My ten favourite simple living/growing/cooking/making books
Despite living on the internet & using it/blogs for most of my day-to-day info, I’ve got quite a few simple living related books and as you might expect, some are better than others. Some were chosen after careful research, others randomly picks from charity shops & the like – but as is often the case, there is little correlation between that and which are the better books!
Here, in no particular order, are some of my favourites:
- The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour – this is a great overview book of so many different things. It’s admittedly more aspiration than practical for me at the moment – and because it covers so many different areas, it doesn’t feel like the most practical book anyway (it doesn’t have space to go into detailed how-tos/trouble-shooting on each different topic) but it’s still very useful. If I was fleeing to escape the zombie hordes*, this is probably the non-fiction book I’d grab.
- The Vegetable & Herb Expert by DG Hessayon – my first veg growing book and the one I keep going back to over & over again. Not hugely detailed on each type & some bizarre comments about only eating chillis if they’re part of “your heritage”, but very clear, with lots of pictures (very useful when troubleshooting pests/diseases) and packed with useful info.
- Grow Your Own Vegetables by Joy Larkcom – this book is almost the opposite of the Hessayon – lots of detail but not anywhere near as easy to dip into and few illustrations. I like them together but would struggle with the Larkcom on its own.
- The Edible Container Garden: Fresh Food from Tiny Spaces by Michael Guerra – I was a little disappointed when I got this as it includes a lot of whitespace, big pretty rather than purposeful pictures and a lot of general overview text — but the 30 pages on “what shall I grow?” made the book worth it – very useful reference information about varieties, pot depths etc. I would recommend it to anyone who grows more than just the basic herbs in containers – but try to find a secondhand one so you don’t resent paying for the padding.
- Mushrooms by Roger Philips – not a field guide but a very comprehensive, very clear reference book for all sorts of fungi found in the British isles and thereabouts. No “if it’s got this shape cap, it’s this” identification charts but lots of very clear pictures once you have an idea what you’re looking for.
- Wild Food by Roger Philips – it may be bordering on foraging sacrilege to say so but I prefer the original 1983 book to Richard Mabey’s Food for Free. Not an identification book really but very useful all the same – and neatly in calendar year order. (I haven’t seen the newer edition so can’t comment on that one.)
I mostly use the internet – and more specifically personal blogs – to find recipes when I need them so there aren’t any straight cooking books in my favourite list, just two books that straddle the line between theory & cook book…
- Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz – this area of food fascinates me and the book is very well written. My only bugbear is that Katz has tried to cater to us European folk by including metric measurements but still by volume (for example “2 liters of flour”) which is a little confusing. I’ve not tried that many things from it due to laziness/impatience/time but I’m determined to use one of the vinegar recipes before the year is out, dagnammit.
- Home Smoking and Curing by Keith Erlandson – this was the only smoking book I could find that had a decent section on cold-smoking. There is also a section on “smoke roasting” which is a little unusual for these parts too.
- The Natural Soap Book: Making Herbal and Vegetable-based Soaps by Susan Miller Cavitch – I reviewed this in a bit more detail when I was making soap at the start of the year but in brief, the oil info & troubleshooting are very useful, even if the recipes were a little too special-oil-centric for my liking.
- Compendium of Crochet Techniques by Jan Eaton – I bought this just before we moved house & it ended up buried in a box, so it was a lovely surprise when I found it again about six months ago. Admittedly has some padding/random bits but a great reference book for stitching & seaming info, and also advice on designing items.
What are your favourite simple living books? What would you recommend? What would you save from the zombie horde*? ;)
* I’m reading a book about zombies at the moment so thinking about them a lot. I don’t generally live in fear of them attacking either literally or metaphorically.