Books In Brief // Home

August 17, 2008|By Newsday

Homemade Contrivances And How to Make Them: 1001 Labor-Saving Devices for Farm, Garden, Dairy, and Workshop Skyhorse Publishing / 640 pages / $14.95

If you feel the need to learn how to reinforce a stone wall, press hay, make a device to clean a horse's hooves or build a dam for a pond, this book is a great starting point. This is an updated version of a book first published in 1897 and retains much of the old-fashioned language, with all its plain-spoken charm. The book reminds us of just how much work a preindustrial farm requires while giving us information on contraptions we can build if we're so inclined. You may not want to know how to use hogs to convert straw into manure for fertilizer, but the advice on building a trellis for tomatoes is useful and timeless. The book makes for wonderful reading with its insight into our agricultural past.

Casa San Miguel Inspired Design and Decoration by Annie Kelly and Tim Street-Porter Rizzoli / 240 pages / $55

Seventeen colorful and stylish homes of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, are on view in this book, which features more than 250 photos. The tour of the historic town, home to many artisans as well as American expatriates, runs the range from old villas to contemporary townhouses. Readers get a look at statuary, brightly painted walls, courtyards, gardens, roofs, rustic architectural gems and a lot more. The photos of sunlit, colorful homes against bright blue skies are stunningly beautiful.

Dr. Johnson's Doorknob And Other Significant Parts of Great Men's Houses by Liz Workman Rizzoli International Publications / 208 pages / $25

Washington Irving's desk, Sir Winston Churchill's banisters and Charles Darwin's bookshelves are among the many household items shown in close-up detail. A peek at Thomas Jefferson's books may well shed some light on his intellect and interest; a look at Samuel Morse's skirting board, less so but still interesting. We get a look at what these men saw in their day-to-day lives and some items that added style to their homes: Mirrors, doorknobs, crockery, beds and chairs are among the items shown in this book.

American Foreclosure Everything You Need to Know about Preventing and Buying by Trevor Rhodes McGraw Hill / 348 pages / $25.95

This book examines foreclosures from the perspective of the homeowner and a buyer by providing extensive details on state-by-state forms and legal procedures. The author is not only a real estate professional; he says he lost his first home to foreclosure and so knows the pain of losing a property. His main topics are preventing foreclosure and avoiding schemes; discovering financial options and risks; understanding the foreclosure process; communicating and negotiating with lenders; and finding and buying foreclosed properties. The book is accompanied by a CD that includes forms, resources, property listings and other materials.

Small Strawbale Natural Homes, Projects and Designs by Bill Steen, Athena Swentzell Steen and Wayne J. Bingham Gibbs Smith / 240 pages / $29.95

A number of builders are turning to straw for its insulation and sturdy qualities, as well as its environmental value, this book says. With loads of photos, floor plans and sketches, the authors show us how to put together sheds, small studios, cottages, outdoor walls and fences using straw as both foundation and wall structures or pure insulation, reducing the volume of wasted resources and chemically treated material. Bales of straw are frequently, though not always, plastered by clay or other material. Step-by-step instructions guide would-be builders through the process. The book is both a practical guide and an explanation of environmental thinking.

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