Book Reviews | Craft x Stew
Category name:Book Reviews

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

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Trevor Noah Born A Crime“Where most children are proof of their parents love, I was the proof of their criminality.” So says Trevor Noah in his wonderful book, Born A Crime. Trevor, who was born in South Africa during apartheid, details brilliant and terrible stories from his childhood.

Trevor’s childhood was rough, to say the least. His white father had to walk on the other side of the street to take him to the park. His black mother had to make believe she was the maid when she went out of the house with him. His grandmother wouldn’t discipline him because she wouldn’t hit a white person and his grandfather called him Master.

15258175376_7d6303ea11_zsource: Niko Knigge

But none of this made Trevor Noah a bitter person. Instead, it made him surprisingly insightful and introspective.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

“We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others because we don’t live with them. It would be a whole lot harder for an investment banker to rip off people with subprime mortgages if he actually had to live with the people he was ripping off.
If we could see one another’s pain and empathize with one another, it would never be worth it to us to commit the crimes in the first place.”

“You want to live in a world where someone is good or bad. Where you either hate them or love them. But that’s not how people are.”

“People always lecture the poor: “Take responsibility for yourself! Make something of yourself!” But with what raw materials are the poor to make something of themselves?”

“People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”

“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”

“We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to.”

“Comfort can be dangerous. Comfort provides a floor but also a ceiling.”


21121817164_5f8f6df292_zsource: Dan Mitler

Almost all of what Trevor speaks of is universal in one way or another. Trevor speaks of the betrayal by authority figures, the horrors of domestic abuse, the loneliness of a life without friends. Though most of us don’t live in South Africa, we have had similar experiences in our own lives or seen those experiences in the lives of people around us.

5322400475_cd3a698f00_zsource: Steve Evans

I’ve read a lot of memoirs, but this is by far the most important. Not only is it an informative exploration of apartheid, but it is also a mirror of the human condition.

3311469717_f26310acbc_zsource: United Nations

Even if your not a fan of Trevor Noah’s comedy, this is an absolutely must-read book. Please don’t delay in buying, borrowing or begging for Born A Crime.

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Best Food Writing by Holly Hughes

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Best Food Writing by Holly HughesI love to read good quality food essays and my book collection proves it. I own books from the vintage Time Life series Foods Of The World, volumes by Jane and Michael Stern and chef memoirs.

My favorite is the series Best Food Writing edited by Holly Hughes.

This series has been published yearly since 2000 and includes articles from many of the most famous food authorities of our generation. To name a few: Amanda Hesser, Alice Waters, Madhur Jaffrey, Nigela Lawson, Ruth Reichl, Calvin Trillin.

There are generally about 50 essays in each book and they usually run 5-6 pages. As to the subject matter, it runs the gamut from restaurant articles, to recipes, to famous cooks, and everything in between.

51SFYZ1FJKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_My favorite volume is 2000. There are essays in there that I have read, literally, over a dozen times. Here are some of my favorites from that volume.

Vegetarian Turkey by Fran Gage. When the kids all became vegetarians the parents work courageously to find a vegetarian turkey that wouldn’t detract from Thanksgiving. After much thought, they rent the movie Big Night, and duplicate the timpano by rewatching the kitchen scenes.

Dinner For 7 by William Grimes. William and his wife decide to create an authentic Alsatian meal for a group of select guests. However, since Mr. Grimes is a food critic, the bar must be set very high.

The Cook, Her Son, and a Secret by Maya Angelou. The story of how a non-cook surprised her friends (with the help of Craig Claiborne) with a unexpectedly gourmet meal. The writing is almost poetic, just as you’d expect from Maya Angelou.

… And $300 Fed a Crowd by Eric Asimov. Mr. Asimov sets off Ginza Sushiko to discover if any restaurant meal is really worth 300 dollars. Sushi lovers will drool over the descriptions of the food.

A Day In The Life by Anthony Bourdain. An insiders view of what really happens in the kitchens of our favorite restaurants. Anthony Bourdain tells all, and it’s both scary and funny.

The Waiting Game by Ruth Reichl. Ms. Reichl can never resist an unknown food stall with a long line in front. The surprising dish at the end of the line is a perfect example of how simple but perfect ingredients create delicious results.

The Magic Bagel by Calvin Trillin. Dad wants his daughter to move back to New York. She agrees, but only if he can find the perfect New York bagel from her childhood. Beautiful story of nostalgia and love.

Best Food WritingIf you own this series, or plan to purchase it, please send a comment letting me know which essays are your favorites. I would love to hear from you.

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The Complete Tightwad Gazette

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I’ve been a fan of the Tight­wad Gaz­ette, by Amy Dac­yczyn, for ten years.

Over the last dec­ade, this book has helped me to save thous­ands of dol­lars on our hous­ing, trans­porta­tion, food and cloth­es. Almost every sen­t­ence, in the mas­­sive 788 page tome, is a gem.

Recently, I’ve started reread­ing tight­wad gaz­ette with an eye to craft­ing and cook­ing. Though these aren’t the main topics of the book, Amy has included some sur­pris­ingly good ideas on sav­ing money in these areas. To vary­ing degrees, the Tight­wad Gaz­ette touches on sew­ing, quilt­ing, decor­at­ing, wood­work­ing, bak­ing and creat­ing gifts of food. Though these sec­tions are short, they are packed with great ideas.

My favor­ite story is a detailed account­ing of how Amy made a $1.00 quilt for her daughter’s room. Amy designed her own pat­tern, gathered coor­dina­ting fab­rics from free or inex­pens­ive sour­ces and set about making a simple but lovely quilt. All done, in her usual frugal way.


Here are 50 takeaways from Tight­wad Gaz­ette……


« 1 »

If you own a set of tools, consider building twig fur­ni­ture for your porch. Rustic furniture is both free and attractive. Use the library to find a book of how-tos.

« 2 »

Try to avoid purchasing wood. Wood can be recyc­led from curb­side throwaways. Use it to create smaller items like wall shelves, children’s chairs, etc.

« 3 »

Sew with the fab­rics you already have on hand. Rather than run­ning to the store for new fab­rics, use what you already have in your stash. Nothing in your stash? See what your mom has in hers.

« 4 »

Cut down adult size cloth­ing to make clothes for kids. Skirts generally provide the most yardage, but dresses and oversize tops can also be recycled. Cut apart as close to the seams as possible, to insure the maximum fabric.

« 5 »

Use mix and match recipes that allow you to take advan­tage of seasonal and sale items. Here are my own mix and match recipes for baked potatoes, rice and bagels.

« 6 »

Make your own pat­terns from ready made clothing or locate some freebies online. To start, try sim­ple items of cloth­ing like skirts. Eventually work your way up to vests and more complicated garments.

« 7 »

Refurbish clothes the easy way. Just remove dated, damaged and gar­ish ele­ments such as broken beading or yellowed lace. Other things to take off are out of style collars, appliques and buttons.

« 8 »

Skip the eggs for baking. Instead, substitute one tablespoon of water and a heaping tablespoon of soy flour. Stir together to make an egg substitute for cakes, cookies and breads.

« 9 »

Use lightly toasted breadcrumbs as a cheap substitute for Parmesan cheese. Toss them in olive oil and toast in a pan till golden brown.

« 10 »

Make up your own tv dinner trays to deal with leftovers. Fill each tray with one main course and several side dishes. Freeze till needed. Tv dinner trays can be bought at camping stores or online.

« 11 »

Have what Amy calls Smorgasbord Night as another way of getting rid of leftovers. Heat up a bunch of leftovers, place them on the table, and have everyone take what they want.

« 12 »

To get a used “something” for a cheap price, let friends and family know you are searching. Eventually, someone will hear of a “something” going for a great price, or even for free.

« 13 »

Get into the habit of buying items used and then reselling them on Craig’s List when their no longer needed. Just make sure your initial purchase is a great bargain.

« 14 »

Buy fluorescent lights. Fluorescent light fixtures and bulbs may be more expensive in the short run, but you will remake your money back fast, fast, fast.

« 15 »

Buy yeast from bakeries or warehouse stores in bulk. It will cost a fraction of the grocery store price. Just be sure to use it fast so it doesn’t lose it’s effectiveness. Or alternatively, split with a friend.

« 16 »

Don’t use soda or sticky soft drinks to make pops. Yogurt, ice tea mix and leftover jello can all be used for making popsicles. Fruit juice and pureed fruit can also be used.

« 17 »

If you’re sick of spending money on new socks when you have tons of mateless ones in your drawer, start buying identical socks only. You will always be able to match up your socks.

« 18 »

To save burnt cookies, scrape off their bottoms with a course grater. The cookies will taste as good as if they hadn’t burnt.

« 19 »

Never automatically follow the manufacturer’s instructions when deciding how much laundry detergent, shampoo, or dish detergent to use. Experiment. You often need much less than they say.

« 20 »

Don’t always assume warehouse stores are the cheapest source for groceries. Sale foods, coupon foods and loss-leaders can often be found cheaper at the supermarket.

« 21 »

If you don’t feel like paying to have your bulky item hauled away to the trash, place it front of your house with a sign saying “Free. Please take.” Often someone will come by and relieve you of your burden.

« 22 »

If you want your child to have encyclopedias, buy a slightly used edition. Most of the information will still be up to date, but you will save at least 90%.

« 23 »

Use coupons carefully. Coupons aren’t always money savers. They are often offered for items that were over-priced to begin with. You may be able to find another brand of the same item for less than the coupon price. Be sure to take a look.

« 24 »

Collect gifts all year round. When you see an exceptional bargain, purchase it for birthdays and holidays. If you wait to buy gifts till you need them, you may not find them on sale.

« 25 »

Make a new quilt for just a couple dollars. Reuse an old comforter or blanket for batting and used clothing for fabric. If you don’t have a machine, just sew the quilt by hand.

« 26 »

Lose weight and save money by walking to nearby errands instead of taking the car. This works best if you live within a mile from a large commercial area.

« 27 »

Don’t always assume fresh vegetables are the cheapest. Also check out the prices on canned and frozen vegetables before making a purchase.

« 28 »

Next time you want a vacation, consider borrowing a tent and going camping. You’ll save almost a $100.00 a night on motel fees. Look the site up online to make sure it has all the amenities you’ll need.

« 29 »

To refurbish an old sofa, cover the cushions as you would wrap a gift box. Use heavy duty safety pins to secure their backs.

« 30 »

Make a price book. Use a notebook to keep track of the prices of all the groceries you purchase on a regular basis. Note the prices at each of the stores your frequent.

« 31 »

If you are really poor, ditch the cable TV. Get a money saving hobby instead. Some good ideas or sewing, gardening and baking.

« 32 »

Always check out the scratch and dent section of your grocery store. You can find some big bargains. Not all stores have scratch and dent sections so you may have to do some research first.

« 33 »

Pick up craft supplies like yarn and embroidery floss very cheaply at yard sales. Also keep an eye out for sports equipment, books, clothes, cookware, small appliances and kids toys. In general, the nicer the neighborhood, the nicer the sale.

« 34 »

Ask your local bakery if they have a “day old” section. Or, better yet, learn to bake your own bread and save even more.

« 35 »

Purchase used tvs at repair shops. Repair shops sometimes sell abandoned televisions for no more than the cost of the repair.

« 36 »

Make two banana desserts. For banana ice cream, blend frozen bananas with just a little orange juice. Top with granola. Or, make banana pops by inserting a popsicle stick into a peeled and halved banana. Spread with yogurt, roll in cookie crumbs and freeze.

« 37 »

Purchase aluminum foil, plastic wrap and other kitchen items in restaurant supply stores. You’ll save a lot of money, but you may need to buy in large quantities.

« 38 »

Simmer fruit peels and cinnamon in a little water. Your house will smell great and you’ll avoid the cost and chemicals of commercial sprays.

« 39 »

Have your kids make gifts for friends and relatives using the newspaper. Collections of comics, crossword puzzles, word games or chess problems cut out from newspapers over several months make a fun and thoughtful gift.

« 40 »

Go ahead and garden, even if you live in the city.  If you live in an apartment or house with a small lot, call your local city hall and find out if there are any lots available for gardens.

« 41 »

Buy used furniture from auctions. Inspect the furniture before the auction begins. Also, make sure you set an upper bidding limit before you attend.

« 42 »

Use the food pyramid as a guide for eating. Not only is the food pyramid a healthy way to eat, it is also a cheap way to eat. Emphasize the grains and produce, and go lightly on the meats, dairy and sweets.

« 43 »

Consider renting rarely used tools instead of purchasing them. Tools like floor sanders and hoists come under this category.

« 44 »

If you don’t have good prescription insurance, ask your doctor for free samples. Most doctors have an abundance of them.

« 45 »

Make your own cheap versions of Snapple. Just mix homemade ice tea with fruit juice. Try out grape juice, mango, apple and orange flavors.

« 46 »

Consider purchasing a used ten-speed bike as an alternate form of transportation. Even if you only use it occasionally, you will save money on gas while improving your health at the same time.

« 47 »

If you own an inexpensive used car, purchase a second car of the exact same model for parts. Most older cars need a lot of repairs, and a second car is a much cheaper source for parts than the car dealership or your mechanic.

« 48 »

When furnishing a new home, put out the word that you will take anything, as long as it is free. Then sit back and wait for the avalanche of furniture coming your way, as everyone gets rid of their “clutter”.

« 49 »

Give homemade candies as birthday and holiday gifts. Package in Chinese takeout containers, decorated with markers and stickers.

« 50 »

When purchasing groceries on sale, try to stock up sufficiently so that you can avoid buying the item again till the next sale occurs. For instance, if peanut butter only goes on sale twice a year, get six months worth at a time.

These tips, plus plenty more, make Tight­wad Gaz­ette a very worth­while read.

Note: There are several ver­sions of the Tight­wad Gaz­ette. Be sure to pick up the last and most com­pre­hen­sive vol­ume, The Com­plete Tight­wad Gaz­ette.

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Five Favorite Novels From 2016

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source: Moyan Brenn

I read a quite a lot of forgettable novels in 2016.

They consisted mostly of mysteries, thrillers and spy novels. These books tend to have both interchangeable titles and plot lines. However, I do find them gripping, which is what I usually look for in a book.

Somewhere in the mix, though, I did manage to read a couple of exceptional books this year. These books contained standout plots, memorable characters and interesting dialogue. A few even had an important message to deliver.

Here is a list of my favorite books of the year.

the_girl_with_all_the_giftsThe Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.


“Just… isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying’?”
“It sets a dangerous precedent.”
“For avoiding pain?”
“For avoiding life.”


They both looked at Ruth, and she managed a small, uncomfortable smile. She did not know whether to agree that he would get fat, which would imply an unwifely lack of admiration, or agree that he lived on his nerves, which would indicate that she was not protecting him from stress.



I had rescued the moment by using my camera and in that way had found how to stop time and hold it. No one could take that image away from me because I owned it.


My Sister’s Keeper by Jody Picoult
You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.

As you can see, my list is quite short. However, each book on it is five stars in my mind.

If you’ve read any of these novels please send me a comment with your thoughts on it. I’m always happy to hear someone else’s opinion.

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2016 Book Haul and Used Book Buying Tips

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7947961744_d6d4ba38ee_zsource: Pascal Maramis

My hobby is used book collecting and this has been a massive book buying year for me. It’s amazing that I’ve bought so many, because I live in a non-English speaking country.

For anyone else living overseas, here’s where I find used books.

  1. – Better World Books offers free shipping to a lot of countries. The prices on new books are very high however, so I only use them for used books that are on sale. In addition, the books can take several months to arrive, depending on your location.
  2. – Book Depository also offers free international shipping and the prices for new books are highish, but reasonable. Faster shipping than Better World Books, but can still take over a month or more.
  3. Libraries – We have several English libraries scattered throughout the country. The library closest to me has an ongoing book sale and two yearly sales. Prices are about $1 per book and they have a good selection.
  4. Private book sales – I belong to many mailing lists and I constantly look for books being given away or sold cheap in English speaking neighborhoods.
  5. Yard Sales – Yard sales are a good place to find used books if you live in an English speaking neighborhood. Besides individual sales, a local English speaking organization also has a yearly yard sale for books.
  6. Used Book Stores – There are several English used book stores here and though the prices aren’t rock bottom, I frequently trade in books I’ve gotten for free (see Number 4 above).
  7. Freecycle – Most countries have at least one freecycle or ReUseIt. I don’t use them often but they do occasionally have English books.
  8.  Second Hand Stores – Most countries have an equivalent to Goodwill and the ones in English speaking neighborhoods obviously have English books.
  9. Friends – My friends all know I collect books, so when they have something to get rid of, I’m usually the first person they think of.
  10. Trips To US – Whenever I, my friends or relatives go to the US, I always have at least one book brought back.

As you can see, purchasing used books overseas can be a little time consuming. However, I find the hunt enjoyable. It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt.

Here is what I amassed this year.

Basic Cookbooks

The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook

Joy of Cooking 1975

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Cooking

The American Century Cookbook

The Essential New York Times Cookbook

The Good Housekeeping Cookbook: 1,039 Recipes

The New Basics Cookbook

The Martha Stewart Cookbook: Collected Recipes

Silver Palate Cookbook

The Best of Gourmet: The World at Your Table

The Bon Appetit Cookbook

The New York Times International Cookbook

Entertaining by Martha Stewart

Julia Child & More Company

The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book

Martha Stewart Living: Annual Recipes

60 Minute Gourmet

The New York Times International Cookbook

Fannie Farmer Cookbook

New York Times Heritage Cookbook: Over 2,000 Recipes

Sunset Recipe Annual by Sunset Books

Jewish Cookbooks

In the Jewish Tradition

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics

The Flavor Of Jerusalem

Jewish Holiday Cookbook by Greene, Gloria Kaufer

New Jewish Cuisine

Seasoned with Love: Culinary Treasures from the Breman

Not Chopped Liver

New Kosher Cuisine for All Seasons

Jewish Holiday Treats

Shabbat Shalom: Recipes and Menus for the Sabbath

Quick and Kosher

From Our Table To Yours

A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking

Enlightened Kosher Cooking

Jewish Holiday Style

Rika Breuer Teacher’s Seminary Cookbook

The Passover Gourmet

The Low-Fat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook

For The Love Of Cooking

America Cooks Kosher

Jewish Vegetarian Cooking

Sephardic Cooking: 600 Recipes Created in Exotic Sephardic Kitchens

Levana Cooks Dairy-Free!

Jewish Cooking Secrets from Here and Far

Vegetarian/Vegan/Vegetable Cookbooks

Vegetable Love by Kafka, Barbara

Moosewood Restaurant New Classics: 350 Recipes for Favorites

The Uncheese Cookbook by Stepaniak, Joanne

Fields of Greens: New Vegetarian Recipes from the Greens Restaurant

Vegetables by Peterson, James

15-Minute Vegetarian Recipes: 200 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes

Raw Food Made Easy: For 1 or 2 People

Eastern Vegetarian Cooking by Jaffrey, Madhur

Indian Vegetarian Cooking

The Bold Vegetarian Chef: Adventures in Flavor

Vegetarian Express: Easy, Tasty, and Healthy Menus in 28 Minutes

Vegetarian Dishes from Across the Middle East

Appetite For Reduction

Rose Elliot’s Complete Vegetarian Cookbook

Vegetarian Celebrations

Jean Hewitt’s International Meatless Cookbook

Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe

The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook

The Vegetarian Lunchbasket: Over 225 Easy, Low-Fat Recipes

Recipes From An Ecological Kitchen

International Cookbooks

The cooking of India by Rama Rau, Santha

Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook

Cooking of Provincial France by Fisher, M. F. K.

Cooking of Japan (Foods of the World) by Steinberg, Rafael

Cooking of Italy by Root, Waverley

Latin American Cooking by Leonard, Jonathan N.

Cooking of the Caribbean Islands (Foods of the World) by Wolfe, Linda

Cooking of China by Hahn, Emily

Healthy Cookbooks

Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet Cookbook

Weight Watchers Versatile Vegetarian by Weight Watchers Editors

Weight Watchers Make It in Minutes: Recipes in 15, 20, and 30 Minutes

Light & Tasty Annual Recipes 2004 (Taste of Home)

Taste of Home’s Light & Tasty Annual Recipes 2003

American Heart Association Meals in Minutes Cookbook

The New American Heart Association Cookbook

Other Cookbooks

Real Fast Food: 350 Recipes Ready-To-Eat in 30 Minutes

Pilaf, Risotto, and Other Ways with Rice

The Dumpling Cookbook

Stuffings: 45 International Recipes

50 Best Stuffings and Dressings

Mostly Muffins

Blue Ribbon Winners: America’s Best State Fair Recipes

Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook

Six Ingredients or Less

Ice Pops by Shelly Kaldunski

Favorite Restaurant Recipes by Bon Appetit

How to Cook Without a Book

Perfect Pops: The 50 Best Classic & Cool Treats

Southern Heritage Breads Cookbook

The New Woman’s Day Cookbook: Simple Recipes for Every Occasion

Family Circle All-Time Favorite Recipes

Muffins by Alston, Elizabeth

American Cooking : The Eastern Heartland

Candy by Time-Life Books

Junior League Centennial Cookbook

Forum Feasts: The Classic Community Cookbook by Forum School

American Cooking (Foods of the World)

The Best American Recipes

The Best American Recipes 1999

Craft Books

Making Memory Books by Hand

More Making Books by Hand

Home, Paper, Scissors: Decorative Paper Accessories

1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse

Encyclopedia of Origami and Papercraft

Realistic Collage Step by Step

Paper Sculpt Sensation

Paper: Making, Decorating, Designing

Books Unbound

Making Books by Hand: A Step-By-Step Guide


Cardboard Folk Instruments to Make and Play


Eco Craft: Recycle, Recraft, Restyle

Homemaking Books

The Penny-Pinching Hedonist

America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money

The New Food Lover’s Tiptionary

It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff

Penny Pincher’s Almanac: 1,552 Surprising Ideas

Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House

Psychology Books

The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest

Innovate Like Edison: The Success System of America’s Greatest Inventor

Your Creative Brain

Make the Most of Your Mind by Buzan, Tony

A Sheep Falls Out of the Tree

The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures

One Minute for Yourself by Johnson, Spencer


Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving in

The Mindfulness Solution

Your Memory: How It Works and How to Improve It

Get out of Your Own Way

Psychology and the Challenges of Life: Adjustment and Growth

Eat That Frog

Psychology Applied to Modern Life

Happier at Home

What You Can Change and What You Can’t

Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being

Better Than Before

Supercoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life


The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The 9th Wife by Amy Stolls

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

The Norton Anthology of Short Stories


Angela’s Ashes

Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness

Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life

My Fair Lazy

The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life

Jewish Books

Too many to mention

Kids Books

The Dangerous Book For Boys

Bonjour, Babar!: The Six Unabridged Classics by the Creator of Babar

A Treasury of Children’s Literature

Pinkalicious: The Princess of Pink Treasury

Activity Books/Writing Prompts

Art Before Breakfast

Everything That Can Happen in a Day by Horvitz, David

The Anti Journal

Nat Geo Action Journal: Talk Like a Pirate, Analyze Your Dreams

The Pointless Book

This Book Will Change Your Life Again!

Tag This!: A Doodle Book by Price Stern Sloan Publishing

This Book Will Change Your Life

Take Ten for Writers: 1000 Writing Exercises to Build Momentum

The Write-Brain Workbook

Other Books

Best Food Writing 2005

You Can Do It!: The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-Up Girls

The Novel Cure

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

Read For Your Life

The Geography of Bliss

Nickel and Dimed

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Reading Journal: For Book Lovers

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I adore book journals. I started collecting them about three years ago and I’ve never stopped. I have a ton of them, and this is my favorite.

Below, are some of the sections and activities that I particularly enjoy. Click on the photos for a better look.


This section is for writing your favorite passages from the book, plus listing topics that you’d like to learn more about.


Here is an activity page. I listed my favorite authors, current favorite books, favorite young adult books, etc.


This is one of my favorite parts. I enjoyed identifying what aspects of the book drew me to it and then finding more books of a similar type.


Another fun activity page to fill in. Actually, a lot harder than it looks, because I had to remember all the books I’ve read recently.


The book includes lists of award winning novels. It has space to check them off as you complete them. I was motivated by this to read books out of my usual genre, and wound up discovering some great new (for me) titles like Invisible Man and The Great Gatsby.

img_0013This space was originally for listing books I want to read, but by crossing out one word, I changed into a list of book I have read.

There it is, all the things I love about this book.

If you have a reading journal you’d like to recommend, please leave a comment with it’s name  and an explanation of why you love it in the comments.

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Kerri Smith

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I adore Kerri Smith,  and I  just bought a big stack of her books.  Not everything she has written, but still, plenty.

Who is Kerri Smith? She is the author of a line of sketchbooks/ creativity books/ journals. Her books are both open ended and guided at the same time.  The best known of the series is called Wreck This Journal.

People have done all kinds of things with her books. For instance, in Wreck This Journal, there is a page that says “Bring this book in the shower with you” and some folks have actually done that (and had a very waterlogged book). Others have drawn pictures of themselves in the shower. A few used watercolor pencils on the page and sprayed it with a  fine mist of shower water. Anything goes.

The Pocket Scavenger and This Is Not A Book are a little different from the other books. The Pocket Scavenger asks you to find tiny objects and do random art projects with them. This Is Not A Book invites you to use the book itself to do a variety of silly little activities.

Update: I just started working in This Is Not A Book. Last night, as instructed, I’ve disguised the front cover. This morning, I  cut out a page to make a mini book (I made mine a book of  quotations.) Tonight I’m planning to do page 54. The directions say “This is a hiding place. Stash your secrets here.” I’m going to write my secrets on little scraps of paper and  glue them (print side down) to the page.

Finish This Book is enjoyed by a lot of adults, but it may be more for kids. The reader is urged to follow the exercises in the book in order to  become a detective and solve a small mystery.

There are a ton of Kerri Smith resources available online. Youtube has dozens of videos showing page by page finished journals. Searches on Tumblr and Pinterest also come up with lots of tutorials, page ideas and inspiration pages. In addition, Kerri has a free pdf called “100 Ideas,” which some crafters have used as the basis for an entire journal.

Here’s a list of the books I bought:

Wreck This Journal.

The Pocket Scavenger

Wreck This Journal Everywhere

This Is Not a Book

Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes

Finish This Book

I also purchased How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum but I will be doing a complete review of that book later in the month.

If you decide to purchase any of these books, and use my link I will receive a (small) compensation from Amazon.

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