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All Creativity Coverage

The best lifestyles books of the month will give you a creative boost from the workplace to the kitchen.

 Creative Acts for Curious People

Tell the story of your worst first date using only LEGOs. Design an ad campaign for bananas. Describe an ability you’d use to survive a zombie apocalypse. Ask someone to tell you the story of their name. These are but a few of the assignments in Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways, developed from the teachings of Stanford University’s well-respected design school (known as the d.school), where students collaborate and innovate in fresh, surprising ways for the greater good. Need a change of perspective on a project or an escape hatch from routine thinking? Want to encourage your team to loosen up, give helpful feedback or challenge biases? Look no further. “In the face of current challenges—those here today and those yet to come—we all need ways to prepare to act even when we are uncertain,” writes d.school executive director Sarah Stein Greenberg. Whether you’re an independent artist seeking new approaches to your work or a leader aiming to mentor and galvanize your people, this book has an experience for you. I plan to put it to use in my own nonprofit leadership and personal creative projects.

The Tiny Kitchen Cookbook

Annie Mahle spent many years cooking for groups of 24 in the galley kitchen of a schooner, so you could say she’s earned her small-space stripes. In The Tiny Kitchen Cookbook: Strategies and Recipes for Creating Amazing Meals in Small Spaces, Mahle gathers recipes requiring little cookware or fuss, including one-pan dinners, toaster oven-friendly bakes and small dishes that can serve as snacks or light entrees. She shares tips for making the best of your (limited) workspace and, in a genius section called “Use It Up,” offers ideas for what to do with ingredients that tend to linger, like buttermilk, cauliflower and pumpkin puree. In the tiny (vacation) house of my dream-future, this will be the only cookbook on hand, but for now it will be a welcome addition to my home kitchen, with its charming lack of counter space.

Sandor Katz’s Fermentation Journeys

I happen to live in the same state as Sandor Katz, and he’s the sort of fellow Tennessean that makes me proud to call this place home. Katz gained an international following with his 2003 bestseller, The Art of Fermentation, the success of which took him across the globe. Now he’s back with Sandor Katz’s Fermentation Journeys: Recipes, Techniques, and Traditions From Around the World, which explores microbial activity in the culinary traditions of China, Peru and other places far, far from Cannon County, Tennessee. Think tepache in Mexico, sour cabbages in Croatia, pickled tea leaves in Burma, koji in Japan and much more. Part travelogue, part cookbook, part chemistry experiment, Katz’s new book is a fascinating look at fermented foods the world over, and it aims, always, to be a respectful one.

The best lifestyles books of the month will give you a creative boost from the workplace to the kitchen.

This month’s new lifestyles books are an eclectic mix that make quite a splash—from menopause advice to wild patterns of wallpaper to whimsical nudges to try new things.

 What Fresh Hell Is This?

Remember Gen X? No? That’s fine, no one does. But hey, we’re out here, and we’re heading into midlife and its many crises. Good thing we have Heather Corinna with us along for the bumpy ride, like the whip-smart, sardonic friend you used to hang with at punk shows who’s now armed with a metric ton of hard-earned wisdom about the endocrine system, advice for vasomotor freakouts and edibles. A longtime champion of feminist health, Corinna has previously written books for teens and tweens about bodies, sexuality and relationships. Their new book, What Fresh Hell Is This?, is a brilliantly irreverent and disruptive addition to the menopause survival/triumph category. Corinna writes forthrightly about their own experience, describing it as “not great in the way that, say, the 2016 US presidential election was not great.” They put their activist mojo to use in a guide that argues forcefully for new thinking about perimenopause, with a lot of laughs—and comics and Mad Libs!—along the way. Game changed.

Jungalow

Have you always been a sucker for luscious displays of color, pattern and texture in your personal space? Or, after a year of staying home, are you fed up with your minimalist, white-walled temple and ready to splash bright shades and wallpaper everywhere? Maybe you just need a gorgeous, aspirational coffee-table book to page through while you wait for the takeout to arrive. If your answer to any of these possibilities is yes, then the new Justina Blakeney will be your jam. Fans of her wildly successful The New Bohemians (I am one) will swoon over Jungalow: Decorate Wild. Never afraid to go big on a multiplicity of patterns, Blakeney asserts that “mixing is magic” and shows us how it’s done. Biophilia gets a loving nod here, too, with a chapter on how to work houseplants into your wild style. Prepare to be dazzled.

A Year of Weeks

Seven days is a short but solid amount of time to try something new—too brief, perhaps, to lead to a new habit, but sure to bring a sense of accomplishment, or at least satisfied amusement. Can you commit to doing one new thing for a single week? Sure you can, says Erica Root in A Year of Weeks. Cute as can be, this fully hand-drawn interactive workbook contains 52 prompts, from whimsical to practical, nudging us to draw, put on our thinking caps, be kind, follow our curiosity and so on. Show gratitude, notice everyday beauty, clean one thing, help someone or write someone a note. Design seven new socks or bookmarks or coffee mugs or hairstyles! In each case, you’re aiming for seven consecutive days of trying out your selected task, and Root’s drawings invite you to record evidence of your efforts right in the book. Pick up two copies: one for you and one for a pal or family member, because a little friendly accountability will only make the challenges sweeter.

This month’s new lifestyles books are an eclectic mix that make quite a splash—from menopause advice to wild patterns of wallpaper to whimsical nudges to try new things.

Creativity, cheese and words—oh my! Curious minds of all stripes will find something wonderful to ponder in this month's best lifestyles books.

The Listening Path

Back in the early 1990s, a book called The Artist’s Way changed the creativity how-to scene forever and paved the way for countless guides to come. Author Julia Cameron preached the practice of “morning pages,” a daily stream-of-consciousness writing ritual. Since then, countless readers have found this practice to be a useful tool for self-understanding. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—and so we find morning pages and the six-week program framework from Cameron’s earlier book at the heart of her new one, The Listening Path. Designed for a world in which attention is our collective deficiency, The Listening Path focuses on tuning out cluttering noise and redirecting attention constructively to release creative blocks. Quotations from respected writers, thinkers and spiritual guides travel like softly shining stars alongside Cameron’s storytelling and prompts to nurture conscious listening. If this all sounds too woo-woo for you . . . then you probably need it.

Stuff Every Cheese Lover Should Know

One of my favorite comforts of quarantine has been a biweekly cheese box subscription, offered by a local cheesemonger. So it’s no surprise that I’m smitten by Stuff Every Cheese Lover Should Know by Alexandra Jones. This tiny book—it’s the size of a classic Moleskine journal—is like a nibble of an artisan bleu, rich and satisfying even in the smallest portion. You’ll learn about microbes, moisture and “cheese outerwear”; how to create the perfect cheese board and pair cheese with drinks; just what the heck raclette is; and more. If a cheese-loving friend is in the throes of the COVID-winter doldrums, perk her up by leaving this diminutive but delightful guide on her doorstep with a wedge of fromage.

So to Speak

I’m letting my word-nerd flag fly with this one: So to Speak is a compendium of 11,000 expressions organized into nearly 70 categories, including a bonus, “Our Favorite Family Expressions and Nana-isms” (e.g., “He’s a stick in the mud”). Why do you need this, you ask? First, it’s the largest collection of its kind. Second, it’s “a catalyst for endless conversations among people of all ages—and some of the most fun can be had by reading it aloud with friends and family,” writes co-editor Harold Kobliner, who worked steadfastly on this book with his wife of 65 years, Shirley, until she passed away in 2016. The result, he tells us, is a “true celebration of the love of language with the love of my life.” Third, 25 games such as a rhyming game, an expressions improv game and one based on “The Newlywed Game” are included. It’s a must-have for any language lover’s library.

Creativity, cheese and words—oh my! Curious minds of all stripes will find something wonderful to ponder in this month's best lifestyles books.

Four fresh art and design books inspire, enlighten and cultivate creativity. Perfect for accomplished artists, occasional dabblers or anyone in search of a new hobby, these terrific titles provide instant inspiration.

The 99% Invisible City

Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt are the dynamic duo behind the architecture and design podcast “99% Invisible,” and their intriguing book, The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design, draws upon the podcast’s concepts by picking out smartly conceived, frequently overlooked components of the urban landscape and explaining how they contribute to a thriving civic environment.

From traffic lights, public signage and historical plaques to manhole covers and city monuments, the book examines design elements big and small, revealing the ways in which they bring clarity to the chaos of modern life. The volume is organized into brief, easy-to-process sections, and it touches down in boroughs around the globe. Filled with nifty line illustrations in bold black and white, this eye-opening book will give readers a fresh appreciation for the beauty and functionality that are inherent—but not immediately apparent—in the urban world.

Open StudioOpen Studio

Open Studio: Do-It-Yourself Art Projects by Contemporary Artists gives readers the chance to craft along with major makers. The authors, curator Sharon Coplan Hurowitz and journalist-filmmaker Amanda Benchley, recruited a group of A-list participants for the volume (Marina Abramovic, William Wegman, Maya Lin—the list goes on), which is packed with brilliant photography, including candid shots of the artists at work.

The book’s 17 wide-ranging projects offer something for everyone. Sculptor Rachel Feinstein’s “Rococo Hut” is a small-scale architectural wonder that you can recreate with cutouts, while multimedia artist Wangechi Mutu’s “Earth Androids,” composed of paper pulp, soil, ink and paint, are simply out of this world. Painter Will Cotton’s foil-paper “The Royal Crown of Candyland” will bring out the kid in any crafter. The step-by-step instructions and how-to photos that accompany each project make staying on track a snap. Open Studio shows that getting creative is easy—especially when you can take cues from world-class artists.

Life in the StudioLife in the Studio

Stimulation, motivation and encouragement—that’s what artistic minds will find in Life in the Studio: Inspiration and Lessons on Creativity, Frances Palmer’s guide to starting—and maintaining—a creative practice. In this beautifully photographed book, Palmer, a celebrated ceramics artist, art historian and successful businesswoman, delivers big-picture advice without neglecting the small details. She shares tips on how to establish a creative routine, identify sources of inspiration and stay engaged. She also provides guidance on hands-on matters such as setting up a studio, with an overview of must-have tools and more.

Throughout the volume, Palmer reflects on how her skills and methods have evolved over her 30-year career. Through pottery projects, flower-arranging tutorials and recipes, she proves that creativity can manifest itself in unexpected ways. Both the seasoned artist and the beginner will be enriched by this stunning guide.

Truth BombTruth Bomb

Abigail Crompton’s Truth Bomb: Inspiration From the Mouths and Minds of Women Artists is as provocative as the title suggests. With a design that combines audacious colors and not-to-be-ignored graphics, the volume spotlights 22 prominent female artists—women from diverse backgrounds working in a wide range of media, including photography, video, painting and performance art.

Crompton, an artist and design-studio entrepreneur, assembled a stellar lineup for the book: Judy Chicago, Mickalene Thomas, Miranda July, Yayoi Kusama and the Guerrilla Girls are among the featured makers. She provides profiles of each, delving into their creative processes and techniques. Along the way, these extraordinary women share bits of hard-won wisdom, words of encouragement and practical advice. The book is also filled with beautifully reproduced examples of their work. Truth Bomb is an invaluable resource for anyone with creative inclinations. From start to finish, it’s a spirited homage to the artistic life.

Four fresh art and design books inspire, enlighten and cultivate creativity.

Aging powerfully, stoking creativity and keeping the peace in "peace on earth"—this month's best lifestyles books cover all these topics and more.


The Power Age

Illustrations of luminaries such as Michelle Obama, Patti Smith and Zadie Smith are a delightful feature of The Power Age: A Blueprint for Maturing With Style, but it’s the interviews with a wide range of inspiring, accomplished women—all over 40 and most of them 50-plus—that make me want to buy a copy of this book for every one of my girlfriends. “Entering your second act is not so scary as it once seemed,” writes Kelly Doust in the introduction. “It takes years and years of trial and error, and life lessons, and loss, to come home to ourselves and figure out who we are.” Doust is an Australian writer, and many of the women she talks to are based in Australia or New Zealand, but their collective wisdom certainly knows no national boundaries and shines brightly enough to power a universe of its own.

Make Time for Creativity

In the world of creativity guides, Brandon Stosuy’s Make Time for Creativity feels fresh. Stosuy’s got impeccable creds as the co-founder of the excellent web publication The Creative Independent and a collaborator with countless artists of all stripes. From this fertile ground he delivers a four-part look at the creative process, from work-life balance to necessary downtime, girded by insights from the writers, musicians, visual artists and others he has interviewed over the years. I especially like the “Daily Rituals” section, designed to show “how rituals make you feel present for your creative practice and able to treat it like sacred time.”

Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year

I wasn’t ready to think about the holidays when I first picked up Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year, but now that I’ve read it, bring on the mulled wine and evergreen boughs. In soothing prose, Beth Kempton helps readers locate the elements they love most about the before, during and after of the season, with an emphasis on a hygge-type appreciation of the winter months. Kempton, the author of an excellent book on wabi sabi, helps us dial down the noise of what doesn’t appeal. She doesn’t urge us to celebrate Christmas any one way but encourages us to “savor the hush” of the very end of the year—“the fleeting pause when time bends and magic hovers between the bookends of the season.”

Aging powerfully, stoking creativity and keeping the peace in "peace on earth"—this month's best lifestyles books cover all these topics and more.

Whether you want to be educated, inspired or deliciously distracted, these releases can help.


★ Earth Almanac

The internet’s useful and all, but have you picked up an almanac lately? Ken Keffer’s Earth Almanac is a fine specimen, focused on phenology, the interconnection of living things through seasonal change. Each of its 365 entries explores a particular natural creature, phenomenon or feature; on the day of this writing, Keffer looks closely at the “twittering flights of the American woodcock,” aka bog sucker, mud bat or brush snipe. Beautifully illustrated, Earth Almanac makes a delightful daily read-aloud with family. Keffer’s generalist approach offers encouragement to budding naturalists, inviting us to action as field data collectors and advocates for the earth. “People are more likely to protect what they are familiar with and what they care about,” he writes.

How to Be an Artist

In 2018, Jerry Saltz, senior art critic for New York magazine, wrote a piece on how to live more creatively, featuring 33 “nodes and nubs of advice.” It proved wildly popular, so Saltz kept going, thinking more deeply about how to make art a part of one’s life—and what is art, anyway? The result is the trim, brilliant How to Be an Artist, which combines color reproductions of famous works with inspiring directives, pep talks and juicy reflections on art-making and sustainable creative practice. Whether you’re a proud amateur or a frustrated expert, these are words worth taking to heart. Saltz’s knowledge veins run deep, and his voice is crisp, frank, intimate and urgent. 

Procrastibaking

As I polish off this column a day past my deadline, you can bet that I’m loving a new cookbook with chapter headings like “Better-Late-Than-Never Brownies and Bars,” “Late-for-Everything Loaf Cakes” and “Sorry-for-the-Delayed-Response Savory Bakes.” This is Erin Gardner’s Procrastibaking, and it is giving me life. Never mind that I absolutely want to try every delicious-sounding recipe, of which there are more than 100, and most of which are making a successful appeal to my sweet tooth. I also want to nail the word search, mazes and other games that are sprinkled throughout the book like finishing sugar. But first I must finish this column . . . or must I ? After all, the majority of these treats can be turned out in under 50 minutes, I’m told.

Whether you want to be educated, inspired or deliciously distracted, these releases can help. ★ Earth Almanac The internet’s useful and all, but have you picked up an almanac lately? Ken Keffer’s Earth Almanac is a fine specimen, focused on phenology, the interconnection of living things through seasonal change. Each of its 365 entries explores a particular […]

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