The weather has turned, which means we're all dusting ourselves off and figuring out what we want to do for our summer projects—oh, wait. Right. We have to do these projects at home. Well, you know what? We've been getting the feeling that many of our dear readers are starting to get a little scratchy around the ankles about sitting and reading. While we're not quite sure that we share this urge to fidget, we totally understand. And so, this week, we're going to veer off from our usual coverage.
For instance, we've got stacks of the Summer Brain Quest books. Good for kids of all ages (and grade levels). We know that the last thing your kids want is more activities that tickle their brains, but even they have to admit that their brains are growing. Why not keep that up? Once they develop a daily routine, you have to feed it. Much like that sourdough starter you've got tucked away in the corner of the kitchen.
Workman's Summer Brain Quest titles are jam-packed with activities and games and exercises that will prep your growing brains for their next educational adventure. Wherever it may take place.
And speaking of grand adventures in your mind, you've been playing a bit of Dungeons & Dragons, haven't you? You've got a lot of scraps of paper about the latest adventure you had with Knok-Throg the Misshapen and Lambent Earlyriser the Talkative Halfling Mage, don't you? Well, it's time to admit that this is more than a passing fancy and get yourself a proper D & D Journal.
And if you are going to venture outside (and you should!), take along the new Bird Watch edition of the Backpack Explorer. This hands-on field guide includes stickers, a helpful tool for making your own bird list, and a real magnifying glass! So you can, uh, be that weird peering at bird nests person.
The Backpack Explorer series also includes books for Beach Walking and Trail Exploring, in case you get tired of looking for birds.
Or, if you're in the mood for not going much farther than, say, your deck, how about Marc Thoma's Urban Gardening for Beginners. With tips for everything from chamomile to zucchini, Thoma finds ways to turn that square foot and a half of balcony space into a robust vegetable and herb garden. Though, we could do without the zucchini, but that's just us.
Invariably, you're going to end up with more green stuff than you know what to do with. That's when Diane Devereaux's Beginner's Guide to Canning comes in. Making your own stuff and putting it in jars is hip again, dear readers. Especially if you can figure out a way to pickle those spicy peppers in bourbon or something (which we have done, and hoo boy, those are tasty).
Oh, but you'll have to go to Edward Lee's fabulous Smoke & Pickles for that recipe.
Speaking of pickling, did you know there's a whole alchemy behind koji, the microbe that makes that very unique umami flavor that is found in soy? We didn't either, but apparently Jeremy Umansky and Rich Shih are the resident experts. Their book, Koji Alchemy, will teach you the secrets of Koji fermentation. It's science! It's alchemy! It's tasty.
And all this talk of pickling and alchemy and what-not makes us think of pirates, and so we're going to end this week's list with Steven Johnson's Enemy of All Mankind, which is a book about pirates. Well, mostly. It starts as a book about a very specific pirate—Englishman Henry Every—and it starts with Every's capture of a Grand Mughal treasure ship in 1695. From there, it wanders into geo-political ramifications, the ripple effect of singular actions, and the spread of imperialism. Who'da thunk it? One captain swipes some treasure, and all of a sudden, we're looking down the cannon barrel of the modern capitalist trend of devouring everything that isn't your own.
Every, by the way, was never captured, but that sort of turned out to be beside the point, in the end.
And so, remember: every little thing has consequences. We don't operate in vacuums. Take care of those near you. Soon we'll be able to link arms again and dance all the way to the horizon.