I have been trying to keep a running list of books that I have been reading and have read, including brief thoughts on them.  I’ll start back filling reads from earlier in the year, but these are books that I’m currently working through.

Currently Reading

The Way of ZenAlan Watts – 1957

Kitchen Think: A Guide to design and construction, from refurbishing to renovationNancy Hiller – 2020

On Deck

A Guide for the PerplexedE.F. Schumacher – 1977

The Essential WoodworkerRobert Wearing – 1988

Honest Labour: The Charles H. Hayward YearsCharles Hayward – 2020


Bashō’s Haiku: Selected Poems of Matsuo BashōMatsuo Bashō – 2004

The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an EmpireWilliam Dalrymple – 2019
An interesting deep dive into how a corporation took over a large part of the world through political fighting and violence. Well worth a read.

The Anarchist’s WorkbenchChristopher Schwarz – 2020
I wish that I had this book when I was building my bench a few years ago. The book is a distillation of Schwarz’ writings on benches over the years. While his earlier workbench book provided a number of different plans and possibilities, this book represents the end game of years of academic and practical research into the building and use of a woodworking bench.

Narrow Road to the Interior and Other WritingsMatsuo Bashō – Translated 1998
Late last year, I was turned on to the Ridgeline newsletter, written by Craig Mod. The newsletter is generally about his walks throughout Japan. While reading through the archives of past newsletters, I found a mention of the writings of Matsuo Bashō, a 17th century poet. Narrow Road to the Interior is a sort of travelogue, though not in any modern sense, of Bashō’s walking through Edo Japan. It also includes a significant collection of Bashō’s haiku.

A Cabinetmaker’s NotebookJames Krenov – 1976

Slow Food NationCarlo Petrini – 2005

The Seven Secrets of Cottage – Jim Tolpin – 2019

The Shaker Legacy: Perspectives on an Enduring Furniture StyleChristian Becksvoort – 2005

In the Craftsman Style: Building Furniture Inspired By The Arts & Crafts TraditionFine Woodworking Magzine – 2001

To Have or To BeErich Fromm – 1976

A Handmade Life William Coperthwaite – 2007

A Museum of Early American Tools – Eric Sloan – 1964
This is a wonderful collection of illustrations traditional tools (not just woodworking tools!)

American Yesterday – Eric Sloan – 1956

ABC Book of Early Americana; A sketchbook of Antiquities and American Firsts – Eric Sloan – 1963

A Man Apart: Bill Coperthwaite’s Radical Experiment in LivingPeter Forbes and Helen Whybrow – 2015

Small is BeautifulE.F. Schumacher – 1973

52 Boxes in 52 WeeksMatt Kenney – 2018
This is a quick read, but well worth the time. The first two chapters discuss some process for building as well as design. The bulk of the book is photos and descriptions of design process for 52 boxes. This is not a how-to build book so much as a how-to see book geared toward jumpstarting some simple design inspiration.

The Right to Useful Unemployment Ivan Illich – 1978

Welsh Stick ChairsJohn Brown – 1990

Tiamat’s WrathJames S.A. Corey – 2019

Tools for ConvivialityIvan Illich – 1973

The Abundance of Less: Lessons in Simple Living From Rural JapanAndy Couturier – 2017

A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind Shoukei Matsumoto – 2011

The Joiner and the Cabinet MakerAnon, Christopher Schwarz, and Joel Moskowitz – 2009
If you haven’t picked it up from the rest of the list, I’m a big fan of the work put out by Lost Art Press. They have consistently found works and authors that know the craft and transmit information in a meaningful and entertaining manner. This book is in some ways a reprint of an 1800’s story of a young apprentice. It’s supplemented with contextual information as well as projects put together by the modern authors. Can’t wait to dig in.

Shaker Inspiration: Five Decades of Fine CraftsmanshipChristian Becksvoort – 2018
I just received my print copy of this book on Friday.  However, I’d been able to read the PDF version over a month ago.  This is really a few woodworking books in one.  It’s a book about design, a book about skills, a book about history, and a book with some measured drawings of Becksvoort’s work.  It also has a collection of amazing photos of some classic Shaker pieces as well as the author’s designs.

Even with all of that, what I found to be the most interesting part is what I would describe as a woodworking version of Jay Foonberg’s Starting Your Own Law Practice.  For non-lawyers reading this, Foonberg’s book, and its many new editions since its original printing, is the go-to book on hanging up your own shingle.  It lays out basics of starting an office, billing, marketing, managing time, and other business basics that you don’t learn in law school. Becksvoort’s provided the same sort of general overview of the business end of woodworking that many hobbyists and aspiring professionals would never think to consider, right down to how he has tracked his time on builds for decades. This is a must read. 

Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World – Helen and Scott Nearing – 1954
I’ll let their own words summarize the essence of this book, which documents the Nearing’s two decade experiment in living simply in the hills of Vermont.

On this point we differ emphatically with many of our friends and acquaintances who say, in effect, “Never mind how we live today; we are in this dog-eat-dog social system and we may as well get what we can out of it. But tomorrow, in a wiser, more social and more humane world, we will live more rationally, more economically, more socially.” Such talk is nonsense. As we live in the present, so is our future shaped, channeled, and largely determined…

Perhaps we can summarize our point of view in this way. We are opposed to the theories of a competitive, acquisitive, aggressive, war-making social order, which butchers for food and murders for sport and for power. The closer we have come to this social order the more completely we are part of it. Since we reject it in theory, we should, as far as possible, reject it also in practice. On no other basis can theory and practice be unified. At the same time, and to the utmost extent, we should live as decently, kindly, justly, orderly and efficiently as possible. Human beings, under any set of circumstances, can behave well or badly. Whatever the circumstances, it is better to love, create, and construct than to hate, undermine and destroy, or, what may be even worse at times, ignore and laissez passer. We believed that we could make our contribution to the good life more effectively in a pre-industrial, rural community than in one of the great urban centers. Living the Good Life, 183-185

Hands Employed Aright – The Furniture Making of Jonathan Fisher (1768-1847)Joshua Klein – 2018
This was given as a Christmas gift by my wife.  Joshua Klein does a deep dive into the life and work of Jonathan Fisher, a 19th century Maine minister and jack of all trades. Klein’s historical research, recounting of Fisher’s life, and exploration of life in “frontier” Maine is well worth the read for even non-woodworkers.  For the woodworkers, Klein provides an extensive catalogue of Fisher’s tools and finished pieces.  The catalogue features photos and descriptions of the pieces, as well as reports regarding how they were constructed.

Craft Distilling: Making Liquor Legally at Home – Victoria Redhed Miller – 2016
Quick read about the process of distilling your own spirits, including a discussion of laws surrounding operation of any distillery in the United States.

Early American Country Homes: A Return to Simpler Living – Tim Tanner – 2011
As part of my research/design phase for a new fireplace surround and mantle, I’ve started to read through a number of books regarding period appropriate design. This is a generally light read that looks at a number of early American (generally pre-1890s) homes, with brief descriptions of restoration and accompanying photographs. A large number of the features homes were restored, in part, by one craftsman, and at times the photo captions read like an advertisement for that person.

Craftsman Homes: Architecture and Furnishings of the American Arts and Crafts MovementGustav Stickley – 1909

Stickley’s Craftsman HomesRay Stubblebine – 2006

Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Homes and BungalowsGustav Stickley – 2009

Taunton’s Wiring Complete, Third EditionMichael McAlister & Michael Litchfield – 2017