting. Along the way Beck writes of settling in the small French town of Apt, giving birth to her daughter, Eloise, and leaning into the seasonal rhythms of the region. Recipes are sprinkled throughout like herbes de Provence: a violet sorbet, daube Provençale, wild thyme grilled lamb. In total, the effect is bewitching and immersive, and quite the motivation to save for one’s own dream trip to the hills, fields and ancient villages of southeastern France.

How to Be Weird

In high school, I was often told that I was weird. I took it as a point of pride, and still do. Weird is a thing to strive for in my book, as it is in Eric G. Wilson’s How to Be Weird, which amounts to an Rx for the rote life, an antidote to crushing mundanity. The small actions and thought experiments compiled here, 99 in total, are intended to disrupt dull thinking, to help us see our world and ourselves in fresh ways. They could be applied usefully in many settings, from classroom to cocktail party to corporate retreat. And as the veteran English professor he is, Wilson connects many of the actions to history, philosophy, literature, the sciences and so on. If you don’t end up weirder in the best ways from sniffing books or inventing new curse words, you’ll at least have gleaned some solid knowledge along the way.

Set up the perfect gourd-themed tablescape, photograph it like a pro, and then invite all your weirdest friends over to partake of autumn’s bounty. If this sounds like your definition of a good time, read on.

Mother’s Day is coming up, and these books are great for those who want to give or receive something more exciting than a greeting card. Memoirs about unconventional moms, artistic explorations of the mother-child bond and a new take on midlife make excellent food for thought—and crafting and design guides will inspire new creativity. These books celebrate motherhood in its many guises and, no matter what kind of mother you have (or are), offer something for everyone.

Ayelet Waldman, author of the Mommy-Track Mysteries series and two novels, is also known for her essays, including a New York Times piece in which she said she loved her husband more than her children. In a subsequent “Oprah” appearance, she emphasized that her love for husband Michael Chabon doesn’t negate her love for her children and that it’s OK to find motherhood frustrating and guilt-inducing. In Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, Waldman calls for an end to unreasonable “supermom” expectations via well-written essays framed with political and historical context. While her style may be too over-the-top for some, she asks an important question: “Can’t we just try to give each other a break?”

Dreams from their mothers
In Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way, Ruth Reichl, memoirist and editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, reveals that, the year her late mother would’ve turned 100, she decided to open a box of her mother’s diaries and letters. Reichl felt she had to, as recompense for using oft-hilarious stories about her mother (so-called “Mim Tales”) in her books. The result is a finely crafted recounting of her mother’s struggles as a woman who, although smart and accomplished, felt marriage was the only road to being acceptable. Nonetheless, Reichl writes, “Mom showed me that it is never too late to find out how to [be happy].”

Hollywood agent Sam Haskell grew up in Mississippi, where his mother Mary’s guidance laid the foundation for his entertainment career. Promises I Made My Mother, with a foreword by Ray Romano (one of Haskell’s clients), includes chapters based on her advice, including “Always Seek Understanding” and “(Don’t Be Afraid to) Stand in the Light.” It worked: Haskell went from the mailroom to Worldwide Head of TV at William Morris and created the “Mississippi Rising” benefit for Hurricane Katrina survivors, building strong relationships all the while.

Here’s looking at her
From New Jersey to Mumbai, LIFE with Mother captures all sorts of moments in motherhood. This photographic tribute offers images of mothers and children at play, on the way to school, at milestone ceremonies and more. Famous moms (including Shirley MacLaine and Diana, Princess of Wales) share the pages with not-so-famous ones, and text and quotes add dimension. Readers will smile at the book’s final, hopeful image: Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha, exuberant, at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The Artist’s Mother: The Greatest Painters Pay Tribute to the Women Who Rocked Their Cradles takes a fine-art-inspired approach to the mother-child bond. National Book Award winner and New Yorker staff writer Judith Thurman notes in the introduction, “A mother’s gift is, ultimately, the example of steady, impartial discernment that each of us needs to create a self-portrait. And in whatever style they painted their mothers, the artists on these pages gratefully returned that deep gaze.” Indeed, these portraits—a museum-worthy collection including works by Constable, Picasso, Kahlo, Cassatt, Warhol, and, of course, Whistler—can only be the result of astute observation. Each entry includes insight about the painters’ and mothers’ lives, too.

Like a new woman
“Are you really going out like that?” is a question no one enjoys hearing. Longtime stylist Sherrie Mathieson is here to help with Steal This Style: Mothers and Daughters Swap Wardrobe Secrets. The “Never Cool” images are groan-inducing, but the “Forever Cool” photos depict women who look stylish and comfortable. Mathieson’s voice is friendly and respectful, and she honors the women’s taste by, say, preserving a jacket-shape but recommending a different color. This is a useful guide for women who want a clothing makeover.

For a full life makeover, Suzanne Braun Levine recommends setting new goals and enjoying one’s “second adulthood” in 50 is the New Fifty: 10 Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood. As the first managing editor of Ms. and a contributing editor to More, Levine knows her topic. She writes of the Fertile Void (a sort of emotional menopause) and Horizontal Role Models (women who have been there, done that) as important aspects of this exciting time. These terms explain commonalities among women, and the 10 lessons provide ways to consider and change individual situations. 50 is the New Fifty is an illuminating read for women of all ages.

Hi, Mom!
Doree Shafrir and Jessica Grose saw comedy in maternal email and text messages and started PostcardsFromYoMomma.com; two weeks later, the site had 100,000 unique visitors. The site is going strong, and now there’s a book based on the concept. Love, Mom: Poignant, Goofy, Brilliant Messages From Home contains 200 missives in categories like “I Do Actually Like Your Hair!” and “I Hope You Have a Hat With Ears.” The emails are a hoot, ranging from sex-related revelations to musings on recipes. A fun read for mom-email recipients and those who send them.

For designing mothers
The latest book from the Martha Stewart Living team is a DIYer’s delight. From beading to tin-punching, Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A-Z Guide with Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration means readers will never again want for a project. Each topic (e.g., Botanical Pressing) includes a history of the craft, descriptions of tools and supplies, and projects (autumn-leaf curtain, pansy coasters, seaweed cards). Photos offer inspiration, and mini-tutorials should help prevent missteps. A crafting-table must-have.
Mothers-to-be can harness the nesting instinct with the aptly named Feathering the Nest: Tracy Hutson’s Earth-Friendly Guide to Decorating Your Baby’s Room by “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” design star Tracy Hutson. Mouth-watering photos of wonderfully appointed rooms are accompanied by expert advice on everything from refinishing furniture to choosing a mattress. There are how-tos, color palettes and sourcing details for four styles (vintage, contemporary, traditional and international). Eco-friendly options are on-point, and the final chapter—featuring the nursery in Hutson’s home—demonstrates that her book will help readers create a space that’s both kind to the Earth and welcoming to baby.

Linda M. Castellitto writes from North Carolina.

Mother’s Day is coming up, and these books are great for those who want to give or receive something more exciting than a greeting card. Memoirs about unconventional moms, artistic explorations of the mother-child bond and a new take on midlife make excellent food for thought—and crafting and design guides will inspire new creativity. These […]
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Your holiday wish list is a mere memory: it's resolution time (yes, another list). So, grab your paper and pencil and crack open any of the following books for minty-fresh, unusual perspectives on retooling your inner and outer worlds.

Dream It. List it. Do It!: How to Live a Bigger & Bolder Life, by journalist Lia Steakley and the editors of 43Things.com, is list-mania at its most entertaining. Based on the popular social networking site, it features themed lists and short "I did it!" stories drawn from site users. There's inspiration for jotting down your own list and jump-starting your life: you may be emboldened to "ride naked on horseback" or, barring that, simply to "clean out your briefcase." Even if you are allergic to list-making, this is a fun book with 43 intriguing and practical goals—from "Develop Supernatural Powers" to "Be More Organized"—and the often wacky suggestions to help you achieve them. Dream It. List It. also gives 10 simple rules for using lists effectively, such as "document your progress." So plant that rooftop garden and reach for the stars.

Feeling adventuresome? Then pick up Keri Smith's How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum. This is an interactive field guide to exploring alleys, sidewalks, neighborhoods, your local library, mountaintops, kitchen cabinets or the garbage dump—wherever your life adventures lead. Smith (Wreck This Journal), an illustrator, offers a uniquely melded artistic cum scientific approach to observing, analyzing and documenting minutia—of ourselves and our manmade and natural worlds. His 59 quirky "explorations" invite readers to be curious; to investigate cracks, smells and splotches; wander aimlessly; and celebrate trees. Full of kicky photomontages and Smith's wobbly line drawings, this field journal can lead readers into brave new worlds.

Women and girls
There are bracing antidotes within the collected essays and aphorisms of Note to Self: 30 Women on Hardship, Humiliation, Heartbreak, and Overcoming It All. This comforting book is the brainchild of editor Andrea Buchanan, who "curates famous quotes . . . snippets of phone conversation, ideas." In her touching introduction, Buchanan relates that all of her collected sayings had a backstory that might offer "joy and comfort and [an] occasional laugh." Thus this book was born, with well-told stories solicited from a diverse group of women, many of them famous. The essays address the "Big Three" of the book's title, along with "Life's Constant Complexities." Each ends with a Post-it-sized "note to self" summarizing the tale's core message. From an actress' humiliation on "Jeopardy," and a housewife's compassionate adoption of a family victimized by Hurricane Katrina, to an activist's grief over her son's tragic death, these stories hold wisdom bites to soothe and heal.

A Year in High Heels: The Girl's Guide to Everything from Jane Austen to the A-list is London fashion writer Camilla Morton's (How to Walk in High Heels) latest literary bling. While this follow-up doesn't exactly fall flat, it does stumble: intending to be a monthly calendar of to-do's for girly fabulousness, it is instead a strangely arranged encyclopedia of historical and cultural trivia with oddly clashing suggestions (January mandates include both detox and imbibing hot toddies!), which might induce migraines in the most determined fashionista. Each chapter opens a new month with an insouciant postcard from fashion pioneers such as Giorgio Armani and Manolo Blahnik, and features a "Muse of the Month" (e.g., Coco Chanel), a "Page Turner" (recommended reading) and a "Foot Note" (short history of a shoe style). Shoehorned in between are quips from Cleopatra, tips on moonwalking and letter-writing. Much of the history and dates to note are geared toward Brits (St. George's birthday), with the occasional sop thrown across the Pond (Mae West's birthday). However, there are universal lessons, such as how to job-hunt (wear heels) and how to be a collector (inherit money). This is a dizzy, often entertaining read—if perused with slightly raised (and well-plucked) eyebrows.

You, you, you
Doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz present a new book in their YOU series (You: Staying Young; You: On a Diet, etc.), namely, You: Being Beautiful: The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty. You: Being Beautiful has the authors' signature (if slightly juvenile) humor, and is a holistic approach to well-being that addresses looking, feeling and being beautiful. "Beauty," they say, ". . . is health." That said, this is not a beauty guide to supermodel makeup tricks; it is a roadmap to beauty via healthy physical and mental habits, starting with a "You-Q" test to measure inner and outer beauty. The narrative is peppered with self-evaluation exercises, informative sidebars and healing tools. Part one leads readers matter-of-factly through the biology of tip-top skin, hair, teeth, finger, toes and figure. Part two focuses on body-mind sensations: energy levels, pain management, mind maladies and work-money issues. The shift here from physical feelings to emotional is slightly clumsy, but serves the book's holistic vision. Part three tackles the biology of love, sexuality and happiness, wrapping up with the "Be-YOU-tiful Plan" to elevate gorgeousness, and an appendix on how to find a good plastic surgeon (just in case).

Something to think about
If your house is crammed with stuff, chances are your cranium is cluttered, too. Organizational guru Peter Walsh returns to clutter-bust your mind in Enough Already! Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You, coming in March. "If you have ever tripped and fallen on your own belongings," he says, "then imagine what the clutter in your head is doing to you." Walsh constantly sees that lack of clear vision causes chaos in relationships, careers, finances, health and spirits, and he preaches using imagination to create a vision of your desired life, to identify and clear obstacles and to realize that vision. Walsh includes a wealth of commonsense discussion; systematic support material, such as "you are not alone" stories; self-evaluation quizzes to pinpoint life goals and obstacles; and action-oriented checklists and tips. Often, we know what we don't want in our lives, but cannot focus on that which we do. Clear space, Walsh advises, for "if you don't clear room to walk, you'll never find the path to your dreams."

Saucy seafood bites back at life
Lady-killer crustacean, Pepe the King Prawn, dispenses spicy sagacity in It's Hard Out Here for a Shrimp: Life, Love, and Living Large. If you're a Muppets fan (and you know you are), or if you need smooth talk on love, work and the social scene, Pepe's your go-to guy—um, prawn. A salute from fellow Muppet Kermit the Frog launches this raconteur's manifesto of living "La Vida Pepe" with chapters covering parties, love and money, family and friends, work, politics, therapy, style and stress. There's a slightly wicked how-to here for every eventuality, from using the perfect pickup line on "the womens" ("Is it me, or are you hot in here?") to coping with annoyances, like trips to the post office ("If you can't do the time, don't wait in line"). My favorite Pepe-ism extols meditation: "A deep spiritual experience or an excuse to take a nap. Either way you win, okay.

Your holiday wish list is a mere memory: it's resolution time (yes, another list). So, grab your paper and pencil and crack open any of the following books for minty-fresh, unusual perspectives on retooling your inner and outer worlds. Dream It. List it. Do It!: How to Live a Bigger & Bolder Life, by journalist […]

Now's the time to usher in the new year—and perhaps a new approach to your career. If you've resolved in 2009 to work smarter, be more productive, follow your dreams or find more fun in the daily 9-to-5, this quartet of books will come in handy.

Back to basics
Is your life overscheduled and overrun by clutter, whether piles of paper on your desk or way too many commitments on your calendar? Leo Babauta has the solution. In The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential. . . in Business and in Life he has created "a how-to manual on how to simplify and focus on the essential. How to do less while accomplishing more." Babauta isn't just paying lip service to the importance of learning to focus on what's important. Over the last few years, he's accomplished quite a list of goals (running two marathons, doubling his income, eliminating his debt, writing this book) while parenting six children. His secret lies in his ability to focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to juggle too many things at once. In the book, Babauta offers targeted suggestions for slowly but surely finding focus (and thus, greater efficiency). A 30-day challenge provides a kick-start, and simplification strategies and tips abound.

Control is key
David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, published in 2001, sold a million copies and significantly increased demand for Allen's Getting Things Done, or GTD, seminars, delivered at companies and government agencies worldwide. Not surprisingly, he found time to write another book: Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life. This time around, he offers "new and deeper perspectives about why [the GTD] information works as well as it does and how universally it can be applied." The first few chapters explain the GTD concept and set up Allen's plan for Making It All Work. Perspective is important to this process, and the author skillfully frames the various levels of perspective as distances, which range from 50,000 feet (career, purpose, lifestyle) to 10,000 feet (current projects) to "runway" (daily actions, like managing email). The author says adhering to his principles will enable you to "quickly gain coherence and reorient yourself for the next round when you're faced with disruption"—a useful skill to have in a recession, for sure.

Entrepreneurial excitement
Donny Deutsch's CNBC television show "The Big Idea" profiled entrepreneurs who've achieved the American Dream of having, well, a big idea, and working hard to make it a reality. In the show's companion book, The Big Idea: How to Make Your Entrepreneurial Dreams Come True, from the "Aha Moment" to Your First Million, written with Catherine Whitney, Deutsch's energy and enthusiasm are infectious. The Big Idea is a fine mix of advice gleaned from his own experiences running an ad agency, plus stories of successful idea-implementers who have appeared on his TV show. Those profiled include the founders of Subway, Spanx and Sam Adams, plus proprietors of lesser-known companies like the Ugly Talent Agency, which fills the need for regular-looking folks on movie sets and in magazines. This book will serve as a useful how-to manual for would-be entrepreneurs, and provide "If they can do it, so can I!" inspiration.

Cubicle-bound creativity
Unlike most career-related books, Who Took All the Paperclips? Fun Things to Do with Office Supplies When the Boss Isn't Looking supports—nay, encourages—pilfering office supplies. Author Rachel Rifat advocates using those Post-its and paperclips to make crafts that will perk up a boring cubicle. Rifat opens her compendium of crafts with "Matchstick Incense: When nature calls and the whole office doesn't need to know!" and includes step-by-step instructions for a beaded privacy curtain and a pillow made from bubble-wrap, among other projects. Quirky illustrations and funny captions add to the book's appeal, as does the author's explanation of why she left her own corporate job: "she decided she could not stand to see another manager wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts at a beer bust." It's hard to argue with that.

Linda M. Castellitto makes Post-it origami in North Carolina. 

Now's the time to usher in the new year—and perhaps a new approach to your career. If you've resolved in 2009 to work smarter, be more productive, follow your dreams or find more fun in the daily 9-to-5, this quartet of books will come in handy. Back to basicsIs your life overscheduled and overrun by […]

DIY has never been hotter. Thanks to the rise of hipster culture and the fall of the economy, crafting is uber-cool. Really, why pay for a pricey photo album, lamp or tote bag when a handmade one is personalized—and priceless? This sextet of new books offers inspiration, instructions and ideas aplenty. Craft on!

A new perspective on paper
In her introduction to Home, Paper, Scissors: Decorative Paper Accessories for the Home, Patricia Zapata confesses to a strong affinity for paper. So strong, in fact, that she collects all manner of colors, textures and types, but can’t bring herself to write on any of the precious pages. She can, however, create with them, and her book offers projects suitable for a wide range of tastes and skill-levels. How-tos (including photos, materials lists, patterns, and time-estimates) cover Decorating, Entertaining and Gifting, from a Fluttering Mobile to Mosaic Place Mats to a Pocket Photo Album. This lovely book is perfect for crafters looking to explore an inexpensive new medium.

A bevy of bags
By now, thanks to increased eco-awareness, most of us have purchased a few canvas totes—and maybe even remember to use them at the grocery store. With Sew What! Bags: 18 Pattern-Free Projects You Can Customize to Fit Your Needs, crafting veterans and amateurs alike can go a step further by designing and making their own totes, plus 17 other bag-esque projects. Author Lexie Barnes puts her experience as a handbags and accessories designer to work in this great guide, which includes detailed instructions, inspiring photos and plenty of you-can-do-it encouragement. Spot-on tips for hemming, choosing fabric and breaking out of the pattern mold help ensure this book is a crafter’s delight.

Dress up your dorm room
If Theresa Gonzalez and Nicole Smith have anything to say about it, dorm rooms will no longer be drab. Rather than view a 200-square-foot space as a bland box, they urge, “Think of it as a creative challenge.” And instead of fighting the arrival of the inevitable concrete block, view it as a bed-booster and a “cute bookend that you adapt into a cinderblock cozy.” While Dorm Decor: Remake Your Space with More Than 35 Projects  mainly uses the feminine pronoun when addressing readers, guys would do well to check out the book as well; the sleek, Jonathan Adler-esque Stone’s Throw Pillow; the witty Oh Dear, Deer Head; and the ever-useful Laundry Day Backpack are just a few examples of projects that will appear to dorm-dwellers of either sex. The book (spiral-bound, with full-color photos) is organized by function, such as sleep, dress and hang out. This is one book enterprising crafters won’t mind studying.

Making the past present, through linens
EllynAnne Geisel knows her vintage linens. In The Kitchen Linens Book: Using, Sharing, and Cherishing the Fabric of Our Daily Lives she writes and rhapsodizes about tablecloths, hot pads, towels and more. A devoted fabric collector, she writes, “My vintage kitchen linens, like my aprons, speak of past generations, but they also inspire me to think of future gatherings.” To that end, Geisel provides instructions for fabric care, embellishing linens, packing a picnic and making a proper pot of tea. She also shares other linen aficionados’ touching stories and remembrances. There are recipes, too, and a vintage Butterick transfer pattern is tucked in the back. The author’s knowledge of and love for fabric artifacts is evident—and infectious—in this enjoyable read, which surely will inspire readers to look at linens from bygone days with renewed respect and appreciation.

Delicious creativity
From biscotti to fudge to preserves to spiced olives, Christmas Gifts from the Kitchen is just the book for creative types who like to bestow delicious homemade presents on family and friends. Traditional recipes—kugelhopf (a fruit-and-nut cake), gingerbread and macaroons—mingle with more unusual ones, including Pine Nut Brittle, Candied Grapefruit Peel and Lemon Spice Olives. Foodwriter and farmer Georgeann Brennan provides gift-packaging ideas as well, such as glittery cones to hold candy, a teacup-as-cookie-holder and a bread board as the foundation for packaging a cake. Readers likely will want to dive into these recipes—and begin taste-testing—right away.

T-shirt transformation redux
When it comes to t-shirts, Megan Nicolay is a seemingly tireless innovator. In her follow-up to the popular Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt, the author has come up with ideas for scarves, oven mitts, dresses, baby booties—and of course, a selection of t-shirts with a twist. In Generation T: Beyond Fashion: 120 New Ways to Transform a T-shirt, witty titles (Pom-Pom Circumstance for a toddler’s hat, Love it or Weave It for a crisscross tank top) share space with step-by-step instructions, line drawings, variations and photos of people and pets wearing the creations. Projects such as a wine cozy, pet bed, plant hanger and car floor mats up the DIY ante, but tutorials on tying, stitching and laundering—plus no-sew options—will boost beginners’ confidence. Thanks to the projects’ low-cost raw materials (t-shirts the crafter is already hoarding, scissors and a needle and thread) they offer crafters a recession-proof way to perk up a wardrobe, add some oomph to household décor or give thoughtful and personalized gifts. Generation T: Beyond Fashion is a t-shirt-transformation sourcebook that crafters will refer to again and again.

Linda M. Castellitto has plans for her stack of concert t-shirts.

DIY has never been hotter. Thanks to the rise of hipster culture and the fall of the economy, crafting is uber-cool. Really, why pay for a pricey photo album, lamp or tote bag when a handmade one is personalized—and priceless? This sextet of new books offers inspiration, instructions and ideas aplenty. Craft on! A new […]
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Another year passes, and finding good gifts for that favorite guy only gets tougher. Books can be a solution, though, since their subject matter ranges as widely as the different types of guys on anyone’s shopping list. Sports books are always big, and this season has produced several of note, but the practical guy and the guy who likes to laugh are also covered. There are even a couple of books about cowboys—and deep down inside, that’s every guy.

The love of the game
The publishers of Sports Illustrated continue to dazzle at holiday time with their beautiful, oversized treatments on major sports, and The Golf Book: A Celebration of the Ancient Game is no exception. Typical of the book series, the sport is generally broken down into eras, with accompanying facts on achievers and achievements interspersed with articles by members of SI’s roster of past and present first-rate journalists, including Dan Jenkins, Rick Reilly, George Plimpton, Frank Deford and the legendary Herbert Warren Wind, who offers a sobering review of Arnold Palmer’s controversial antics at Amen Corner during the 1958 Masters. The photos, by SI’s many award-winners, are often breath-taking: PGA Tour rookie Tiger Woods staring meaningfully into the camera; Palmer and Jack Nicklaus sharing a poignant post-round moment; Pebble Beach’s gorgeous oceanside 18th hole; and much more. The ladies receive some coverage, too (Mickey Wright, Annika Sorenstam, Paula Creamer, etc.), plus there are endless sidebars focusing on equipment, golf in pop culture, the game as played by our presidents and, in one really surprising photo, the game as played by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro! Roy Blount Jr.’s marvelous foreword, “We’re Talking Golf,” provides etymological clarification of golf’s colorful terminology.

ESPN’s Bill Simmons is a basketball freak. He’s also a lively, sharp-witted, delightfully cynical writer who has exhaustively poured his heart and soul into The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy. This hefty tome can’t be consumed at a single sitting, but it’s damn enjoyable to start reading on any random page. Simmons is relentless, offering cogent historical views of the game’s great teams; sharp statistical analysis; smart assessments of important trades and critical big games; plus the infamous Simmons “pyramid,” which ranks the game’s best-ever 96 players. Simmons is a smart aleck, but he’s also doggedly thorough with his facts and writes with authority—and that includes his almost scholarly insistence on footnotes, which is where a lot of his wit is embedded.

Sports on the big screen
In The Ultimate Book of Sports Movies: Featuring the 100 Greatest Sports Films of All Time, Ray Didinger and Glen Macnow—both Philadelphians with solid sports media backgrounds—offer descriptions of movies ranging from Rocky (#1) to The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (#100). For each film, the authors include backstory sidebars, contemporary critical reactions and evaluations of pivotal scenes. Interspersed throughout are related essays covering, for example, great sports movies for kids and rankings of actors based on their portrayals of famous athletes, plus interviews with various individuals involved in one way or another with the films, such as actors Bob Uecker (Major League) and Dennis Quaid (The Rookie). Black-and-white photos throughout enhance the already impressive coverage.

Be a know-it-all
The guy who wants to get his macho mojo back will certainly have an interest in The Indispensable Book of Practical Life Skills: Essential Lessons in Everything You Need to Be a Fully Functioning Adult . True, there are touchy-feely (i.e., girly) things in here, but there are also many how-tos of a kind that used to define the man in our society, like jump-starting a car, splitting logs, dealing with emergencies, being handy around the house, plus outdoorsy stuff like camping and . . . skinning a rabbit? Illustrated usefully, and with lucid, step-by-step descriptions, this guide covers a lot of other take-charge, know-how-to-git-’er-done situations. (Softer guys can use the book to learn how to bake bread.)

Big laughs from The Onion
Since its founding in 1988, the hilarious satirical newspaper The Onion has gained a loyal national following and increasing cultural cachet as an outlet for scathing social and political humor. Our Front Pages: 21 Years of Greatness, Virtue, and Moral Rectitude from America’s Finest News Source  is a terrific oversized browsing item, reprinting—mostly in full color—the front pages of every issue from inception through the 2008 presidential election. “Clinton Vaguely Disappointed By Lack of Assassination Attempts,” says one headline from February 2001, and anyone who loves The Onion—and we know you’re out there—knows that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Wrap it up and give it to the guy who knows what funny is.

Poker face
Author and card player James McManus’ Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker is an erudite, well-researched and fully referenced history of the French parlor game that morphed into an American obsession in the mid-19th century. Ranging from the revolver-toting days of Wild Bill Hickok to smoky 20th-century Vegas backrooms to the modern age of online gaming, McManus’ work gains broader texture in its linking of play-for-pay card games to various aspects of American society, not least of which are politics and leadership. Hence we learn, among many other things, that President Obama availed himself of poker night while a state senator in Illinois—and acquitted himself well. President Nixon was also notably good playing cards during his World War II service. McManus’ thesis connects gambling to the American character, and given the domestic millions won and lost daily in its various forms, who could say otherwise? An informative glossary of terms is appended.

Channel your inner cowboy
Finally, there’s Jim Arndt’s How to Be a Cowboy: A Compendium of Knowledge and Insight, Wit and Wisdom, a book with a title that speaks for itself. Gorgeous photos are the hallmark of this modest-sized gem, but Arndt, a noted commercial and art photographer, breaks his pictorial coverage down via chapters that also offer cowboy facts and lore, ranging from apparel to the cowboy milieu (ranch, range, rodeo) through cowboy music and the wit and wisdom of the great cowboy philosopher Will Rogers. Cowboys in pop culture are covered in a subsection called “The Cowboy Way,” which presents fun rundowns of great movies and novels and features cool old black-and-white photos of icons such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Nevertheless, it’s the rich color camerawork that really compels, and Arndt’s classy shots of elaborately designed boots, shirts, blue jeans and hats, plus peripheral cowboy gear, are enough to make a guy chuck the 9-to-5 and head out to the wild, wild West.

Another year passes, and finding good gifts for that favorite guy only gets tougher. Books can be a solution, though, since their subject matter ranges as widely as the different types of guys on anyone’s shopping list. Sports books are always big, and this season has produced several of note, but the practical guy and […]
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Frivolous pragmatists, rejoice! This season’s design books are all about utility and style, and it turns out the two are not mutually exclusive. Take a gander at our holiday picks to see how design takes cues from simplicity and durability to make for classic and enduring looks.

Green house effect
Terence Conran has been on the home design scene for more than 40 years, and his previous books have all been markers of his revolutionary and modern style. His latest, The Eco Housebook, brings this same aesthetic and utilitarian sensibility to the subject of eco-friendly home design and living—and the good news is that, quite often, it’s simply a matter of working with what you’ve already got. In this exquisite, full-color coffee table book, Conran shows ways to improve energy efficiency, save water and reduce waste—most of them easy on the wallet, all of them easy on the eyes. From better insulating your home to enhancing natural light to using natural plasters and paints, The Eco Housebook provides real solutions for people concerned with both beauty and sustainability.

DIY with an eye
For aspiring decorators sick of all the pricey, oversized design tomes boasting glossy pics of way-too-perfect homes, Elaine Griffin’s Design Rules: The Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator will prove a welcome respite.

Ranked as one of House Beautiful’s Top 100 American Designers, Griffin has always brought a sensible, budget-friendly and chic approach to her work, and now she shows readers how to do the same. Design Rules provides practical tips for do-it-yourself endeavors. For instance, did you know that the top of your coffee table should always be an inch or two lower than the height of the sofa’s seat cushion? Or that any powder room should have two light sources in order for a lady to properly check her makeup? With Griffin as your guide, you’ll learn all this and a whole lot more.

Looking back on a century
The transient and à la mode nature of design often makes it difficult to distinguish fad from classic. Fortunately, antique expert Judith Miller’s 20th Century Design: The Definitive Illustrated Sourcebook helps distinguish the major from the minor players, the lasting looks from the passing fancies.

Organized by period (Modernism, The Craft Movement, Art Deco, etc.), this full-color handbook featuring over 1,000 specially commissioned photographs shows what to look for across categories, from furniture and silverware to sculpture and industrial design. Each entry—say, Mid-Century Modern Murano Glass—includes a detailed account of the movement’s identifying features, history and important designers, as well as photos of sample and iconic pieces. This is a must-have for collectors and 20th-century art enthusiasts alike.

City living
Restoring a House in the City, by Ingrid Abramovitch, is as much for real-estate dreamers and voyeurs as it is for those looking to renovate. After all, just a peek at the pages of exposed brick and coffered ceilings will have any lover of interior design drooling with jealousy.

Taking readers inside some of America’s most exquisite antique townhouses, Abramovitch teaches the ABCs of restoration, from hiring a contractor to properly preserving a brownstone. The homeowners here include fashion designers, artists, conservationists and even a famous actress (Julianne Moore, whose luxurious Manhattan apartment will make jaws drop), and their approaches to restoration diverge: some prefer to keep design authentic to the building’s time period, while others add daring dashes of modern flair. But one thing they can all agree on is the importance of restoring these often failing or dilapidated homes to their former glory.

Full of tips for working within a budget and timeframe, Restoring a House in the City is a lush, practical guide for the urban dweller—celebrity or otherwise.

Jillian Quint is a stylish assistant editor at the Random House Publishing Group.

Frivolous pragmatists, rejoice! This season’s design books are all about utility and style, and it turns out the two are not mutually exclusive. Take a gander at our holiday picks to see how design takes cues from simplicity and durability to make for classic and enduring looks. Green house effect Terence Conran has been on the […]
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Here are three things to buy that will help you either redeem or get rid of a hundred others. This trio of spirited, pragmatic books exemplify the deceptively simple principle that less is more. What’s more (and therefore less!), they offer a sound set of tools to help you take back your living space, whether you’re clearing out your clutter, becoming more thrifty with your resources or reusing what you’ve already got.

62 Projects To Make With a Dead Computer is filled with fun and surprises, and an almost puritanical zeal for the redemption of “lost souls”—otherwise known as discarded electronics. Digital cameras, keyboards, PDAs, MP3 players, earbuds and drives are, to author Randy Sarafan, raw material ripe for creative repurposing. Most of us have at least a few obsolete bits lying about—a bundle of mystery cords and a cell phone or two—as well as the basic skills to transform them into something else entirely: a mouse pencil-sharpener, a scanner side table, a cable coaster. Some projects call for tricky work involving voltage and solder, but even if you don’t “do” electricity beyond changing a bulb and you can’t begin to pronounce solder (sod’- er), many creations can be managed with a glue gun and basic hand tools. The Floppy Disk Wall Frame, for example, is super easy and really quite spectacular. The circuit panel memo board with keyboard key magnets is simple, too, and just as gorgeous. Projects range from fun to practical, with category-defying wonders like the flat-screen ant farm and the iMac terrarium. Whether weird or wonderful (or both), each aims at nothing less than the intersection of art, technology and ecology.

A penny saved
Anxious to distinguish thrifty from cheap, Be Thrifty: How to Live Better with Less, edited by Pia Catton and Califia Suntree, begins with the lesson that “thrift” and “to thrive” are cognates. Thus, thrift should radiate positive associations, not miserly ones. To be thrifty is to thrive, to flourish. The editors present seven categories in which to flourish: home, garden/pet, food, family, personal care, leisure and financial stability. Each offers more than enough information to tweak or outright overhaul even the most profligate of habits. In the first chapter, we learn to clean and maintain our home and car more greenly, reducing utility and repair bills and generating less waste. Need to know about furnace filters, clogged toilets, tire inflation or gutters? You’ll find the big picture and the little details. The same goes for every other facet of everyday life—even the faucets. This jam-packed omnibus encourages an old-fashioned, no, timeless self-sufficiency, while keeping an eye on how our choices affect not just our ability to thrive, but the planet’s as well.

Clean and clear
What’s a Disorganized Person To Do? by Stacey Platt answers its titular question with its subtitle: “317 Ideas, Tips, Projects, and Lists to Unclutter Your Home and Streamline Your Life.” As if to underline my own need for such a guide, when I type the word “unclutter,” my word processor underlines it in red: The term is unknown to it and to me. But if all I have to do is consult this fat little book full of numbered, logically sequenced bits of clarity, packed with smart photos and arranged with color-coded tabs printed on the fore-edge, I am set. Clarity is a key term: The author, a successful professional organizer, says “clarity is the foundation for a joyous and accomplished life.” (I’ll have what she’s having, please.) The message couldn’t be clearer: Reducing clutter—not just finding cute ways to store it—sets us free. Even the most overwhelmed among us can jump right in, thanks to quick tips taming every room in the house. Learn what papers to save for taxes and for how long, where to put the newspapers, when to throw away cosmetics, how to organize a closet and why you should defragment your hard drive—plus 312 other things. The format is a pleasure to browse, but it is also wisely designed to answer targeted questions on demand. Pare down, wise up. Less, again, proves to be much more.

Here are three things to buy that will help you either redeem or get rid of a hundred others. This trio of spirited, pragmatic books exemplify the deceptively simple principle that less is more. What’s more (and therefore less!), they offer a sound set of tools to help you take back your living space, whether […]
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In Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes, author, educator and Emmy Award-winning TV science wizard Steve Spangler conjures new tricks for kids, kidders and kids at heart. He makes it easy to transform ordinary household stuff into extraordinary outcomes, most of which tend to “ooze, bubble, fizz, bounce and smoke,” not to mention spew diet soda 12 feet into the air. Even the seemingly simple are fun: Who knew a hex nut could make a balloon scream? A few experiments are particularly suitable for Halloween parties, such as the gloriously gross cornstarch/borax goo (which made a kid lose his lunch at my daughter’s fifth birthday party), the giant smoke rings and all activities involving dry ice. Spangler’s fun-centric approach insists “it’s not about the science, it’s about the experience,” but parents and teachers can be assured the science is solid; experiments are framed with easy-to-understand explanations and real-world applications.

POOHSTICKS 101
Turkish Delight & Treasure Hunts by Jane Brocket is a collection of recipes, activities and, as the author describes them, “'I want to do that!’ moments” culled from beloved books like Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, The Chronicles of Narnia and so on—books in which children always seem to be eating or doing “all sorts of marvelous things.” Each marvelous thing gets a brief introduction to establish context, to remind us why these classics are so formative to our lives and to entice us to read classics we may have overlooked. Readers can now bake Ma’s Hand-Sweetened Cornbread from Little House on the Prairie, whip up Enid Blyton cocoa, munch “Wind in the Willows River Picnic Cress Sandwiges” and try “Heidi’s Grandfather’s Simple Cheese and Bread Supper.” We can also make a Borrowers house, try Alice in Wonderland croquet, learn poems by heart just like Anne of Green Gables and plant a Secret Garden. Aside from being a charming excuse to revisit favorite stories, Turkish Delight & Treasure Hunts is a ready-made opportunity to connect with young readers who “need to find out about the things children have always done [and] to make their own literary discoveries.”

TOP PICK FOR LIFESTYLES
Even the healthiest-minded readers of Candy Construction by Sharon Bowers may want to rush out and buy ridiculously large amounts of candy for the children in their lives. My own whole-food, organic scruples have been chocolate-chipped away by this seductive volume. Why? Because these sweet creations are not just cute as a (candy) button and easy as (moon) pie, they are seriously fun to make. And I mean fun to make with kids, not merely for kids, because even though the end product might be fabulous, the real goal is in the messy, focused, cooperative and creative process. With a few building materials—frosting “glue,” store-bought brownies, Rice Krispie treats and other no-bake structural elements—plus basic dollar-store candy, kids can make pirate ships, pyramids, steam trains, construction sites, fairy-tale castles, creepy critters, games and even jewelry, all 100% edible. Simple instructions and big color photos bring out the inner engineer in all of us. Perfect for a group activity at birthday or holiday parties, or for one of those days when folks are trapped indoors.

In Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes, author, educator and Emmy Award-winning TV science wizard Steve Spangler conjures new tricks for kids, kidders and kids at heart. He makes it easy to transform ordinary household stuff into extraordinary outcomes, most of which tend to “ooze, bubble, fizz, bounce and smoke,” not to mention spew diet soda […]

Are you ready to make a fresh start in the new year? We’ve lined up a bevy of guidebooks to help you launch 2011 with a renewed sense of purpose and effective new strategies for dealing with life’s challenges. Choose the approach that best suits your lifestyle and take those first steps toward a new and improved you.

LESS IS MORE

Dave Bruno was a success: booming business, loving family, nice home and solid Christian faith. He owned lots of stuff, which led to wanting more stuff, leading to a blog called Stuck in Stuff, where he complained about consumerism but continued to buy—wait for it—more stuff. Finally, all that stuff started to take its toll, and in a quest to examine his consumption more closely, Bruno decided to pare back to just 100 personal items for one year. He chronicles that journey in his inspirational new memoir, The 100 Thing Challenge.

Bruno’s book is often funny, as when he finds a pair of cleats he will never use again but had kept “in case I started to age in reverse.” One-liners like those sometimes steal focus from the project, which is only described in detail halfway through the book. By that time, our attention has been diverted down so many side paths it’s hard to remember what we came for. Thankfully, a detailed appendix will assist readers inspired to try the 100 Thing Challenge themselves, as many apparently have.

After reading about Bruno’s experience—which he says helped him to regain his soul—you’ll never look at the contents of your junk drawer the same way again. And don’t feel too conflicted about buying the book: Bruno counts his whole “library” as one item, a form of cheating any avid reader would wholeheartedly endorse.

—Heather Seggel

CHANGING THE STATUS QUO

Guides to sustainable living bend the shelves at bookstores these days, but David Wann takes sustainability farther than most. In The New Normal, he maps out a future without dependency on fossil fuels, cheap goods or processed food. Because we are all faced with a warming world, he offers steps to deeply transform our resource-dependent routines to self-reliant, more fulfilling lives that are easier on our planet.

Changes in population, technology and available resources have outdistanced our cultural ideals, says Wann. For our “new normal,” we should ditch old status symbols, such as huge McMansions in the suburbs, and instead value actions that build local communities, such as bike-friendly thoroughfares, energy-efficient housing and shorter food and energy supply lines. Wann describes how meeting our needs locally will make life not only sustainable but more meaningful, through closer ties with our family and neighbors.

The New Normal provides both the vision and the actions needed to change the status quo. It is an excellent resource for people who want specific information on creating a sustainable culture where they live—and beyond.

—Marianne Peters

FROM ANXIOUS TO PEACEABLE

Dr. Henry Emmons’ new book, The Chemistry of Calm, offers natural solutions to overcoming anxiety, maintaining that there is an alternative to panic attacks and Prozac. Emmons, a psychiatrist, laid the groundwork for a holistic path to wellness with his last book, The Chemistry of Joy. In this follow-up, Emmons outlines what he calls the Resilience Training Program.

Meditation, diet, exercise and supplements comprise the program. What Emmons lays out is a very doable regimen for readers that begins with self-care and acceptance. Although many other self-help books center on fixing the problem(s), Emmons takes the position that individuals are innately healthy and simply need to refocus.

The shift from anxious to peaceable takes seven steps. Emmons walks readers through each in The Chemistry of Calm, from how to choose better food options at the grocery store, to using dietary supplements linked to brain health, to integrating a routine of meditative exercises.

For Emmons, “Mindfulness” is the key to corralling the thoughts and emotions that ratchet up our anxiety, and The Chemistry of Calm is an in-depth how-to guide that can benefit us all.

—Lizza Connor Bowen

A NEW PERSPECTIVE FOR FINDING PEACE

Fifteen years after the phenomenal success of Simple Abundance, which spent a year at number one on the New York Times bestseller list, author Sarah Ban Breathnach admits, “All the money’s gone.” Her new book, Peace and Plenty, explains how she hit bottom and offers an approach perfectly timed for the new year: “a fresh start for all of us: living well, spending less, and appreciating more.”

Ban Breathnach’s writing is therapy on a page as she copes with her monumental losses: multiple homes, nine assistants, extravagant purchases (Isaac Newton’s prayer chapel in England, Marilyn Monroe’s furs) and a thieving husband. In dealing with the aftermath, she uncovers the emotionally volatile relationship women have with money.

Instead of writing another dry investing how-to, Ban Breathnach gives women a guide to finding spiritual and emotional peace after financial loss. Anyone who has suffered financial catastrophe—losing a home to foreclosure, losing a job to the recession, losing it all in a messy divorce—will find reassurance and compassion. With gentle advice, Peace and Plenty helps readers face their guilt about past money mistakes and move forward.

Ban Breathnach brings her Victorian sensibilities to plain-Jane finance; her budget includes a Christmas Club, her cash system creates a pin money stash. Readers rediscover the “thrill of thrift” by cleaning out purses and closets for a fresh start, and pampering themselves with poetry and early bedtime routines.

Ban Breathnach, who popularized the Gratitude Journal, now recommends several more tools for inexpensive self-reflection. The Journal of Well-Spent Moments, the Contentment Chest and the Comfort Companion all focus on finding the positive without spending much money.

Advice and anecdotes from famous women who’ve dealt with their own reversals of fortune are included throughout, but Ban Breathnach is at her best when sharing the deeply personal stories of her own financial foibles. And perhaps her greatest lesson came from the treachery of her English husband: Protect yourself first, she advises.

Sharing tears, laughter and many cups of tea with Ban Breathnach, readers will come away with a new perspective for finding peace.

—Stephanie Gerber

FOLLOWING THE GOLDEN RULE

Everybody knows the world lacks compassion, yet it’s something we deeply desire. To care about others, we must set aside our own egos, which is hard. Toward this end, self-described religious historian Karen Armstrong has written Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, calculated to mirror other 12-step programs and help us “dethrone ourselves from the centre of our worlds.”

Armstrong is the 2008 TED Prize winner and creator of The Charter for Compassion, crafted in 2009 by prominent religious leaders of many faiths and the general public. She believes that all religions are saying the same things, albeit in different ways, and that we must restore compassion to the heart of our religious practices. Considering that her narrative draws from the myths and precepts of many disparate faiths, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, her prose is clear and her concepts surprisingly easy to follow; it’s a warm and, yes, compassionate book. Yet she is still able to convey a sense of urgency: We are hardwired for compassion as well as cruelty, and it’s time to take the high road.

Armstrong’s genius is her ability to distill an impressive amount of information into just over 200 pages, making complex concepts easy to understand. In the end, living compassionately means following the Golden Rule: Always treat others as you yourself would want to be treated. With Armstrong as a guide, we can learn to do just that.

—Linda Leaming

YOUR PERSONAL MONEY TRAINER

If getting your family’s financial house in order seems like an overwhelming task, then Ellie Kay’s The 60-Minute Money Workout is for you. Every topic is broken down into chunks that make paying down debt, planning for retirement and even college planning doable in just one hour a week. From warm up to cool down, Kay acts as your money trainer as you discover your money personality and get on the same page with your partner.

Kay is called America’s Family Financial Expert for good reason. She brings real wisdom from supporting seven children on an annual income of just $55,000. The Kay family pays cash for cars, has no college loans and even paid off $40,000 in debt.

Her head-of-household experience shines in chapters like “Cha Ching Guide to Paying Less” and “Travel and Fun Guide Workout.” She shares loads of family-friendly ways to shop smarter for groceries, clothes and gas, saving time and money that can then be spent on more meaningful family vacations. She addresses other common family money matters with “workouts” for situations from launching a home-based business to determining children’s allowances.

Kay admits to being born thrifty, but she balances it by giving generously. Her 10/10/80 spending budget allocates 10 percent to giving and 10 percent to savings. That’s a hefty chunk for someone overwhelmed with credit card debt. But her Giving Guide Workout challenges you to strengthen your generosity muscle by doing more to share your time, resources and money, promising that you’ll feel and live better. And if you don’t have a dollar to spare, she includes 25 gifts that don’t cost a cent.

—Stephanie Gerber

Before you can start using your brain most effectively, you must understand it. This is the thinking behind Your Creative Brain, which contains the most up-to-date research-based exercises and rules to help you deliver your creative potential. For those who consider themselves “uncreative types” or are too attached to tried-and-true concepts, Your Creative Brain acts as an interactive guide to determine your weaker points and put them to work.

According to Harvard psychologist and researcher Shelley Carson, creativity is not an attribute reserved only for crafty types or inventors. Carson is the first researcher to frame creativity as a set of neurological functions, and Your Creative Brain lets you discover her findings for yourself.

Carson’s research explains the seven “brainsets” of the mind and how you can use those brainsets to increase creativity, productivity and innovation. Quizzes and exercises help you understand how your brain works, determine where your creative comfort zone lies and pinpoint the areas in your creative process which need some beefing up.

From Rorschach tests to association exercises, Your Creative Brain doesn’t simply teach you how to be more creative—it actually starts the process for you.

—Cat D. Acree

THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE

When John Kralik was a boy, his grandfather gave him a silver dollar, along with the promise of another if Kralik would send a thank you note. He wrote the letter and got the second dollar, but Kralik didn’t get the lesson behind it until midlife.
Overwhelmed one New Year’s Day by a series of personal and professional setbacks, he decided to focus on gratitude by sending one thank you note per day for a year, to anyone and everyone: his children, clients of his law firm, an on-and-off girlfriend, even his regular barista at Starbucks. And things did change in Kralik’s life; his work life and home life both improved, he reconnected with old friends and boosted his health and self-esteem, and his focus shifted from the problems in his life to the things that were going right, and deserving of recognition and thanks.

For a small story predicated on a seemingly minor activity, 365 Thank Yous is told with impressive humility, heart and soul. It’s touching when the Starbucks worker explains his reluctance to open Kralik’s note, anticipating another complaint from an entitled three-dollar-latte drinker, only to be pleasantly surprised by the gift of simple appreciation.

Readers will forgive Kralik for taking 15 months to write all 365 notes, and thank him for sharing the fruits of the project in this sweet and uplifting book.

—Heather Seggel

 

 

Are you ready to make a fresh start in the new year? We’ve lined up a bevy of guidebooks to help you launch 2011 with a renewed sense of purpose and effective new strategies for dealing with life’s challenges. Choose the approach that best suits your lifestyle and take those first steps toward a new […]
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You don’t have to go to art school or commission a designer to have a beautiful home—but a tasteful design book will provide you with plenty of inspiration. In these four books, you’ll learn to mix high and low interiors and incorporate plenty of bright color. Filled with gorgeous photographs, design books make lovely gifts for a loved one or yourself, and will be at home on any coffee table for years to come.

NEUTRAL IS OUT
Katie Ridder founded her design firm in 1995 and has since become known for her bright color palette and international influence. Take one look at the mesmerizing pictures in Katie Ridder Rooms, and you’ll soon see why: These interiors are truly works of art, at once sunny and bright, extravagant and balanced. In her introduction, author Heather Smith MacIsaac explains what makes Ridder’s rooms special: “No matter how lavish a project, no matter its style and degree of sophistication, it remains accessible, family friendly, absolutely inviting, and subtly practical.” Though not everyone can spring for custom wallpaper or a custom sofa to fit the shape of a space, we can all project relaxed hospitality in clutter-free rooms. There are many tips here that will be of use to any DIY home decorator, like lining the backs of bookcases with beautiful paper, or painting a dining room in a dramatic color to transform it “from the runt of the litter into best in show.” (MacIsaac rightly notes that dining rooms are typically only used and “dressed up” for special occasions.) After reading this book, you’ll be itching to add drama and flair to your house with sari-like curtains or Chinese lanterns, an upholstered headboard in the bedroom and bold wallpaper in the bathroom—anything that ups the wow factor and, as Ridder says, the “delight factor.”

STYLE AS SWEET AS PIE
Even if you live above the Mason-Dixon Line, like your tea unsweet and would never say “y’all,” you can still find plenty of inspiration in Southern Living Style. The Southerners among us—bless their hearts—will joyfully take pride in their region’s many fabulous interiors. This inviting guide is divided by room, with additional sections on “Defining Southern Style” and before-and-afters. So what is Southern style? It can be modern or traditional, but a proper Southern-inspired room should include some sort of ancestral influence—whether a portrait of Grandmother, a chest passed down for generations or cherished monogrammed family linens. A Southern home will also invite entertaining, comfortably mix functionality with formality and not shy away from color. Alongside pretty pictures of rooms, in this book you’ll find tips from decorators on getting the looks for yourself, with advice for both major re-dos and budget-friendly updates. One of the handiest features is the “pulling it all together” pages, which explain how to assemble the players in each room, from the most essential furniture pieces to fun accessories that make the space your own.

DECOR FROM THE BIG EASY
Bryan Batt may be best known for his role as art director Sal Romano on AMC’s hit show “Mad Men,” but Big, Easy Style joyfully celebrates his passion for design and decor. Batt was born and raised in New Orleans, and his philosophy in both life and design is laissez les bons temps rouler—“let the good times roll.” Readers are encouraged to embrace color, follow their hearts when making design choices and not be afraid of making mistakes. Based on the photographs of Batt’s Crescent City carriage house, it is clear that he has plenty of fun with his own design choices, like hanging huge papier-mâché flowers on the wall in homage to Mardi Gras floats. A helpful feature of Big, Easy Style is Batt’s list of favorite colors; with names like Petticoat White, Chocolate Mousse and Blue Hydrangea, you’ll be eager to start picking out paint chips. Fans of “Mad Men” will appreciate the glimpses into Batt’s childhood and personal life—his family owned the beloved Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park—and anyone with a space to decorate will be energized by his helpful, happy advice, like to work toward synergy between “a home’s great style and its owner’s personal flair.” They’ll also want to make a jaunt to New Orleans, where Batt and his partner, Tom Cianfichi, have owned a home accessories boutique, Hazelnut, since 2003.

A HOUSE FIT FOR A BIBLIOPHILE
Since everyone at BookPage is a booklover, most of us have the same problem: where to stash all the evidence of our addiction. Damian Thompson turns book accumulation into an art form in Books Make a Home, a dream of a guide for any devoted reader. Learn how to store your books more effectively (so you’ll have room to buy more!); how to arrange your books in artful displays; how to organize your collection; and even how to care for your books. (Rule number one: Do not allow them to lean!) Are you cohabitating for the first time and need a solution for combining two libraries? Having guests come to stay and want advice on how to thoughtfully provide reading material? You’ll find plenty of ideas here. Not surprisingly, the stars of the stunning photographs in Books Make a Home are books—stored in sleek kitchens, cozy bedrooms, corridors, office nooks, living rooms and even “loos” (Thompson lives in East London). In a chapter about arranging books in children’s rooms, the author quotes education reformer Horace Mann, writing: “A house without books is like a room without windows.” Any bibliophile would surely agree, and Thompson’s book provides show-stopping ideas for what to do with your beloved tomes.

You don’t have to go to art school or commission a designer to have a beautiful home—but a tasteful design book will provide you with plenty of inspiration. In these four books, you’ll learn to mix high and low interiors and incorporate plenty of bright color. Filled with gorgeous photographs, design books make lovely gifts […]

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