Reader’s Choices

I once lived in an apartment that had a very large, floor to ceiling built-in bookshelf. Mine was filled with books. This bookshelf was the first thing you saw when you came into the apartment, and often visitors would stand there, mouth slightly agape, looking at the books. I thought this behavior was a bit odd, until I visited some other units in that apartment complex, and realized that not everyone had enough books to fill the bookshelf.

I’ve had bookshelves in my last two kitchens. This is a good thing, since I have a lot of cookbooks. Occasionally visitors will comment on the books. Those just trying to make conversation will say something like, “Oh, that’s handy.” Others will study the titles, and ask specific questions about a particular book. Not surprisingly, these people are usually have their own collection of cookbooks. A while back, a friend asked me a question about one of my books on bread baking. I said, “It’s nicely written, a good read.” He looked at me, as this was not the answer he expected. He said, “You’re the only person I know that would describe a cookbook that way.” But before I was a cook or a knitter, I was a reader, so characterizing a cookbook as nicely written seemed within reason.

For the last few years, I’ve been building a knitting book library. It’s still small enough that it fits on one shelf in the office. Some were impulse buys. Some were “just because” purchases. Some were gifts. I can’t honestly say that I’ve made something from each of them, but I can say that I’ve read all of them. I like the narrative structure of Debbie Stoller, the practical advice of Elizabeth Zimmerman, and the scholarship of Barbara Walker. I read the marginal notes and photo captions and the dedications. Sometimes I try to imagine knitting the projects, other times I just look at the photos, and sigh.

This year I decided to buy fewer knitting books, and according to our Amazon history, I’ve only purchased two knitting books this year. One is the Yarn Harlot’s latest — it is required reading.

The other is this book, Knitalong: Celebrating the Tradition of Knitting Together. It is a beautiful book, hardcover, great photographs, and interesting patterns. Like the Yarn Harlot, who reminds us that we share the same joys and disappointments of this solitary craft, Knitalong describes how historically knitters have always knit together, in times of war and peace and hardship and prosperity. But it does more than that. The authors are clearly in awe of the creative processes of knitters. They describe how a knitter can be inspired by a simple pattern to make their own creation. They delight in how knitters share their ideas and designs, and help each other. And they are encouraged by the charitable outpourings of all knitters.

And did I mention that Knitalong is a good read?

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