Happy December. Here’s my year-end reading roundup. It’s short this year, with just three books in each category, but I hope you enjoy it.
Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible: 260 Exquisite Patterns by Hitomi Shida translated by Gayle Roehm is the most coveted book of the year for knitters who use stitch libraries and make up their own designs. It’s also a must-have book for anyone who loves Japanese knitting books.
This truly is an exquisite stitch library with patterns of lace, cables, and texture. I wrote a review earlier this year.
Lorelei’s Journey: Knitting for (Mermaid) Dolls and those who Love Them by Jessica Anderson is one of the most fun books of the year.
In addition to 11 adorable patterns for mermaid dolls, children, and women, there is a knitting fairy tale and a paper doll with paper clothes to cut out and color.
Jessica works with me in my mentoring program, and it was a joy to see her put this together, going from a rough idea to a finished book.
Presto: 10 Accessory Projects You Can Knit in a Weekend by Lars Rains. I knit a lot. Most of what I make is for my business, but I love having the luxury of sitting down with a gorgeous skein of yarn, my favorite needles, and someone else’s pattern to treat myself to a weekend of Knitting & Netflix. Lar Rains, as a designer himself, knows this is true and wrote a note to me in this book saying, “If you ever need something quick and easy to knit up…”
Striped Pears and Polka Dots by Kirsten Sevig. This is a tiny little book, about 5 by 5 inches square, filled with lovely watercolor illustrations and advice on “the art of being happy.” My favorite parts are “The Wisdom of Ólafía.” When Kirstin lived in Iceland, she became depressed and went to see a therapist, the wise sage Ólafía, whose wisdom fills some of the pages in this book.
Imagine a Forest: Designs and Inspirations for Enchanting Folk Art by Dinara Mirtalipova is a beautiful book of contemporary folk art with instructions on how to make your own. I love folk art and I believe that knitters are modern folk artists, too. We often take traditional ideas, motifs, and techniques and make them into something new for our modern lives.
Dare to Sketch: A Guide to Drawing On the Go by Felix Scheinberger. Are you ready for something different? Felix Scheinberger is one of my favorite artists and he inspires me to cut loose in my own sketchbooks. His second book to be translated into English is a great introduction to his work with tons of pictures and his advice on keeping sketchbooks to record your life.
I keep reading and looking through Dare to Sketch over and over again and I keep being inspired to get out my own sketchbook, pen, and watercolor paints.
General Nonfiction / Resistance
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty is the most engaging book I read all year. It ties together genealogy, American history, and Southern cooking. You’ll learn more about the history of our country and the origins of well-known foods than you ever thought possible, all the while traveling through time and space with the author as you meet his ancestors and family members. The author has just finished recording an audiobook version in his own voice, and I plan to buy that too, because I love hearing authors read their own books. But don’t wait for the audiobook. There’s nothing that replaces the joy of reading text on paper.
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi is the most enlightening book I read this year. Another book of American history with stories and facts that you never learned in school, this book is easy and fun to read, although the material is difficult and tragic. I’ve already read this book twice, and I plan to read it again after the holidays.
There’s not much I enjoy more than listening to smart people talk, and Ibram Kendi is erudite, eloquent, and easy on the eyes (yeah, I know, I probably shouldn’t say that, but if I had kids, I’d want him to be one of mine). You can listen to him speak about the book here.
On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century by Timothy Snyder is the most necessary book of 2017. If you’re not familiar with Timothy Snyder, professor of History at Yale University, now is the time to learn about his work. I first heard of him when I read his book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, while I was studying the history of Lithuania and the Soviet Union. His newest (and very short) book provides 20 practical lessons from history to help us navigate the dangerous waters we are traversing in the United States right now. We can avoid the mistakes that led to the disasters in Europe in the 1930s and 40s, but we have to consciously and intentionally work to do so. The book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century tells us how. You should buy a copy for yourself and one for everyone you know.