Tag Archives: non-fiction

Why Cleaning Has Meaning

The cover of Why Cleaning Has Meaning

The cover of Why Cleaning Has Meaning

I was hoping this book would be a socio-anthropological examination of cleaning as a profession and its paradoxical place in our lives. I was expecting an exhortation to live a tidier life, complete with that life’s incumbent benefits. It wasn’t either of those things. Instead, it was a rambling, poorly-if-at-all-edited mishmash of the author’s personal religious views and her childhood reminiscences. None of this was apparent from the book or its promotional summary. Normally, I enjoy rambling looks at oddball topics, but this confusing stew of disparate thinkers and experiences left me wondering what, if any, point the author may have had. A quarter of the way through this book, I found myself making excuses not to read it — for an inveterate bookworm like myself that was an unusual experience to say the least! Also unusually, I found myself unable to finish this book, but I just couldn’t force myself to continue it.

I can’t, in good conscience, recommend this book to anyone.  This book’s potential audience just deserves better.

small black starNote: I received this book as a free Advanced E-Reader Copy from NetGalley.  This book was available for general purchase on February 20, 2014.


Deep-Rooted Wisdom

 the cover of Deep Rooted Wisdom

The cover of Deep Rooted Wisdom

“Enjoy the mystery and get your hands dirty”, says Augustus Jenkins Farmer, author of Deep-Rooted Wisdom: stories and skills from generations of gardeners. This back-to-basics gardening book is full of luscious, lovely photos that add both to the art and craft of the book.  It features horticultural personalities and stories about ‘the old (new?) way of doing things’ in the garden.

Each chapter in the book is divided into three sections.  The first outlines a gardening skill or idea and how it used to be used by gardeners or horticulturalists in the past.  The second features someone who has taught the author about the older ways of doing things.  In the third section, the author adapts these teachings for modern gardening.  Along the way, we learn of the practices and consequences (both good and bad) of our actions in the garden, such as catastrophic soil depletion in the southern United States.

Throughout the book we are treated to informative parentheticals relevant to the topic under discussion at that point in the book, on topics as diverse as Bokashi composting, mycorrhizal fungi, the plant collectors’ code of conduct, and the proper way to choose a hand tool.

In addition, the book is infinitely quotable, and during my reading, I found myself writing down innumerable quotations to potentially use in this review.  Farmer clearly loves the English language, and writes with a thoughtfulness and meandering intensity that reads as limpidly as poetry.  But pithy as the book is, two quotes seem to best sum up the book’s contentions.  The first appears at the beginning of this review.  It is an exhortation to engage in the art and science that combine to make gardening so rewarding.  The second is the observation that, “It’s important to remember that you don’t always need those material things on display at your garden store”.   Look around you, get creative,  and use what you have,  or what you can find or borrow.  Using creativity’s new eyes, much so-called “trash” can be turned to treasure, and we can do without much of what we think we need.

This book is very much oriented to the South as a region; this is understandable in a book that draws on so much history and local wisdom, as the author lives in and is from the south.  When I lived in the South, this book would have been even that much more interesting because of its regional focus.  However the book is so enchanting that I found myself wishing for that kind of history and storytelling in a book that focused on my region. And perhaps one day I will find that book.  For now, I can enjoy this one.  I would recommend it to people interested in gardening, and people interested in the local histories of the South and Southern gardens in particular.  It would be an indispensable part of any library collection in the southern United States.

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Note: I received this book as a free Advanced E-Reader Copy from NetGalley.  This book will be available for general purchase on March 25, 2014.

Crochet Saved My Life

Crochet Saved my Life

The cover of Crochet Saved My Life

Crochet Saved My Life is both a memoir of depression and anxiety, and also an exploration of crochet as therapy for dealing with both of these conditions.  The book features interviews with about two dozen others who have dealt with a number of kinds of clinical depressions, as well as other issues both psychological (most prominently anxiety) and conditions with psychological features as well.

The personal stories are both powerful and moving, but when the author delves into neurochemical explanations, the book loses a bit of its steam.  Luckily, the personal anecdotes are spread throughout the book, maximizing their use and emotional impact.

Some of the benefits of crochet that are explored by this book include: mindfulness, visualization, stress reduction, the setting of achievable goals & pride in accomplishment.  Also explored are the benefits of the social component of the so-called crafts such as knit and crochet, in that the social component is optional, online, and low-stress.

The author repeatedly emphasizes that crochet is “one tool in the toolbox” and not a cure for anything — and something that some individuals may not even find helpful.  She also emphasizes that she is a layman, not an expert in any of the fields explored by the book, and that such explorations are to be understood as an educated layman’s view of the subject matter, and not as an expert’s opinion.

The book could have benefited from having a good editor go through and trim down the prose.  It is undeniably well-written, but it could have been trimmed down a bit, I think.  Still, the tone was friendly and inviting, and the author clearly has spent a good deal of time thinking about her subject, in addition to researching and writing about it.  I’d like to think that would be true of most books, but it somehow doesn’t seem that way to me.  In my experience overall, and especially in an indie publication, this is a treat.

All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the benefits of crafting, or who are looking for some ways to self-help themselves into a better frame of mind, in addition to people who have a history of psychological issues who are open to alternative therapies.

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Note: I purchased this book through the Kindle store and read it on my e-reader.  It is available to the public.


P.S.  I can’t wait until Vercillo’s newest project comes out — a book that, by the way, she is crowdsourcing through indiegogo.  This book is designed as “a book of creativity exercises for crocheters. It will show how crochet can be used to achieve mindfulness, release artistic fear, push to the next level of creativity, celebrate life and more. Many topics of creativity will be explored in this book that challenge you to find new ways to craft yourself to wellness.”

Crochet One-Skein Wonders

Crochet One-Skein Wonders

The cover of Crochet One-Skein Wonders

If you’re like me — a crocheter and not a knitter — you approach the needlecrafts section of the bookstore with a feeling of impending disappointment, and just a touch of envy.  After all, there are many more knitting books than there are crochet books, and the crochet stock never seems to rotate frequently enough.  One of the most glaring needs in the crochet book universe is for a book of patterns that only takes one skein of yarn to complete.  There has been a veritable parade of choices for knitters in this vein, but scant pickings for crocheters.

Well, the waiting is over!  Crochet One-Skein Wonders offers 101 great patterns for crocheters to use in using up those odd balls of yarn that tend to collect at the end of projects.  Sorted by yarn weight — a nice detail — crocheters can choose from patterns ranging from standard fare (such as baby booties), to the lacy (several toothsomely airy scarves in varying yarn weights  make their appearances) to the outright adorable (the alligator featured on the cover).  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Tunisian and bead crochet were also featured in this book.

The formatting in my e-copy was wonky to say the least, but that may be an artifact of the e-book format.  The patterns appear sound, and varied enough to satisfy a wide range of crochet tastes.  I’ll definitely be buying this book in print when it comes out!  I would definitely recommend this book to my fellow crocheters.

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Note: I received this book as a free Advanced E-Reader Copy from NetGalley.  This book will be available for general purchase on March 12, 2013.