I have become a bit obsessed with the library over the past few years. Up until about four years ago I didn’t even like to read. Four years of chemistry jargon and lab tech manuals really spoiled the fun for me. But now that I have rediscovered the beauty of reading, and the library loan system, well it is becoming a bit of a problem.

There are books everywhere. My desk has piles of books toppling over one another. My bedside table contains two things: a quart jar of water and whatever I am currently reading. And most everything I check out is non-fiction because you know what I don’t have a lot of knowledge.

How We Use the Library

We don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around, but if we did I’m pretty sure we’d spend it on books. In fact for our anniversary I gave my husband two books: one on raising chickens and the other on homemade farm tools.

Since I can’t just order something off of Amazon whenever I please I like to try books on for size at the library. I do a quick interlibrary loan search, put it on hold and if it proves to be a really helpful resource I put it on my "worth buying" list. For cookbooks I jot down recipes that I’d use and if the list is more than ten items long I add it to the "worth buying" list. If not I simply copy down the recipes on a notecard.

Six Books Worth Buying

I have come across a real group of gems this time. All non-fiction, all super useful, and all perfectly suited to my love of do-it-yourselferness. (pretty sure that’s not a word.) They are definitely on my worth buying list.

1. Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen.

Ireland is home to me. Not in the sense that I am from there, but in the sense that when I visited I knew that if I could live anywhere it would be Ireland. Darina Allen has been called the Julia Child of Ireland, but I think she has a bit more of a do-it-yourself twist to her. She runs a cooking school, has written beautiful books on the traditional cuisine of Ireland, and has now put together what I can only call one of the most useful and beautiful books for the home cook. If I could only have one book in the kitchen with me this may well be it.

Within this 600 page book you will find everything from how to find and prepare wild edibles to how to kill, clean, and prepare your home-raised animals to how to make yogurt, cheese, and butter from your own milk. With 700 time-honored recipes this book is a great resource for every home cook.

2. What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It) by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth.

This book is made for ignorant gardeners like me. The title gives away my most oft asked gardening question. With its visual guide including illustrations and question and answer flow charts, it is clear and concise enough for the most novice gardener.

My husband especially appreciated this book and gave it a one word review: "Outstanding!"

3. A Well Kept Home by Laura Fronty & Yves Duronsoy.

This is the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy day. The subtitle alone tells you it’s a jewel: "Household Traditions and Simple Secrets from a French Grandmother". The table of contents reads like an instruction manual for the homemaker.

From food preservation to traditional paint recipes to health through plants, you’ll find a little bit of everything. Along the way you are guided by dreamy photographs that invoke a bright, airy sense of home. It is the perfect combination of useful and beautiful.

4. What Can I Do With My Herbs? by Judy Barrett.

If you grow herbs or want to learn how to use them then this book is for you. The book contains an alphabetical listing of culinary and medicinal herbs with an easy to read list of how to use it.

Depending on the herb’s properties you can learn how to:

  • Learn About It
  • Grow It
  • Eat It
  • Attract With It
  • Deter With It
  • Dry It
  • Freshen With It
  • Soothe With It
  • Stay Healthy With It (and many more)

Truly a wealth of information for anyone interested in herbs.

5. The Lost Art of Real Cooking by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger.

This small book packs a punch. In only 233 pages it shows you how to take back your kitchen and learn to appreciate the everyday kitchen skills lost over the past fifty years.

Starting with ferments of vegetables and legumes and continuing through every facet of real food cookery, this book contains tried and true kitchen skills for the home cook. A light-hearted narrative and personal anecdotes make this not only a useful read, but a fun and easy one as well.

6. Forgotten Household Crafts by John Seymour.

To be honest I found this book a bit dry at times. What it lacks in pizazz it more than makes up for in detailed information. The focus of the book is on how a home was run before the industrial revolution. Of particular interest to me was how food was stored for winter, how food was kept cool without refrigeration, and how laundry was done without a washing machine.

Throughout the book you will find illustrations of old-time tools as well as black and white photographs of women performing the home arts. It is a great reference and how-to book to have on hand for the do-it-yourselfer.

Now you know what I’ve been reading. What books are you loving right now?

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12 Responses to How I Use the Library and Six Super Useful Books For The Home, Kitchen, and Garden

  1. I feel the same way about the library! It’s like Christmas every time I go. Right now I have a huge stack next to my bed, mostly nonfiction. I just discovered a new mystery writer, Rhys Bowen, so I’ve been devouring her books, but usually I check out cookbooks and books on health.

    I haven’t heard of any of the ones mentioned above. I’m looking them up today. I just picked up an interesting cookbook from the library called Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It which I really like. I think it will end up on my Amazon list for my birthday.


  2. Karen says:

    What a great post! I can’t wait to check out these books, Thanks


  3. Danielle says:

    After becoming a SAHM I also rediscovered the library. I wonder why I ever bought books before when I could read them for free. Of course, there are books I like to own, but not that many. And it is so great for keeping a variety of books around for the kids too. The only problem is they are free and I go a little crazy. I never read all the books I check out.


  4. What great book recommendations! I love your mixture of cookbooks and how-to run a home books. As a relative new comer to the Real Food scene, I’ve been finding myself looking for ways to recapture the knowledge that my great-grandmother surely had when it came to cooking and homemaking. I’m going to go now and add most of your titles to my own library request list!


  5. Angie says:

    I also love THE NATURALLY CLEAN HOME by Karyn Siegel-Maier. This book presents many herbal formulas for green cleaning. I’ve incorporated a handful of them into my arsenal of cleaning products and eliminated many expensive & dangerous products.


  6. Ivy Mae says:

    I really like that “What Can I Do With My Herbs” one. I’m immensely practical and that is exactly the question I ask myself whenever one of my herbs starts putting out new growth. If I remember correctly, I liked the drawings too.


  7. The library has always been my favorite place to go! My librarians are the 1st to know about any new interest I might have! The book requests are a dead giveaway….knitting, gardening, running, sewing, cooking…you name it, I get the books on it. And, like you, I check them out carefully, THEN make a purchasing decision.


  8. Casey H. says:

    Hi Shannon:
    I am just finishing The Concise Guide to Self Sufficiency by John Seymour. Spectacular Book! I loaned it from the library but will add it to my permanent library in the near future. I have learned that it is out of print but did find connections via the internet.

    I saw that you thought his writing was a bit dry at times. I would agree, but at other times he reminded me so much of the VT farmers that I have been blessed to know in my life, that it made me chuckle.


  9. I love the library!!!! We moved recently, and I really need to get a library card!!!


  10. Dani says:

    Wow, these all sound like “add to my collection” books. I once was able to buy books, but have lately been rediscovering the joys of free and unlimited (relatively speaking, of course) books at my library. I have found titles that I otherwise would never have found–and looking these up will land me in a new fun part of the library that I might never have otherwise ventured!

    Thanks for this post–you have reinspired me to go back to my library TODAY and get some new reading materials for my busrides to work.


  11. Kait Palmer says:

    These are right up my alley!!! I have to admit I’m a book-a-holic. I need a support group. Seriously.

    Right now I’ve been reading The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods a lot. Every time I get a new veggie in our CSA box I whip out the EHF and read its history and what all its used for.

    Fiction-wise I’m reading Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Beautiful and lyrical writing!


  12. Jamm says:

    Stumbled upon this gem of a site a little late in the game, but decided to post anyway:
    I read about books on blogs/Amazon. I check them out from the library. And then I buy the ones I like from http://www.betterworldbooks.com.
    New and gently-used books, bargain price (I’m talking less than $5), sales (50% off 5 or more books — I got 10 books for $20!), and all proceeds go to funding literacy!
    Oh, did I mention FREE SHIPPING? To anywhere, even international. All the time, no minimum.
    My family knows to check my BWB wishlist for gift ideas :)


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