Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Trio of Lifestyle Books

I've been reading a wide variety of all kinds of books lately, but not sharing them with you! To catch up a little, here is a roundup of a trio of "lifestyle" books that I've just finished.

My New Roots: inspired plant-based recipes for every season / Sarah Britton
Toronto: PenguinRandomHouse, c2015
256 p.
I received a review copy of this beautiful cookbook, which intrigued me because the author/chef is Canadian (though she lives in Denmark), and, of course, because it's vegetarian. This book is based on her blog, also called My New Roots - which I was unaware of previous to this. What can I say, I don't really follow food blogs! It's a good, solid, vegetable based cookbook. There are nice pictures -- both of the food and of the author & her lifestyle -- which are all one and the same in this book. Britton shares life stories and seems like a normal person, ie: one that is still based in average realities, thus the recipes are not aspirational, but ones that people might actually make. The recipes are vegetarian, and sound delicious, but most are the kind that you'll have to plan ahead for to locate special ingredients & find ample time to create; though not all of them -- some are quick and tasty dips or salads or such, which are more my speed ;) If you are a real food person I think you'll enjoy this one. It's the kind of cookbook you read through even if you're not actually intending to make anything shortly. Check out her blog to get a feel for her style. Oh, and fyi, she took all the photos for the book herself too!

Homemakers / Brit Morin
New York: HarperCollins, c2015.
437 p.

This bright and colourful book by the founder of Brit & Co. is definitely not aimed at my demographic. Morin is another young woman who has left a successful tech career and gotten into crafts and the DIY arena. The book is heavily reliant on her personality; photos feature her so often it becomes notable. Interesting fact though -- the photo locations are sourced through her partnership with Airbnb. That's a clever business idea.

I can see the appeal for a certain type of young person who doesn't have a lot of experience in these areas. But a book is not a website, and unfortunately this book feels like a bit of a dog's breakfast. There are beauty tips, design, then recipes, then crafts again. Most of the crafts are basic and can be found many places, so not terribly unique.  They might appeal to those new to crafting who aren't yet concerned about technique. Also, the idealized concept of "homemaker" is not really for me.

Best part = tech suggestions at end of each chapter. Her background in tech business comes in useful, as she suggests apps and useful online resources for each of the areas she's discussing. That is her unique selling point, and that was the most intriguing part of this book.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up / Marie Kondo
Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, c2014.
213 p.

I don't really have to tell you more about this best-seller except that I put it on hold at the library just check out all the fuss. It's another of those 'get organized' minimalist kind of books. And wow. She keeps ALL her books on a shelf in the shoe closet. That told me that I'm not her kind of person. And wantonly destroying books by ripping pages out so she doesn't have to keep the whole thing! Yikes. To me that's almost neurotic.

But there were some good points: make sure what you own doesn't own you. Things you give space to should "spark joy" -- her catch phrase but it does encapsulate the idea that what you have around you should be there by choice. I did start looking at the excess stuff I have and give some away; 3 bags of books and some clothing. But generally speaking, I like my stuff. I've worked hard to earn it, and I enjoy it. I'm more of a Victorian than a Modernist when it comes to my surroundings; I like having things in my space. I've accepted that fact, and have to just keep it to a level where I can still find everything that I own. When I start forgetting where I've put things then I know it's time to have a clear-out.

As someone who finds material culture very important, especially in terms of the historical record, I'm very leery of this kind of drastic, ground-clearing approach to throwing everything out. I think there can be a balance between hoarding and minimalism, and much of that lies in reducing our consumption in the first place. So. Another book with some good points to ponder, but which doesn't entirely convince me in the end.

And how about you? Have you read any of these titles? If so, what did you think? Or do you have a lifestyle title to recommend to me?


  1. I've read none of them, but the recipe book looks very appealing and I'm off to check out the website!

    1. I think quite a few of the same recipes may be on the website -- and the photography is just as drool-worthy both places :)

  2. I haven't read the tidying up book, but I've seen a lot of people talking about it. When I think about the idea of throwing out stuff that doesn't bring me joy, I think of all the stuff I have that I hardly ever need, don't feel joyful about owning, but could easily see myself needing it the future. Earlier this year, I saved a couple thousand dollars on patching a bathroom wall because I'd kept a box of leftover tile. It didn't bring me joy to have it, but I'm sure glad I did. I suppose the reassurance that I'll have stuff I need on hand if I need it is a sort of joy. Living in a small space, I know the importance of being willing to get rid of stuff. I don't like for my space to feel overly crowded, and I'm due a clean-up, but my goal is mostly like yours, being able to find the stuff I've got.

    1. I agree with you on this. I do keep things that aren't necessarily 'joyful' but are useful. I guess I'm more a follower of William Morris maxim on one's home: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

  3. Thank you for your honest and intelligent reviews of these books!

  4. I love the cover of My New Roots. It's beautiful!

    1. Isn't it though? That recipe is the one I want to try next!

  5. I bought Life-changing Magic, but didn't even finish reading it. It seems to have been more helpful to others, though. The process of doing so much at once was overwhelming. :(

    1. I knew the process was too scorched-earth for me -- but it has got me thinking about my belongings, so I guess that's something!


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