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The Steampunk BibleThe Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandermeer. I was at work looking through a list of upcoming nonfiction Steampunk titles, without any thought of being able to buy them for any of my library collections. Then I wondered where The Steampunk Bible would actually fall. And – score! 809.387, in the Dewey 800s (literature), one of the areas for which I do the purchasing. Even more exciting, it appeared on our weekly front-page of the Web site carousel of new purchases. That generated enough demand that I had to buy a second copy, a moment of geeky librarian happiness.

The Steampunk Bible is a book filled with contrasting pages of large and beautiful pictures opposite pages of dense text. It is a history of Steampunk movement from its early origins in the literature of Charles Verne and H.G. Wells, through to the first works to use the term Steampunk in the 1980s and today’s mushrooming Steampunk movement. In addition to literature, including graphic novels, film, art, music and costume all receive chapters with profiles of people and works. If you want to feel like an expert even without living Steampunk yourself, you can read through it all. And if you just want to see lots of beautiful and inspiring Steampunk imagery, you can just flip through and absorb the pictures. Since every chapter has lists of more things to explore, this could easily be the beginning of a new obsession.

Cross-posted to http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org and http://sapphireone.livejournal.com .

At Home

Jul. 1st, 2011 04:59 pm
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book coverAt Home by Bill Bryson Bill Bryson is known for rambling but fascinating non-fiction books, spanning a subjects from travel to astronomy. In this book, he set out to explore a topic closer at hand – his own house, and the history of its rooms. Not just the history of his particular house, though that’s covered, too, but a history of the evolution of the hall from basically the whole building to a minor passageway and the introduction of the dining room. I’d been putting off reading Bill Bryson, though I’d heard good reviews from multiple friends. This was fascinating. People, landscapes and ideas weave in and out of the book, as well as the development of ideas like privacy, comfort, and the beauty of nature. Who knew that centuries of the English language went by before the word “comfort” as regards to physical comfort even came up? We also learn about an ancient Mesopotamian (I think) city which, truly amazingly, featured no streets, but only houses built layers deep on top of each other. Neat, I say, and while I’m not rushing out to read everything Bryson has written this very second, I’ll definitely keep him in mind for the future, both for myself and for people looking for a good book. Especially a good book for listening to on a car trip kind of thing, because this seems like the kind of listening that could interest nearly everyone.

A note on ebooks:
It used to be that when someone did a catalog search and came up with an ebook as a result, they would come to the desk to ask what an ebook was and go away in some frustration when I told them. I got this book initially because I was determined, now that patrons ask nearly every day about using our downloadable ebooks, to try some myself. I tried both text and audio ebooks. I’d initially thought that I would prefer the audio books. I listen to audiobooks all the time on my commute, and switch between books for myself and my son, hoping for the books that have tracks every three minutes rather than once a chapter or every minute (leading to 90-track discs), and also hoping that I can remember which track we’re both on. The audio books had some problems, mostly related to my situation. My car doesn’t have a way to plug the iPod player in directly, and the radio transmitter has lower sound quality than the regular radio. The books from the service show up as music. I think for that reason, if I stop in the middle of a track to, say, switch to music until the baby goes to sleep, I haven’t found a way to mark where I was in the track. With podcasts, I can switch back and forth to music without losing my place in the podcast. Also, I wasn’t able to figure out how to get the wma-encoded audio books on my iPod through my Mac, though the instructions said this was possible, and the selection of mp3 books is quite limited. I know, I could always go to Audible.com, but I really like borrowing rather than buying books if I’m only going to read them once.

I was quite pleasantly surprised, though, by the text ebook experience. Once I’d figured out the process, it was quite easy to use. I can set it up to read while I eat (my usual reading time), and even a 600 page book is light enough to hold while nursing the baby. Sure, the library’s collection hasn’t yet caught up to the sudden surge in demand – and ebook publishers haven’t yet figured out a model that would let multiple people check out the same digital book at the same time, because that would make things too easy. But the book was easy enough to find and quite nice to use. Even if I still love the feel of a physical book.
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I finally got around to reading this book, with the reluctance that I seem to reserve for bestsellers, once two close friends recommended it. And I have to admit, it is a good book.

book coverThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Read by Cassandra Campbell with Bahni Turpin.

In case you’ve been hiding somewhere, and missed the buzz surrounding this book when it came out last year, here’s the basic premise: In the early 1940s, doctors at Johns Hopkins harvested some cervical cancer cells from a black patient named Henrietta Lacks. Lacks died, leaving behind a husband and five young children, none of whom knew anything about the cells. The cells lived and spread, forming the first easily replicable human cells in culture. They have become a mainstay of medical research, helping with discoveries from the polio vaccine to cancer and transplant medicines and whole hosts of other things. Meanwhile, the Lacks family lived on in poverty, unable to afford basic medical services. Skloot weaves together the story of what the cells have done with Henrietta’s story, her family’s story, and the ten year journey that Skloot and the Lacks family took to learn more about Henrietta and her cells. All of this also brings up big questions about ethics and power in science and medicine. I’d heard just about all of this from the interviews and reviews I read before touching the book; it was still a pleasure to listen to. It makes for a fascinating story with enough going on to appeal to just about anyone.

Crossposted to http://sapphireone.livejournal.com and http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org .
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Lightening Bolt asked for books to help with being sad about his uncle. Here are two that I picked off the helpful bibliography one of our fabulous children’s librarians put together, and which LB asked to be read more than once. I was looking specifically for books that weren’t about a grandparent, as that’s a quite different situation than what we had. Also, my favorite book which a friend recommended to me.

book coverAnd What Comes After a Thousand? by Annette Bley This book opens by setting up young Lisa’s friendship with the elderly Otto. They have special ways of counting together, deep conversations, a victory dance to do if Lisa manages to hit the copper buffalo in the garden with her slingshot. Then, Otto gets sick and dies. Lisa is confused by the strangers at his funeral who don’t understand the victory dance and who all talk quietly, which Otto hated. Where has Otto gone? She finds the answer in their discussion on numbers – where do they live and how high do they go? This is translated from German, which I mention because the art looked German to me the first time I picked it up. It is a gentle and moving approach to a thorny subject.

book coverAlways and Forever by Alan Durant. Illustrated by Debi Gliori A family of woodland animals lives happily together, until Fox gets sick and dies. Then for a long time, no one in the family can laugh or enjoy life anymore. It takes help from a friend and considerable effort on their part to go on with life and find happy ways to remember Fox. Here, the gentle animal pictures help to remove the story enough to make the raw and real pain bearable. The story feels honest both about the pain and the possibility of recovery.

book coverThe Other Side of Sadness by George A. Bonanno So it turns out that both Freud and Kuebler-Ross were wrong about grief. People don’t need to sever their emotional connection to the deceased as Freud thought, nor do they need to express and work through grief in defined stages as Kuebler-Ross thought. Really studying bereavement is quite recent - within the past 20 years – and Bonanno shares what he’s learned in a career focused on it. He talks about the evolutionary uses for sadness (making you slow down enough to figure out how your life is going to worked without your loved one); when grief counseling hurts more than it helps (if you were already recovering on your own); the ranges of normal recovery, experiences with talking to or feeling the presence of the deceased after death (common for some, but nearly always kept secret in our science-loving society); how to tell and what to do if grieving is going to far (if you’re still not able to function after six months). He talks about the experience of grieving in other cultures, particularly those which are more community than individual focused. This means that the society pays more attention to whether people follow the proscribed rituals than to what they are feeling – which turns out, as often as it’s been studied, to make recovery much easier for people. I especially liked the story of the African tribe which traditionally tells lascivious tales about the deceased at the funeral, saying that applying the morals of the living to the dead is extremely inappropriate. Most of all, he says that bereavement is part of the natural order of things. Humans are made to be resilient and recover. I found this very helpful, and recommend it highly to anyone dealing with grief or helping the bereaved.
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book coverThe Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin This is a craft book for a kind of craft that isn’t one of the ones I regularly do. But I picked it up and it was so beautiful that I brought it home and now I will tell you about it. This book is written about an ongoing fashion project, meant to revive the dying textile industry and retain the fading knowledge of traditional techniques to make “contemporary sustainable style.” These are beautiful, appealing projects made from cotton jersey, mostly recycled t-shirts. They are decorated with stencils, appliqué, reverse appliqué and embroidery. There are decorated t-shirts, bandanas, skirts, tablecloths and even a couple of corsets – which she claims are comfortably supportive and universally flattering. That I wish I could try before making. The basic technique for appliqué or reverse appliqué involves stenciling the design on both fabrics, hand-embroidering them together, and cutting away the fabric – the order of the last two steps depending on whether you’re doing regular or reverse appliqué. Because it’s done with cotton jersey and she’s going for a home-made look, she doesn’t finish or turn under the edges. I’d wondered about stabilization, since cotton jersey is tough to machine sew in my experience. It turns out that everything is just done by hand. Patterns and stencils are included for all the projects in the book, but the craft store is also full of stencils and the technique could as happily be used for putting skulls and crossbones on Mr. FP’s shirts as roses on mine.
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Only three more days to Talk Like a Pirate Day!

book coverThe Republic of Pirates by Colin WoodardThe pirates of legend live free from the laws of kingdoms of the world. Theirs is a life of adventure as they travel where they will, taking what they need and making their victims walk the plank.

The legend is complete fiction, of course. But the fascinating part is that the Golden Age of Piracy followed the legend, brought about by frustrated pirates who thought it already reality. They created an early democracy where people of all colors and nationalities were equal members, though it was stamped out quickly. This is the story of the creation of the Republic of Pirates, the pirates who founded it and the former privateer who brought them down. The good news is that there is a lot in this book. Unfortunately, the facts are packed a little thick for all but the most die-hard of pirate fans. Happily, for those in between, there’s a lot to be had just in the intro.
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book coverHow Doctors Think by Jerome GroopmanDoctors think fast. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are scarily wrong. And the methods that doctors who make correct diagnoses even in tricky cases are not the methods that medical students are taught to use. Groopman writes as both doctor and patient, pulling apart cases of the best and worst medical thinking both to help doctors improve their own thinking and to help patients give better information to their doctors and know when to ask for something else. The examples were fascinating, and fortunately nearly all with happy endings. My biggest quibble was that I wanted it to do a better job of pulling out specific steps and questions for both doctors and patients. The chapters were organized around medical specialties rather than specific errors or strengths in thinking, leaving the pulling together for the individual reader. Still, it was useful and interesting for anyone who deals with doctors, and those interested in puzzling medical cases for their own sake will find this fascinating.
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This book is probably of limited interest to my readership (assuming I know my readership.) But – just so you know what took so very much of my reading time the past several weeks, here you go:

Homeschooling: a Patchwork of Days by Nancy Lande This book contains essays from 30 different homeschooling families, detailing one day in their lives. Usually, it’s also accompanied by some of their homeschooling and education theories, and a follow-up a year later. Read more... )

While interesting, the homeschool book took a very long time to go through, and I felt in need of some extra light reading to follow. This one, passed on by a friend, has already been promised to two others wanting to read it. Maybe I should print out a Book Crossing tag for it.

The Very Virile Viking by Sandra Hill The year is 1000. Magnus Ericsson is a simple Viking man who likes plowing both fields and, um, women. He’s not ashamed of either of those, but with 11 living children, he’s become a laughingstock. He decides to take his nine youngest children and head for the New World, where his two older brothers had gotten lost years earlier. Going to a land without women and taking a vow of chastity should keep him from fathering any more children. But while sailing through a fog, he sees a vision of an old woman with prayer beads, and ends up in a very strange place called Holly Wood. The first woman he meets is, alas, beautiful and wearing clothing a lot skimpier than Vikings are used to. The last thing Angela needs in her life is another creep like her ex-husband, but Magnus might just have a good heart buried under all that macho bluster. And the Blue Dragon, her family’s struggling vineyard is certainly in need of help – in fact, her grandmother had been praying for a man for Angela and lots of children. There might be a bit too much praise for Wal-Mart and order-in pizza, but the romance is sizzling and the story highly amusing.

Books!

Jun. 3rd, 2006 04:33 pm
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I realized with less than a week to go that I had not even picked out the adult nonfiction book I’d said I’d review for the June Librarian’s Choice page. Oops. The adult summer reading theme (which we’re not really doing) is animals, so I thought I’d look for one of the nice narrative animal books which seem only to circulate as long as they’re on the new book shelf. I started with a book on the platypus, a favorite of mine, but soon put it down because I just couldn’t get into it – no good with a tight deadline. But on take two, we had a winner.

The Astonishing Elephant by Shana Alexander Who hasn’t been fascinated by the elephant, the largest of land mammals? Journalist Shana Alexander shares with us her life-long quest to understand the elephant, beginning with her attendance at the rare birth of a zoo elephant in the 1960s. She takes us on a journey through the history of elephants, their importance in Hindu and Buddhist religion, their often sad involvement in circuses in the United States and the excitement of recent breakthroughs in elephant communication. Elephants naturally live in a society which on some days seems ideal - matriarchal family groups, with visiting males. OK, maybe I wouldn't like the without males part. But the close communication, the affection - they seem to have figured out how to live together peacefully better than we have. They are difficult in captivity because they resent their lost freedom, and will only breed with a mate they like. Today, though zoo conditions have improved, the elephant is still in grave danger from loss of habitat in Asia and from poaching in Africa. The news may not be completely cheerful, but the wise and social elephant has never been so compelling as Alexander shows it to be.

Which Brings Me to You by Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott Two single thirty-somethings meet at a wedding. They are on the verge of an illicit coupling in the coat closet, when John pulls back. What if they let things develop at a slower pace rather than the certain death of a one-night stand? He talks the reluctant Jane into beginning a correspondence in which they will confess their failings, mostly in love. Though the set-up is a wee bit on the improbable side, the resulting letters beautifully chronicle the characters’ development from first high school relationship to the present, as well as their growing relationship. John and Jane are smart and sarcastic characters, no longer trusting that first flush of romance but not willing to settle for anything less than a life fully lived.

And here is the book which took me the better part of a couple of months to read, owing to my rather rusty German.
Tintenherz von Cornelia Funke Ich hatte dieses Buch auf dem Amerikanischen so gern, dass ich es auf dem originallen Deutschen lesen musste. Ja. Die Geschichte ist immer noch sehr schoen und spannend, aber es ist sehr gut das ich es schon gelesen hatte. Es war wirklich gut es auf Deutsch zu lesen, aber gluecklicherweise fuer meine Freunde, die kein Deutsch lesen, ist die Uebersetzung auch gut. Und wenn irgendjemand hier es auf Deutsch lesen moechte, kann ich meine Kopie ausleihen.

The Truth

Apr. 1st, 2006 04:55 pm
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The Truth, with Jokes by Al Franken Hooray for politics done funny! From how W. used Smears, Fears, and Queers to win the election to the social security reform debacle, Franken covers what's been going in politics since the '04 election. OK, if you’re not a liberal, you probably still won’t enjoy this book. But if you are, and want to have some factual ammunition for conversations with conservatives, or just want to know what’s been going on without feeling utterly depressed, then read this book. Or better yet, listen to it. Al Franken is a comedian, so unlike some author-read books, he does a really good job. Plus, whenever he quotes speeches, he plays the clip from the actual speech rather than reading it aloud. You’ll laugh a lot. And then you’ll be really mad.
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Why We Buy by Paco Underhill I’d been hearing about this book for a long time, and finally got around to reading it. In a book meant to appeal both to store owners and shoppers, Underhill talks about the science behind setting up a store to sell more. My first cynical thought on picking up the book was that I could learn how to avoid the wily ways of the retailer, but Underhill makes a good case for his discipline helping both sides. Knowing how to place things so that people will find them and be comfortable browsing them makes things both more comfortable for the shopper and more profitable for the retailer. After all, whom does it help if you can't find what you came in for and walk away frustrated? Underhill has put serious research into his claims, trailing shoppers unawares and tracking all aspects of what and why people buy.

By the end of the first chapter, I had turned off my cynical shopper mode and started in on eager librarian mode. After all, I, too, am in the business of selling, just without the profit motive. We could learn a lot from his thoughts on how long signs can be depending on where they're placed and how to go about finding where best to put them. In fact, the whole science dovetails nicely with a side of my education that I loved but which I haven't been able to use much so far – the Human Computer Interaction part. OK, so there's not so much computer interaction here, but knowing how to watch people, then analyzing where they had difficulties and how to fix them – it transfers very nicely. Thinking of ways to apply this to my library fills me with geeky joy, even though I'm not high enough on the ladder to be likely to have much effect. Already my first attempt has been thwarted – right when you come in the door to my library, there is a TV monitor which displays fairly wordy ads for library activities. I suggested that, since Underhill says that people don't want to slow down to read a sign when they're first coming in the door, that we should turn it around to face the people waiting in line to check out there books. My boss thought it was a fabulous idea, and we turned it around right away. The receptionist, who came in two days later, thought the carpet cleaners had done it and had it turned back. Even after explaining the theory to her, she couldn't be talked out of her horror at people coming in the door being faced with the back of the monitor. So it goes.

Gifts Two

Jan. 10th, 2006 12:57 pm
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Now, remembering all the books that I read, I proceed onwards:

Last year, I found out that our youngest teen niece read Sunshine, Robin McKinley’s first adult novel, a vampire book, which had been rejected by her twenty-year-old sister because it isn’t a romance. Well! Ignoring the slight irritation that the niece for whom it was intended wouldn’t even try it – this year, the oldest niece got a romance and the youngest got this, a very hot new vampire book for teens.
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer Seventeen-year-old Bella Swann leaves sunny Phoenix to allow her mother to travel with her new husband, and moves in with her father in a tiny town in Oregon. Shy, not too popular back in Phoenix, she’s surprised when she’s suddenly the most popular girl in class. She finds herself falling for Edward, one of the mysterious Cullens, who stick to themselves and are shunned by the rest of the school. Though we know from the back cover what Edward is, it takes Bella a while to figure it out – by which time, she and Edward are trysting over cafeteria lunches. He says he’s dangerous, and though she knows it’s true, the attraction is too strong for her to leave. Though Edward has sworn to eat only animals, attraction and hunger must be kept in careful balance, and his vampire family is slow to believe he’ll leave her alive. The romance is compelling, and gets mixed in with suspense as Bella is stalked by a truly evil vampire near the end. This book will fulfill your gothiest fantasies and make you believe in the romance of the Lonely Ones.

Sucker for romance that I am, I was pulled right into the story and read the whole 400+ page book in about two days. I loved the development of Edward and Bella’s relationship, and the dark vampires mixed in with high school (wait – haven’t we seen that before?) I was highly amused, reading the author’s bio, to note that she is almost certainly Mormon – how many good Mormon girls out there write vampire romances? And it manages to stay squeaky clean, even as it builds up impressive steaminess. I was not quite convinced by the kidnapping, and I wish that Meyers hadn’t played so loose with so many vampire traditions. Her vampires don’t burn in sunlight; they sparkle. Towards the end, our heroine, who willing put her life in danger to save her parents, starts begging her vampire lover to change her, and this irritated the heck out of me. Seventeen is way too young to be making that kind of decision! [livejournal.com profile] amnachaidh points out, rightly, that the teen readers for whom this is intended will have no such qualms, and that I really shouldn’t expect differently from a vampire romance. And I would have liked to hear more about the Native American tribe of werewolves that are the vampire’s sworn enemies. Still, I enjoyed the book, and Niece 4 said she was really excited about reading it.

In the middle of my holiday book cramming, what should I find on the hold shelf, but the lovely [livejournal.com profile] tupelo’s latest book. It’s good enough for two people to read in less than two weeks.

Nerd Girl Rocks Paradise City by Anne Soffee This memoir takes place before Snake Hips. As Soffee graduates from college with an English major, she decides to put it to work in Los Angeles making a name for herself as a gonzo journalist of hair metal. With neither job prospects nor a place to stay, Soffee heads out from Virginia in search of her destiny. Now, I know next to nothing about hair metal, and the dark bars she frequents in pursuit of bands are far outside of my experience and (to be perfectly honest) interest. (In fact, were it not for the fact that I adore [livejournal.com profile] tupelo, and how much I loved Snake Hips, I would probably never have picked up the book.) It turns out that, as Soffee has given up a future of wrapping gift baskets in the mall for her new life, hair metal is on the decline. Though she finds some unpaid jobs at first, they become harder and harder to come by. Depressed and spending most of her time in bars, Soffee falls into alcoholism and prescription drug abuse. It sounds like we have the making of a book that is Not for Me, between the depressing real life issues and the music that I don’t listen to. Except that Soffee is so wonderfully wry with her writing that she made me laugh at all of her mishaps, and sigh with her over the coolness of meeting stars that I had never heard of before.

Mission: Organization by Jody Garlock This book I requested for a display and ended up taking home with me. I don’t think the organizational advice is anything really outstanding, but the step-by-step summaries of episodes of the shows are very nice. It’s nice home decorating porn for a former HGTV junkie like me.
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Green Living: The E Magazine Handbook for Living Lightly on the Earth by E Magazine I don’t normally include the post-colon parts of book titles here, but this one explains the book very well. I have it on loan from my friend A., but unlike many of my borrowed books, this one is very new. It’s divided up into chapters on things like food, home construction, baby stuff, and gardening. All of the chapters talk about the environmental and health risks of whatever methods or products are commonly used, practical things to do about it, and – perhaps most helpful of all – annotated resource lists. If you want to know where to get low VOC paints, or insulation, or fairly traded clothing that you could actually wear to work, this book will tell you where to get them. And by the time you’ve read the convincingly argued first part of the chapter, you’ll want to. I have to admit that the baby stuff still depresses me, as there seems to be no good solution for bottles, but on the whole, this book is matter-of-fact about the serious issues, and upbeat about ways to help. And if, like most everyone we know, you can’t afford to do it all right, it also talks about how to prioritize and which things are most important to put your money into. I hope my friend doesn’t want it back too soon.

Marriage

Jul. 25th, 2005 04:00 pm
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Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz Is marriage as an institution in crisis? The answer seems to be yes almost uniformly, although what the problem is and what to do about it varies from one end of the political spectrum to the other. Author Coontz agrees that marriage is going through a rough time right now – but her analysis of why is unique. Coontz examines marriage around the world and through history, examining who, how and why people married, and their attitudes towards issues like children, fidelity, choice of partners and inheritance. Filled with juicy details of the alliances of kings and queens, as well as excerpts from diaries and letters, she manages to focus both on the personal and overall trends. Her conclusion: while marriage has always been in flux, today’s emphasis on love and mutual satisfaction has made the modern marriage both the most satisfying and the most fragile in history. This is a fascinating read for anyone interested in where we’ve come from and where we might be going.
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I was raised in a house where everybody had lists of chores to be done. It was kind of a drag to have to do your chores before going out to play, but the whole house got cleaned every week. I don’t think my share ever took more than a couple of hours – maybe three in the years I had to mow the yard with an old-fashioned push mower. Now I have a house roughly the same size as the one I shared with four other people, and there’s only one other person to help clean it. Plus one person who doesn’t much see a need for cleaning, or any other activity that keeps his mommy from playing with him. In lieu of actually cleaning, I’ve been reading a series of books on on cleaning.

Is There Life after Housework? by Don Aslett This book, a 10th anniversary edition with a 1992 copyright date, seemed a little old. But the tattered covers and layers of checkout stickers show that it’s still a popular work, and quite deservedly. Aslett, a professional cleaner and father of six, tells how to set up your house so it is easier to clean and then how to clean as efficiently as possible. For example, he recommends at least eight steps worth of professional quality doormatting inside and out to trap dirt before you have to sweep it off your floor. It’s short, to the point, and quite funny. There are some newer cleaning materials on the market since this book was finished – microfiber, for example – but all in all, if you’re feeling swamped with housework and want some help speeding it up, this is still a great book to go with.

Speed Cleaning 101: Cut Your Cleaning Time in Half by Laura Dellutri This book has a 2005 copyright date but, alas, not much new in the way of advice, and quite a few contradictions. Some good tips on how to organize cleaning, like starting at one door to a room and cleaning in a circle, top to bottom, for maximum efficiency, and some hints on splitting up work for team cleaning. But, for example, she’s talking about bathrooms and says that since toilets can spew invisible germs, you should train everyone in your family to shut the lid when flushing. Next, she talks about cleaning the bathroom counter and says that you should only clean the parts that look dirty. So we no longer care about the invisible germs that the toilet spewed everywhere? And “Keep your cleaning kit simple” followed by “Browse the cleaning aisle at your grocery store for spiffy new products.” Also I didn’t like her thoughts on the current overuse of antibacterial cleaners in the home, which basically amounted to, “Well, it’s important to keep things clean.” She has some nice thoughts about deciding how clean you personally want to keep things, but there are better books out there.

Home Comforts: the Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson At well over 800 pages, this book answers every question you might have about making your residence a home, but is not for the faint of heart. It’s kind of like the Joy of Cooking for housekeeping, and it is housekeeping, not just cleaning. Like Joy, it’s not meant to be read straight through, as I did. Gentle readers, for you I undertook this task, which took me seven weeks. Also, I kept meaning to skip things, and kept finding it too interesting. Everyone I told I was reading this book thought I was nuts. Everyone I got to read the introduction wanted to read the whole book, too. The introduction talks about how the author, an attorney, used not to keep her place up, as it was so very unfashionable to have time and energy for so lowly a task. Then she realized how much homier it made things and so cleaned in secret to avoid the social stigma. Well, publishing the book blew her cover. Here are just a few of the topics covered: setting up a cleaning routine; organizing a pantry; planning menus; how to fold laundry; the chemistry of household cleaners; a really nice discussion on when antibacterials are and aren’t appropriate; preserving your valuables; buying insurance; working with domestic help. Manuals like this were common a century ago. You (and I) would probably be better off owning one, too.

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