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.
The Way of Zen – Alan Watts – 1957
Kitchen Think: A Guide to design and construction, from refurbishing to renovation – Nancy Hiller – 2020
A Guide for the Perplexed – E.F. Schumacher – 1977
The Essential Woodworker – Robert Wearing – 1988
Honest Labour: The Charles H. Hayward Years – Charles Hayward – 2020
Bashō’s Haiku: Selected Poems of Matsuo Bashō – Matsuo Bashō – 2004
The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire – William 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 Workbench – Christopher 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 Writings – Matsuo 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 Notebook – James Krenov – 1976
Slow Food Nation – Carlo Petrini – 2005
The Shaker Legacy: Perspectives on an Enduring Furniture Style – Christian Becksvoort – 2005
In the Craftsman Style: Building Furniture Inspired By The Arts & Crafts Tradition – Fine Woodworking Magzine – 2001
To Have or To Be – Erich 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 Living – Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow – 2015
Small is Beautiful – E.F. Schumacher – 1973
52 Boxes in 52 Weeks – Matt 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 Chairs – John Brown – 1990
Tiamat’s Wrath – James S.A. Corey – 2019
Tools for Conviviality – Ivan Illich – 1973
The Abundance of Less: Lessons in Simple Living From Rural Japan – Andy Couturier – 2017
A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind – Shoukei Matsumoto – 2011
The Joiner and the Cabinet Maker – Anon, 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 Craftsmanship – Christian 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 Movement – Gustav Stickley – 1909
Stickley’s Craftsman Homes – Ray Stubblebine – 2006
Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Homes and Bungalows – Gustav Stickley – 2009
Taunton’s Wiring Complete, Third Edition – Michael McAlister & Michael Litchfield – 2017