Homesteading Books for Beginners

Spring is in the air! This time of year really gets me motivated to try new things…or at least read about trying new things. Are any of you planning on taking on new spring projects? Container Gardening?  Preserving? Maybe home brewing?

I’ve always found homesteading practices to be interesting and this year I want to learn how to make preserves and start an herb garden for my kitchen. It’s such a great time of year to get outside, get inspired, and get growing!  Even if you don’t adopt a homesteading lifestyle, or find it daunting, you can always pick and choose from the many great (and green) ideas these books have to offer:

General Titles:

ApartmentGardeningApartment Gardening, by Amy Penington: Plants, Projects, and Recipes for Growing Food in your Urban Home (eBook)




Plants, Projects, and Recipes for Growing Food in your Urban Home – See more at: Plants, Projects, and Recipes for Growing Food in your Urban Home (eBook)

BackyardHomesteadThe Backyard Homestead





Grow the vegetables and fruits your family loves; keep bees; raise chickens, goats, or even a cow. – See more at:
Grow the vegetables and fruits your family loves; keep bees; raise chickens, goats, or even a cow. – See more at:

FreshFoodFresh Food from Small Spaces, by R.J. Rupenthal: The square inch gardener’s guide to year-round growing, fermenting, and sprouting.




EdibleSpotsEdible Spots & Pots, by Stacy Hirvela: Small-space Gardens for Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Containers, Raised Beds, and More.




KitchenGardeningKitchen Gardening For Beginners, by Simon Akeroyd: A simple guide to growing fruit and vegetables.





Raising Critters:

BeeKeepingTeach yourself Bee Keeping, by Adrian Waring





RaisingChickensThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Jerome D. Belanger: Everything you need to know to care for your own flock of chickens.





Good things come to those who wait:

ArtisanCheesemakingArtisan Cheese Making at Home, by Mary Karlin: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-class Cheeses.




CompletePreservingThe Complete Preserving Book, by Canadian Living





EverythingHomebrewingThe Everything Homebrewing Book, by Drew Beechum: All you need to brew the best beer and home!






Fresh Eyes

Without ever really meaning to, I started an Easter reading tradition.  Each year I am drawn to re-read a beloved book from my past.  (Confession:  it’s usually Donna Tartt’s The secrethistorySecret History).  Sometimes my look backwards is prompted by a newly published work, like the year I re-read Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time in anticipation of P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley (which I never did get around to reading), other times it’s not.  Sometimes I’m disappointed to discover that a work that touched me deeply contains a magic I can’t access any longer.  Other times I’m charmed anew.

Each time I catch myself picking up an old favourite, I’m reminded of a quote of Proust‘s (a novelist I’ve never read nevermind re-read), “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

This Easter weekend I re-visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in the 1960s, the way it was the first time I can ever remember hearing of it.  I frankweilerspent time running away from home with Claudia (the brains) and Jamie (the coin) and hiding out in the museum’s bathrooms waiting for security to leave for the night.  It had been decades since I  first encountered the Angel and wondered if two plucky kids could verify a Michelangelo using common sense and the limited resources at their disposal.  I re-read From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konisburg, and it was just as good as I remember it.

Are you a re-reader?  Does the urge to re-read strike you more at a particular time of year?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Michael’s Spring 2014 Nonfiction Pics

Keep an eye on our new non-fiction shelves because there are a lot of great books coming out this spring. Here are a few I’m looking forward to reading:

ForgivenessForgiveness: A Gift from my Grandparents, by Mark Sakamoto: This biography covers the story of two families on opposite sides of the Second World War. Ralph MacLean is captured in the Pacific and becomes a POW in Japan; the Sakamoto family lose everything as Japanese Canadians are forced from their homes on the West Coast. Fans of Unbroken will probably like this title.

LifeAnimatedLife Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism, by Ron Suskind: This memoir by Pulitzer Prize winner, Ron Suskind, relates how his autistic son learned to speak through the language of story. Memorizing dozens of Disney movies, the son learned to express emotion through their dialogue and song. The family members took on the roles of animated characters to reach this isolated boy. This one promises to be inspiring and fascinating.

accidentaljihadMy Accidental Jihad, by Krista Bremer: Marriage is often an exploration into a foreign culture, even if both partners come from the same class and country. Bremer – a middle class American – meets and falls in love with Ismail – whose impoverished Muslim background includes seven siblings in a Libyan village.


OliveOlive Odyssey: Searching for the Secrets of the Fruit that Seduced the World, by Julie Angus: From the author of Rowboat in a Hurricane comes this history of the olive and its profound influence on Mediterranean culture. For foodies, armchair travellers, and history buffs alike.


FreakThink Like a Freak, by Steven Levitt: This follow-up to Freakonomics promises to deliver essential tools allowing you to ‘think like a freak.’ Ostensibly a business book, these tools and insights are intended to help with making smarter decisions in everyday life. For readers of Malcolm Gladwell.


ZeroThe Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons and the Eclipse of Capitalism, by Jeremy Rifkin. What profound disruptions do the ‘Internet of Things’ and the reduction of marginal costs for so many things hold in store? Is the growing importance of social capital signaling a shift from a capitalist marketplace to something more collaborative? This book looks at recent technological and social developments and pushes them to their logical conclusions.


Patricia’s Spring Picks 2014

SpringSpring can take you anywhere… The weather can be perfect for huddling under a blanket and watching the rain fall, and then it can be warm enough to bask in the sun.  On great days you can sit out under the cherry blossoms.  Spring has room for all your moods, and for all your reading tastes.  This spring’s new releases don’t have much in common with each other except that they are all perfect for the many moods of the season.

March New Releases

Empress of the Night* by Eva Stachniak

This sequel to the Winter Palace tells of Catherine the Great’s rise to power from her own perspective.

Blood Will Out* by Walter Kirnblood

This non-fiction memoir about Kirn’s longtime friendship with a man claiming to be Clark Rockefeller and the friendship’s inevitable dissolution, is both memorable and moving.  There’s a strong sense of frustration that comes from realizing someone you care about isn’t someone you’ll ever really know.


April New Releases

punyAll My Puny Sorrows* by Miriam Toews

A tale of two sisters:  one a suicidal world-reknowned pianist, the other is complete mess who tries to hold her sister together. From the author of A Complicated Kindness.



The Confabulist* by Steven Gallowayconfabulist

Confession:  I’ve never read Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo, which received rave reviews (and has been recommended to me by many many people).  I started The Confabulist last night and was hooked from the first page; it tells the story of Harry Houdini and the man who killed him… twice.

serpentOther highlights from April include No Book But the World* by Leah Hager Cohen — about a sister struggling to prove her brother is innocent of murder, Christopher Moore’s witty take on Shakespeare The Serpent of Venice*, Raise Some Shell* — a book that addresses the enduring popularity of the TMNT, and (finally!) The fifth book in the Night Watch series, The New Watch* by Sergei Lukyanenko — for those of us who can’t get enough of the supernatural side of Moscow.


May New Releases

In May, I finally plan to delve into my first Jo Nesbo mystery and find out what all the fuss is about.  The book is The Son*, and it’s the stand alone tale of a son who escapes prison to find out the truth about his father’s death. Also in my pile are: Alexei Zentner’s The Lobster Kings*, which I would read no matter what it was about because of how enchanting his first novel, Touch was (and this book looks even better), the Kseniya Melnik’s short story collection Snow in May* (set in Siberia), and these two books:

Goodnight June* by Sarah Jiojune

June is called upon to settle her late great-aunt Ruby’s estate and uncovers a series of letters between her aunt and Margaret Wise Brown, author of the children’s classic, Goodnight Moon. 

beesThe Bees* by Laline Paull

Why?  Because the world simply doesn’t have enough books narrated by bees.  And I’m a sucker for a good animal narrator.


*HUGE thanks to NetGalley and Edelweiss for providing advanced readers’ copies of these titles.


See you at the Writers Fest!

Hello All!

Sorry to have been fairly silent here the past week but we’ve been gearing up for this weekend’s North Shore Writers Festival, which is happening here at NVCL this Friday and Saturday.

For all the juicy details, check out the website. I hope to see you all this weekend!

































Heidi’s Book Vice (Cookbooks)

Cookbook shelf

I never buy books anymore. There are several reasons for this. Why buy a book when there are thousands outside my office door that are FREE? Also, it would get really, really expensive, as every week I go through about the first twenty pages of usually around five books before I settle on one that I read all the way through. (That’s 20 books a month!)

The one exception to this rule is cookbooks. I am addicted! They are my book vice. I will buy one or two cookbooks a month, vow to cook through the entire book, and usually only make two or three recipes from each before succumbing to the urge to buy some other shiny new cookbook I read about online.

There are, however, a few times when I come across a cookbook that I’m so obsessed with, I’ll read it cover to cover, cook the majority of the recipes inside, and even make notes on the pages. These belong to the heavy use rotation. I like to think of these as similar to musicians in an orchestra or symphony — first chair, second chair and so on. The best of the best that occasionally rotate when one seems to outperform the others.

DALSRight now, first chair (the one that is closest to my stove) is Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach (who operates the blog with the same name). I love this cookbook because it has all the characteristics of what makes a great cookbook:

  • Part memoir/anecdotal: Jenny is a wonderful writer who has worked for Real Simple, Cookie Magazine, and The New York Times, and this book is just as much a memoir of her family life and cooking education as it is a recipe book. She’s funny, warm and unpretentious. I like that.
  • Technique/instruction: the book provides tips, tricks and advice on everything from the best way to pound meat to what pans and knives are truly essential for a home cook to the best ways to get your kids to eat flounder.
  • Recipe Context: Jenny gives you intros for all the recipes that tell you what type of meal they are best for (weeknight family meal, entertaining, vacation grilling, etc.) and how long they will take.
  • Unfussy: These recipes are simple but sophisticated. Jenny refers to them as “comfort food with a twist.” No long ingredients lists and not too many things you will need to shop for at a specialty food store.
  • Nice photos and design: Always a bonus. Let’s face it, when you use a cookbook this much, you want it to look pretty.
  • The food! The food is delicious but relatively healthy, despite not being a diet cookbook.

Some of my other rotating favourites (many pictured in the photo above), that also include these characteristics are:

What are your favourite cookbooks, and why?


Book News Roundup – March 21, 2014

goldfinchWhy is it so much fun to cast your favourite books for imagined film adaptations? I’m not sure, but The Millions does a fantastic job of it for The Goldfinch.

In the category of “words I never thought I’d write,” Rush Limbaugh has been shortlisted for a children’s book award.

I know I just posted a library image slide show last week, but you can never have too many library slide slows, right? No matter how great or small.

Two of my favourite authors discuss postcolonial literature.

Sophia Coppola will direct a live-action version of The Little Mermaid. I have a feeling this will be at least a slight departure from the Disney edition I know all the songs to. (I sometimes wonder if my shameful materialism as an adult can be pinpointed to Ariel’s “Look at this Stuff, isn’t it neat?” song.)