Vicki Robin transformed our relationship with money in her bestseller Your Money or Your Life, and now she’s set to do likewise regarding our relationship with food. Don’t be misled into thinking her new book belongs in the religion section, though, because Blessing the Hands That Feed Us is all about food systems: how they work, how they don’t and how they can be healed. The subtitle is more descriptive: What Eating Closer to Home Can Teach Us About Food, Community, and Our Place on Earth. Call it what you may—“locavorism,” food justice, agricultural literacy or the phrase Robin seems to have coined, “relational eating”—the movements to eat locally, sustainably, and to know where food comes from are all gaining ground. Much of the book chronicles Robin’s personal challenge: For a month, she limited herself to food she was able to source from within a 10-mile radius of her home. Her struggles and story grow naturally into a “global manifesto” that urges us all to reshape our lives and the health of our planet.
In The Trickster’s Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity, author and artist Nick Bantock plays master (as he should, what with his Griffin & Sabine trilogy staying on the bestseller list for so long) to you, the apprentice. Your task is to coax “a better understanding of your artistic core,” and to gather all—even the most peripheral—“sensory experiences” into usable focus. Such a goal has many paths, and apparently, the more circuitous, the better. Bantock offers 49 “mischievous” exercises to help writers and artists of all sorts “unearth the roots of creativity.” Most prompts require simple materials already at hand: a pen and notebook, a voice recorder, paper and glue, and so on. Look at #46: Painting Without Brushes, which is meant to liberate us from the control a paintbrush usually offers. Instead, we paint for a specified time using dry ends of vegetables, “hairy string” and a feather. Each activity helps us “relearn the art of play” and eventually teaches us we are our own best guides. The stage above apprentice is called “journeyman.” That sounds just right, considering all the places you’ll go in this workshop of a book.
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In How to Build a Hovercraft: Air Cannons, Magnet Motors, and 25 Other Amazing DIY Science Projects, Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe declare that “you’re never too old to be the coolest kid on the block.” The authors should know: They’re the guys behind the incredible Coke-and-Mentos videos (Google them) that inspired the rest of us to run to the grocery store and make our own (smaller, but still fantastic) backyard geysers. They specialize in transforming everyday materials and objects into extraordinary fun—all of it based solidly in science. Nerd-tastic projects are divided into three levels of difficulty, which means even young beginners can geek out with quick tricks and illusions. Crank it up with an Air Vortex Cannon made out of a trash can and a shower curtain liner, or the titular hovercraft, which comes in three sizes, from tabletop balloon to driveway leaf blower. Some experiments require adult help, what with the addition of power tools and/or fire, but some, like the Sticky Note Slinky, are as safe as they are spectacular.