Maybe the best way to start this post is to simply say I love books. Lots of books. All kinds of books. Beautiful books that inspire with their writing and photography. And while I enjoy and appreciate my Apple, Adobe, and other technology and software, for me they never will take the place of paper books you hold in your hands.
One entire wall of my art room is filled from end to end and floor to ceiling with bookshelves, and today I’m highlighting 12 of my favorites which reside there. Choosing only 12 was a challenge, hence the post’s “Part 1” inclusion in the title! It will be fun occasionally to return to this topic.
And without further ado, here are today’s 12!
These books represent a range of subjects and interests, and for each one included in today’s post, there were many more I also enjoy. The bookcase is full, but more books live in other parts of my house. I may need to add more bookshelves because I rarely part with a book!
Here are some thoughts on this group of 12, starting with the bottom of the stack. Be sure to click on their beautiful covers to get the full effect!
Frank Stitt’s Southern Table
Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill (Alabama)
Author Frank Stitt, Foreword by Pat Conroy, and Photographs by Christopher Hirsheimer (Artisan Books)
This is a big, beautiful book with more than 350 pages, scrumptious recipes, and stunning food photography. Acclaimed chef and restauranteur Frank Stitt filled this book with everything a foodie will love, plus essays that bring you in and keep you turning page after page.
I have nearly 100 cookbooks on my bookshelves – many of them that read and feel as much like a novel as a recipe repository – and there are none any more engaging to this Southern girl than this book! I’m pretty sure someone wouldn’t even have to like cooking to enjoy reading this book and looking at the photographs – it’s that good.
Sand Castles: Interiors Inspired by the Coast
Author Tim Neve, and Photography by Johan Palsson (Harper Design/Harper Collins Publishers)
Any book that starts out with, “The words sand castles conjure up memories of childhood holidays. Don’t you think?” captivated me from the start, and 272 pages later, I wanted even more. The beautiful cover is just a tease for the entire book’s stunning photographs and writing. You’ll love the textured paper that wraps the spine.
There are sections on all kinds of colors, and this book is so much more than about interior design. The extra smooth paper lends itself beautifully to the subject matter, and I really appreciate the layout and design. I remember the day I bought it and when arriving home, started looking at it until noticing several hours had passed by and I was lost to anything except these stunning pages!
The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts
Author The French Culinary Institute, and Photographs by Matthew Septimus (Stewart, Tabori & Chang/Abrams Books)
This 512-page book is a serious yet stunning read about pastry arts as only the French can do. It’s a commitment in both size (coming in at six pounds) and price ($75 when I bought it some years ago), but you won’t regret it for a minute if you enjoy making – or learning about making – truly spectacular desserts!
It has satin bookmarks in pink and grey, and when you sit with this book, you know it’s special. It makes you want to raise your game, and you’ll be inspired by the beautiful instructions for things like (in French now) Tartes, Pate a Choux, Pate Feuilletee, Cremes et Flans, Pains et Viennoisieries, Gateaux, and Petit Fours. I’ll admit to a bit of intimidation with some of these, but if you want the ultimate challenge by the ultimate (French) pastry makers, this beautiful book is the ticket.
The Armchair Angler
Edited by Terry Brykczynski, David Reuther and John Thorn, and Illustrations by Bill Elliott (Galahad Books)
A compilation of short stories about fishing, crazy characters and wild adventures, this 402-page book is an enjoyable read. Approximately 60 (fish) tales fill this fun (and for those of us who find fishing full of life metaphors) and thought-provoking book. They’re truly short stories, and you can pick and choose those you’d like to read if you don’t want to go cover to cover.
Here are some of the short story titles that pulled me in! “Catch as catch can.” “A trout is a gentleman, and should be treated as such.” “Worms – a position paper.” “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.” “The loyal fraternal order of anglers.” “Papa’s grace under pressure.” “Huck Finn had the right idea.” “Wrestling with the Elements.” “A consumer’s guide to fishing tournaments.” This is a fun book!
Lakeside Living – Waterfront Houses, Cottages, and Cabins of the Great Lakes
Author Linda Leigh Paul, and Various Photographers (Universe Publishing)
I don’t remember exactly when I bought this book, but I’ve read it many times over the years. Even if you’ve never visited the Great Lakes region of the United States, as I have not, you’ll enjoy these stunning homes and learning about how they came to be.
Twenty-seven lakefront homes are featured, with design and architectural information provided on each as well as interior photographs for how they live. I remember the first times reading this book, I would try to pick which I would choose if I could have any of them! The book’s cover photograph of a lakehouse built on stone and at the water’s edge invites you in for a beautiful journey through these gorgeous homes.
Explorer’s Guides: Maine Coast and Islands – Key to a Great Destination
Authors Christina Tree and Nancy English, and Various Photographers (The Countryman Press)
Each time I’ve visited Maine, I’ve come away with the absolute belief that you never are the same after spending time in this exquisite state. It truly is a photographer’s, writer’s, artist’s, traveler’s dream and has some of the most beautiful places and things I’ve ever seen.
This travel guide occupies a key place in my collection of books on Maine, and it provides good information about the state’s coast and islands, which cover 7,000 miles. There are sections on some of my favorite Maine locations, including Phippsburg, Bath, Georgetown, Isleboro, Searsport, Pemaquid Peninsula, Monhegan, and Vinalhaven. I’m ready to return for a visit with camera in hand!
In the Company of Women –
Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs
Author Grace Bonney, and Principal Photography by Sasha Israel (Artisan/Workman Publishing Co., Inc.)
The author traveled across the United States to interview nearly 100 of what she describes as the most talented women she knows. I really enjoyed reading about these creatives and entrepreneurs from all walks of life and the things they consider most important to their success. The format of this 360-page book is great – Q&As with the featured women – and it has an appealing layout and design.
In Grace Bonney’s book introduction, she writes, “While each woman’s story is unique, their messages are universal. They’ve overcome adversity, gone great distances on their own, and learned the power of working together to achieve their goals. In many cases, they have inspired one another, and they are role models for the generation to come.” It’s a great read and you’ll be inspired to try your hand at something heretofore you’ve only dreamed of doing!
Taking Flight –
Inspiration & Techniques to Give your Creative Spirit Wings
Author Kelly Rae Roberts, and Photographers Ric Deliantoni and Christine Polomsky (North Light Books)
Artist, author, entrepreneur, and inspirer are just some of the words that describe Kelly Rae Roberts. I’ve been following her work for years, and this book was one of my first introductions to her. She brought in other artists as well for the book, and it’s a great “how to” and workbook for some beautiful art projects we’re encouraged and taught to do.
She dedicates this book to “the spirit of Possibility, how it gracefully enters our lives and gives us a chance to see our own potential. What a remarkable, life-changing thing.” She coined the term “possibilitarian,” which sums up her idea that creativity and opportunities exist in each of us. If you haven’t checked out her work, I recommend it!
The Top 100 Most Beautiful Rustic Vacations in North American –
Ranches, Lodges, Cabins and More!
Author Dusty Dave (Rusty Duck Press)
This is a fun book filled with lots of information on the author’s proclaimed best 100 rustic vacations in the United States and Canada. Profiles on each include specialty, average cost, capacity, contact information, and my favorite – the author’s Rustic Rating designation from the categories Fairly Rustic, Really Rustic, Extremely Rustic, and Insanely Rustic!
As you can see in the photograph, the book still has the sticky notes I used to narrow the field when deciding the destination for a trip. Instead, I ended up going to Maine again, hence the remaining sticky notes! It’s an older book so you’d want to check on current contact and other information for the vacation spots, but it’s a fun book to curl up with on the sofa and daydream about awaiting adventures!
An Illustrated Life –
Drawing inspiration from the private sketchbooks of artists, illustrators and designers
Author Danny Gregory (HOW Books)
It’s a wonder this book is still in one piece considering how many times I’ve looked at it from cover to cover! The author curated the personal sketchbooks of 50 top illustrators, designers and artists. His opening hit me spot on the first time I read it, and these many years later, I still get it: “It’s the closest one can get to being inside an artist’s head, to feeling the raw creativity flow: a book bulging with drawings and scrawled captions, some pages experimental, some pages carefully observed. The pages are buckled from layers of watercolor. The margins are filled with shopping lists and phone numbers. The cover is battered from traveling abroad, stuffed in a bag or pocket and yanked out in the rain or thrown down on the grass.”
This book’s hold on me is unmistakable. As I was writing this post about the 12 books, I made the “mistake” of thinking I could flip through just a few pages of An Illustrated Life – but once again, I was down the rabbit hole and got off track writing my post!
ROADMAP — The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What To Do with Your Life (Second Edition)
Authors Roadtrip Nation (Mike Marriner, Nathan Gebhard and Brian McAllister). (Chronicle Books)
This 2020 book, a New York Times Bestseller, appealed to me when earlier this year I was deciding what I wanted to do next after leaving a longtime career (previously described in this blog post). The authors started Roadtrip Nation 20 years ago as friends trying to decide what to do with their lives after recent college graduation. In their words, they “hit the road to find the people who had forged a path forward that was authentically their own. They’d pursued lives and careers based on what mattered to them, following their interests where they led, even through failure, criticism, struggle. We asked them real questions about how to build a life on your own terms. And what we found in their stories was bigger than our journey alone.”
With chapters such as “The Invisible Assembly Line,” “Shed the Noise,” “The Blank Canvas,” “What are your Subjective Truths?,” “Risk or Regret? You Choose,” and “When to Veer and When to U-Turn,” the 300-page book really resonated with me. I enjoyed reading about individuals discovering new opportunities while moving forward, as well as the workbook projects in the back of the book.
The Crow Island Journal
Author Clinton Trowbridge. Cover Watercolorist, and Illustrator Lucy Reeves Trowbridge. (Harper & Row)
One summer while rummaging through old books in a red barn in Maine, I found this one and was immediately drawn to the story of a family who bought a seven-acre island off a remote stretch of the coast of Maine. While living in tents there over a summer and building a house, their adventures on Crow Island are as much about life as anything else.
This is an older book, published in 1970. I bought it for $5 in the barn, and although its pages crackle with age as they’re turned, the book still holds a special place on my bookshelves. Don’t we all dream of escaping to our own quiet island away from the crazy and the “really don’t matter” things in life??
So, there are the 12 books! I’ve loved taking them off the shelves and spending this time with them while writing today’s post.
Which books from your shelves are special to you? Do any of these 12 interest you? Please comment below!