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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