Books for discovering new hobbies

A reading list for those who love to learn new things

With winter in full swing and many of us keeping warm indoors, there is no better time to pick up a new hobby. We’ve gathered a collection of books to inspire your free time and help you beat the winter blues. Read up on these books about art, gardening, cooking, and more to get your creative juices flowing.

Guitar Talk: Conversations with Visionary Players by Joel Harrison

Distributed for Terra Nova Press

An enormous range of approaches and sounds exist in the modern guitar. The instrument can howl, scrape, scratch, scream, sing, pluck, and soothe. What stands out in this book is not so much the instrument itself, rather the wonderful and idiosyncratic personalities of these bold souls, their sometimes wild, often zigzagging, and ultimately profound journeys toward beauty, meaning, and excellence in their work.

Chemistry for Cooks: An Introduction to the Science of Cooking by Sandra C. Greer

How does an armload of groceries turn into a culinary masterpiece? In this highly accessible and informative text, Sandra C. Greer takes students into the kitchen to show how chemistry—with a dash of biology and physics—explains what happens when we cook. Chemistry for Cooks provides all the background material necessary for nonscientists to understand essential chemical processes and to see cooking as an enjoyable application of science.

“If you’re a cook who wants to learn some chemistry, or a scientist who wants to apply their chemical knowledge to cooking, this book, with its recipe experiments to reinforce key principles, is a joy.” —David Smith, University of York; author of Tw-Eat Together

Craft edited by Tanya Harrod

“Craft” is a contested concept in art history and a vital category through which to understand contemporary art. Through craft, materials, techniques, and tools are investigated and their histories explored in order to reflect on the politics of labor and on the extraordinary complexity of the made world around us. This anthology offers an ethnography of craft, surveying its shape-shifting identities in the context of progressive art and design through writings by artists and makers as well as poetry, fiction, anthropology, and sociology. It maps a secret history of craft through lost and overlooked texts that consider pedagogy, design, folk art, the factory, and new media in ways that illuminate our understanding of current art practice.

Botanic Gardens: Modern-Day Arks by Sara Oldfield

All life depends on plants, but we often take them for granted in our everyday lives. It is easy to ignore the fact that we are facing a crisis: scientists estimate that one third of all flowering plant species are threatened with extinction. This lavishly illustrated volume considers the essential conservation role of botanic gardens, telling the story of how a global network is working to save our botanical heritage. Comments and photographs from the gardeners involved give the book a personal touch, revealing the human side of the important work that goes on behind the scenes of these spectacular gardens. Oldfield shows us how botanic gardens are truly “modern-day arks,” safeguarding species and saving resources on which we may someday depend.

Botanic Gardens succeeds in its pursuit of underscoring the vital role that botanical gardens are beginning to play in global conservation of biodiversity.” —Peter S. White, BioScience

On Photographs by David Campany

In On Photographs, curator and writer David Campany presents an exploration of photography in 120 photographs. Proceeding not by chronology or genre or photographer, Campany’s eclectic selection unfolds according to its own logic. We see work by Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Eggleston, Helen Levitt, Garry Winogrand, Louise Lawler, Andreas Gursky, and Rineke Dijkstra. There is fashion photography by William Klein, one of Vivian Maier’s contact sheets, and a carefully staged scene by Gregory Crewdson, as well as images culled from magazines and advertisements. Each of the 120 photographs is accompanied by Campany’s lucid and incisive commentary, considering the history of that image and its creator, interpreting its content and meaning, and connecting and contextualizing it within visual culture. Image by image, we absorb and appreciate Campany’s complex yet playful take on photography and its history.

“Clear and accessible enough for beginner students, and yet full of insights and information beneficial to photographers of any maturity.” —Brian Arnold, Photo-Eye

Drawing Thought: How Drawing Helps Us Observe, Discover, and Invent by Andrea Kantrowitz

Drawing is a way of constructing ideas and observations as much as it is a means of expressing them. When we are not ready or able to put our thoughts into words, we can sometimes put them down in arrangements of lines and marks. Artists, designers, architects, and others draw to generate, explore, and test perceptions and mental models. In Drawing Thought, artist-educator Andrea Kantrowitz invites readers to use drawing to extend and reflect on their own thought processes. She interweaves illuminating hand-drawn images with text, integrating recent findings in cognitive psychology and neuroscience with accounts of her own artistic and teaching practices.

“Drawing isn’t about making pretty pictures. It’s about feeling and learning and engaging with the world. It’s about thinking more deeply and living more richly. This gorgeous, erudite book will show you how.” —Danny Gregory, author of The Creative License and Art Before Breakfast

The Storm of Creativity by Kyna Leski

Although each instance of creativity is singular and specific, Kyna Leski tells us, the creative process is universal. Artists, architects, poets, inventors, scientists, and others all navigate the same stages of the process in order to discover something that does not yet exist. All of us must work our way through the empty page, the blank screen, writer’s block, confusion, chaos, and doubt. In this book, Leski draws from her observations and experiences as a teacher, student, maker, writer, and architect to describe the workings of the creative process.

“A definitive guide to swimming through creative chaos, The Storm of Creativity shows us how to flow effortlessly through the process of birthing new, original ideas into the world.” —Joe Gebbia, Cofounder and Chief Product Officer, Airbnb

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