Books I've Read Lately: Mid-October 2009 Edition

September and October have been really slow months for reading. I thought would be able to read more, what with the girls being in school, but it really seems like school generates more hours of work than it relieves. Also, and I cringe to admit it, I think I have been Twittering when I used to read. Those little bursts of reading I used to do, when brushing my teeth, or between chores, or (it's true) while on the can, are now spent on Twitter. I didn't think it would make that much difference, but the fact is I get through most of my reading three or four or five minutes at a time. I've been making a conscious effort to read more and Twit less since I realized the extent of the problem.

This is what I did manage to read:

I picked up Ideas and Details: A Guide to Writing for Canadians by M. Garret Bauman and Clifford Werier on a trawl through the library one day. This book is mainly about writing academic papers, but it seems to me the techniques in it apply to any kind of writing. It's a thinish book, only around 290 pages, but it covers an astonishing amount of material: how to get ideas, how to build paragraphs, how to create a thesis and outline, how to write a draft and revise it, writing style, word choice, writing descriptions, writing narrative, informative, and persuasive writing, how to do research and keep notes, and yet more. Everything is explained clearly with plenty of interesting examples and lots and lots of exercises and discussion questions. This would be a fantastic textbook for a writing class, but it's also a handy and rich reference book.

Slob proof! Real-Life Design Solutions by Debbie Weiner I don't like to clean, but I like my house to be clean. Or at least appear that way. This book leapt off the shelf at me—it's so seldom that you get a decorator who admits that not everyone wants to spend their life sponging down white walls or polishing sticky fingerprints off kid-height mirrors. I have read more than one magazine article which recommends white slipcovers for a house with kids because "you can just bleach them once a week!" Sure you could—but would you want to?

Debbie Weiner knows you don't want to, and this book is packed with specific recommendations for upholstery, flooring, and furniture styles which don't show marks, are easy to clean (if you ever have a chance) and will take years of abuse from your kids, your kids' friends, your friends' kids and your big hairy dog. She also has ideas about robust lighting, window coverings, rugs, and paint colours.

This is a fantastically useful book with great ideas, but I have to admit I am conflicted about slob-proof decorating. I love white. I love shades of white and grey and beige all together in one peaceful wash of foggy whiteness. (I am so not my mother's daughter: her living room is rain-slicker yellow.) I also love bright, crisp white with splashes of sparkling colour: bright azure or sunshiney yellow or vivid orange or acid green. I don't like a room that is heavy with dark, saturated colour: chocolate brown or wine red or navy blue. So somehow I have to figure out a way to get the white I love while using the darker, brighter colours on the areas which get the most abuse or are the hardest to clean.

The one thing missing from this book is advice on creating a slob-proof kitchen or bathroom. My in-laws' experience with engineered wood has proven that if you want a sturdy kitchen you need to choose materials carefully, and my experience with graceful (curvy, impossible to clean) faucets and a clawfoot tub (how are you supposed to clean behind that?) have show that choice of fixtures can make the difference between a cleanable bathroom and one that reduces you to tears. Some of the advice in the book is applicable to kitchens and bathrooms (Marmoleum!) but it would have been nice to have a section addressing those areas specifically.

Out of time for today. Stay tuned...


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