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How about a resolution you’d enjoy?

Books can help you discover a new hobby in 2012

January 1, 2012
By BARBARA WALLACE HUGHES, Messenger managing editor , Messenger News

Many New Year's resolutions involve doing things that are good for you - losing weight, exercising regularly, organizing long-neglected closets - but aren't necessarily fun.

For 2012, why not begin a new hobby? The first step toward learning a new skill is as easy as heading to a bookstore and checking out the offerings. There are beginners books in nearly every imaginable category.

And while it's possible to order books online, nothing compares to physically opening a book, glancing through its page and sampling its words. Book World, at Crossroads Mall, offers a diverse range books that can jump-start a lifelong hobby.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Carol Jones, manager of the Book World store in the Crossroads Mall, holds a selection of books that can help the reader get started on a new hobby for the new year. Wood finishing, raising urban chickens and making snowshoes are just a few of the options.

Among those:


Nancy Zieman's "Sewing A to Z" (Krause Publishing) illustrates everything from anchor cloth to zippers. The star of Public Broadcasting's "Sewing with Nancy," Zieman walks the beginner through more than 100 techniques, including some quilting options.

Another easy-to-understand book for beginners is Alison Smith's "Sew Step by Step" (DK Publishing). Smith provides information on sewing equipment, notions and fabric types, as well as instructions on how to sew on a button and shorten a hem.

Needle crafts

It's hard to go wrong with any of the books in the "Complete Idiot's Guide" series, including "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Knitting and Crocheting Illustrated, Third Edition" (Penguin Publishing). Penned by Barbara Breiter and Gail Diven, the former knitting editor for Vogue Butterick Co., the book features 32 pages of color photos and information on how to read yarn labels, why gauge is important, how to read a pattern and how to correct common mistakes.

Another step-by-step option is "Simple Knitting, A Complete How-to-Knit Workshop" (St. Martin's Griffin) by Erika Knight, who offers 20 projects, troubleshooting tips and terminology translations.

Paper crafts

In "The New Encyclopedia of Origami and Papercraft Techniques" (Quarto Publishing), Ayako Brodek correctly boasts that it is "a comprehensive visual guide to traditional and contemporary techniques" and includes quilling, weaving, book binding and paper mache as well as the expected paper folding.


If you need to know how boil an egg, steam vegetables, make a stir fry and bake a perfect pastry, Norma MacMillan will give you pointers in "How to Cook" (Southwater Books). No prior knowledge of kitchen tools or techniques is required. MacMillan, who has authored and edited multiple cook books, has filled this one with more than 600 color photographs to help the beginning cook find his or her way.

Sisters Megan and Jill Carle, who describe themselves as good cooks and not professional chefs, have teamed up to create "The First Real Kitchen Cookbook" (Chronicle Books), to help new cooks chart their culinary course. They are targeting those folks who have moved into their first apartment and left the comfort of Mom's home cooking behind. The Carles provide tips on stocking the fridge on the cheap, before moving into more sophisticated territory. (What is bechamel and why is it considered a mother sauce?)

If outdoor cooking is more appealing, Steven Raichlen - author, television host, cooking teacher and journalist - has covered all the bases in "The Barbecue Bible" (Workman Publications). Raichlen gives instructions on the expected - ribs, roasts, chops and kebabs - as well as the unexpected: desserts by fire.

OK, technically, brewing isn't cooking, but the book is stocked in the same section of the book store. Charlie Papazian has produced the third edition of "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing" (Harper Collins), that covers the basics (malt, hops, yeast and water), includes a glossary, troubleshooting tips and a resource guide. A master brewer and founder-president of the American Homebrewer's Association and Association of Brewers, Papazian provides intermediate and advanced techniques in later chapters, following his 10 easy lessons for beginning brewers.


Richard Gianfrancesco covers the fine points of roots and tubers, leafy crops, edible flowers and tree fruits in "How to Grow Food" (Firefly Books). His step-by-step guide offers gardening techniques that will work in window boxes or big backyards.

"Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening" (Rodale Press)

in its newly revised and updated version celebrating 50 years in print, is edited by Farn Marshall Bradley, Barbara W. Ellis and Ellen Phillips. It offers information on organic pest control, fertilizer products and trends in garden design, all with an eye toward being environmentally friendly.


Baking, carpentry, crafts, organic gardening, perserving the harvest and raising animals are topics included in "Self-Sufficiency," (Skyhorse Publishing), a book edited by Abigail R. Gehring. Gehring, who was home-schooled, has lived a life of self-sufficiency since her childhood in Vermont. Her book includes information on canning and preserving, butchering, carding and spinning wool, and creating hammocks.

"Chickens in Your Backyard" (Rodale Organic Gardening Book), a beginner's guide by Rick and Gail Luttmann, was produced by the authors who were disappointed in their search for a similar book when they became poultry owners. The book covers housing, starting a flock, feeding and butchering.

Kids activities

Jane Bull encourages kids to "Make It!" (DK Books) in a book where she shows children how to recycle paper, plastic, fabric and metal. Projects in her book include junk mail mache, foil dish mobiles and old-pants-turned-glam bags.

Wood crafts

"One of the consistent things about us humans is that we want our necessities to also be beautiful," says author Gil Gilpatrick in "Building Wooden Snowshoes and Snowshoe Furniture" (Fox Chapel Publishing). Gilpatrick explains how to create frames, lacings and bindings. Using the same basic techniques, he creates end tables, rockers and clocks as well.

"Wood Finishing 101: The Step-by-Step Guide" (Popular Woodworking Books) gives author Bob Flexner a chance to offer a book for the absolute novice. Flexner, who has penned long-running columns in "Woodshop News" and "Popular Woodworking Magazine," explains how to apply the most common stains and finishes with lots of photos to guide the process.

Contact Barbara Wallace Hughes at (515) 573-2121 or



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