Summer Reads: Wallingford and Ballard readers offer suggestions

How do you find what to read next? Most of us count on personal recommendations from friends and neighbors (and, of course, librarians!). As part of the Adult Summer Reading Program, readers throughout Seattle are writing super short “reviews” of what they’ve been reading.

Readers in Wallingford recommend:

The Sanctuary Sparrow by Ellis Peters
A Brother Cadfael mystery set in 12th century England. A Welsh monk helps unravel the mystery behind a wealthy goldsmith’s murder and protects an innocent juggler accused of the crbook cover for The Miracle At Speedy Motorsime.

The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith
Another title in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series; I appreciate the quiet writing style, the contemplative nature of Mma Precious Ramotswe and a glimpse into the culture of Botswana.

Pushing up Daisies: A Dirty Business Mystery by Rosemary Harris
A delightful mystery by a master gardener who knows her stuff. I hope she’ll continue and make this a series!

Lost Horizon by James Hilton
This book inspired me so much. It’s a forgotten classic about the promise of Shangri-La. Beautiful, thought provoking, and a real page-turner at the same time.

And what are people reading in Ballard? Continue reading “Summer Reads: Wallingford and Ballard readers offer suggestions”


In 1917, the West Seattle Branch of the Seattle Public Library had a Knitting Club, to help in the War effort. Girls would meet once per week, and while one of their members read out loud, they would knit socks and ambulance pillows out of sturdy wool. A Red Cross volunteer handed out the yarn, and shipped the finished articles to Europe for World War I soldiers.  If someone did not know how to ‘turn the heel’ of the sock, perhaps they had a book of instructions nearby, such as Longman’s Complete Course of Needlework, Knitting and Cutting-out by T. M. James, published in 1901. Ninety years later, sock knitting has become a much less common skill, but in the last 5 years, a renaissance in knitting has caused an explosion of new books, from instructional how-tos to fiction!
The socks those girls knitted for solders were probably black, but More Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch is full of wildly colorful designs, Continue reading “Knitting”

After a bike ride, read a book about bicycles

Bicycles are magical.  Learning to ride one is a rite of passage. The bicycle wobbles between the thighs – yet stays upright. Suddenly, the world extends from the yard to the block, from the neighborhood to the city, and beyond.

This skill, once mastered, becomes intimately connected to memory, to knowledge.  It’s like riding a bicycle, we say to each other in our more difficult moments, bolstering ourselves against a lifetime of uncertainty. Once we learn, we never forget.  Part human, part machine, on a bicycle we become a cyborg.  Hunched forward, heads raised, we mimic the animals.  Riding a bicycle is at once futuristic and also primordial: it’s magical.

When I’m not bicycling, I like to read about bicycling. Paul Fournel’s excellent and compact Need for the Bike is a perfect ode on the subject.  Originally written in French, this book provides a new vocabulary, a new cast of characters.

When a faster cyclist passes us, washing us in his or her wake, the French call it “catching cold.”  Those of us who ride fixed-gear bicycles are “squirrels.” When we hit the wall, bonk, become drained of energy, the French say we’ve “met the man with the hammer.”  This man can strike at any time, and every cyclist knows him.  When our bodies begin to fail, we become “wool eaters” (racers used to wear wool jerseys) or “wheel suckers,” and we “pedal squares.”

For a technical treatise, there is no better book than Continue reading “After a bike ride, read a book about bicycles”

The Decoration of Houses

Here are some interesting books about interior design, plus some about unusual buildings:

The Elements of Style: an Encyclopedia of Domestic Architectural Detail (edited by Stephen Calloway)
For anyone who wants to restore their historic house, or for anyone interested in the history of house styles, this beautiful book is a goldmine of information and illustration. Each chapter covers one architectural style or period in the U.S. or Britain, ranging from Tudor in the Fifteenth Century to the present, providing a guide to the features of every part of a building: doors, windows, walls, ceilings, Continue reading “The Decoration of Houses”

Buildings and Cities

The Seattle Public Library has a large and varied collection of books about architecture and city planning. Here are a few that I find interesting and useful. I hope you enjoy them too.

Death & Life of Great American CitiesThe Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs’ classic ground-breaking attack on the planning of American cities, published in 1961, is still widely read, and has great relevance for us today. What, she asked, makes cities and city neighborhoods work, and what makes them die? What can planners do to save our great cities? She presented what were at that time completely new principles of city planning, including dense population and diversity of uses, principles which are coming into favor today. She writes with passion as a city dweller; this is an exciting book.

 The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: a Complete Catalog by William Allin Storrer
Among the many books available on Frank Lloyd Wright, this is the only Continue reading “Buildings and Cities”