Sunday, June 14, 2009

Niche Reading

Another late post for Booking Through Thursday -- maybe someday I will get the hang of this. This week's theme was "niche" reading:

There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.) But then there are books that only YOU read. Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect souffle. Rebuilding car engines in three easy steps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring your house without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that. What niche books do YOU read?

This one is a double dipper for me. There are two types of books that I love to collect and read that are off the beaten track compared to my usual literary fiction. The first type is vintage cocktail books. I also like modern books about vintage cocktails, but my favorites are the old books: The Mixer's Manual by Patrick Gavin Duffy (this has a great cover, although it is hard to see in this picture) Trader Vic's Bartender Guide (1948 edition) (mine is missing its cover, so not interesting to look at) Esquire's Handbook for Hosts (1949 edition) Esquire Party Book (1965 edition) These books inspire me. The second type of niche book I enjoy is needlepoint books -- the fancy kind with glossy pictures. I have only made one pillow out of these books in 20 years, but I love looking at them and have a fantasy that I will make all the projects I bookmark. At one pillow every 20 years, I'll have to live to be 680 to finish them all. My favorites are: Beth Russell's Traditional Needlepoint Beth Russell's William Morris Needlepoint And for sheer entertainment value: Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men


  1. Vintage cocktail books? Very nice!

  2. I. Am. So. Jealous. Of. The. Cocktail. Books. You even have Trader Vic's? How did I not know this? And Rosie Greer? You have the Rosie Greer book? How did I not know this? And where, praytell, can I get that book about building a NASCAR course in my backyard?

  3. I love the Trader Vic's books -- such incredible time capsules. I have the 1946 "Trader Vic's Book of Food and Drinks"; it has some food but is (thankfully) pretty drink-heavy. And they sure knew how to drink right after the war! It has not only its cover but also its slip cover, which is in decent shape. I paid four bucks for it; the original price was $6.50.

    I also love Mary and Vincent Price's "Treasury of Great Recipes," which whisks you to great restaurants around the world in the 1950s and 60s, and is excellent on wines of the time. And "Cheddar Gorge: A Book of English Cheeses," a rather arch guide edited by Sir John Squire in 1938; the best part is the illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard, who also illustrated the Winnie-the-Pooh books and an acclaimed edition of The Wind in the Willows.
    Waverley Root's pseudo-encyclodedia "Food" is one I dip into every few months; and I am smitten by A.J. Liebling's accounts of drinking and eating his way through Paris in the 1920s and 30s. Of course M.F.K. Fisher is terrific, but Liebling has more gusto.
    And you might remember the one Lasura got me, "The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places,," a guide to road houses across America published by the Ford Motor Company in 1955 and dedicated to the Ford and Lincoln-Mercury Dealers of the United States. Back when the car was king, with no apologies and no regrets ...

  4. Oh, Bob -- I am slavering! I didn't even mention the vintage cookbooks, which I love, read, and still cook from. I have a 1970s-ish Trader Vic's Mexican cookbook that I just found and haven't even cracked yet. Can't wait. Love Liebling. Try to imitate M.F.K. Have Waverley Root waiting on my shelf.

    But CHEDDAR GORGE????? I*L*L*U*S*T*R*A*T*E*D???????? Keep your doors locked, is all I can say.

  5. Did you possibly hit a nerve with Bob? Oh, but you were talking about cocktails, weren't you? Did you say "slavering?" That's, like, possibly my favorite word in forever.

  6. Man, if life was only like it is in those cocktail books! Love 'em.

    Continuing the fantasy . . . I have a slew of needlepoint books, too. I remember seeing Rosey Grier on Merv Griffin (?) showing off his handiwork. (But I haven't finished a pillow in years!)

    Am surprised you didn't mention Kaffe Fassett's designs. He is a color genius.


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