Anyone Can Crochet!

Here’s something you might not know about me: I know how to crochet! I’m not the most skilled or professional by any means, but I like making something concrete with my hands, especially to give as a gift. If you always wanted to learn to crochet but just can’t get the hang of it, here are some resources you might try to get started.

First, get a handle on the basics with Complete Crochet Course : the Ultimate Reference Guide by Shannon and Jason Mullett-Bowlsby. This reference work has something to offer all skill levels, and has lots of step-by-step photography to give a full visual experience. You could also take a chic approach with Modern Crochet: Patterns and Designs for the Minimalist Maker by Teresa Carter.

  Now, I don’t know about you, but slogging through a long scarf or a giant afghan is not always the way I want to craft. If you’d like to follow my path into the crochet world, you might like Amigurume Eats : Make Cute Scented Crochet Foods by Allison Hoffman. Amigurumi is a Japanese-inspired style of crochet which creates miniature crochet dolls, food items, animals, and much more, all with a very cute aesthetic. You can also add some whimsy to your projects with Creative Crochet Projects by Stephanie Pokorny. This newer title offers projects of gradually increasing difficulty and a lot of playfulness, from hats and scarves to toys and more!

 If you’re hoping crochet will help you relax and be present, you might like Making with Meaning by Jessica Carey. This title focuses on intention, making time for crafting, and letting repeating stitches create a mindful and free practice.

There are many more avenues to explore in the world of crocheting, including making various clothing items for a stylish crafted wardrobe, so don’t be afraid to keep exploring!

Let’s Talk by David Crystal

I live for well-written books that explain how the world works and/or give tips on how to build up or improve skills. My latest discovery in this genre is 2020’s Let’s Talk: How English Conversation Works by David Crystal. This slim, well-written volume breaks down the conventions and nuances of conversations in clear, simple language with lots of examples. Here’s how the publisher describes it:

Banter, chit-chat, gossip, natter, tete-a-tete: these are just a few of the terms for the varied ways in which we interact with one another through conversation. David Crystal explores the factors that motivate so many different kinds of talk and reveals the rules we use unconsciously, even in the most routine exchanges of everyday conversation. We tend to think of conversation as something spontaneous, instinctive, habitual. It has been described as an art, as a game, sometimes even as a battle. Whichever metaphor we use, most people are unaware of what the rules are, how they work, and how we can bend and break them when circumstances warrant it.

Crystal does very well at writing out and explaining the hidden, unwritten rules that underlie all our everyday interactions, leading to many ‘aha’ moments while reading that made me say “Wow, we really do do that!” His source materials and examples are particularly compelling, drawn from his 1970s recordings of authentic informal conversations as well as other modern examples. He also makes the text readable and interesting with relatively short chapters and engaging, well-written text. He tends to be academic, delving into the history of conversation in English and using some linguistics jargon (and he also writes his own take on a battle rap) but overall he shares relevant, useful, or interesting tidbits about how people talk to each other.

For me personally, as an English language and literature nerd, this book was fascinating and enlightening; I felt like an extraterrestrial anthropologist studying the communication habits of humanity (and the book’s British English was charming and familiar from my favorite UK shows)! This book would be good for other language or history nerds, social science enthusiasts, those for whom English isn’t their first language (though strong familiarity with the language is helpful), and anyone who enjoys talking to people and/or wants to have better conversations and relationships.

Friendshipping by Trin Garritano and Jenn Bane

Most people can agree that making friends as an adult is HARD. Finding time to meet up with people, not to mention knowing what to say when you do, often means a lot of loneliness and ghosting when it comes to adult friendships. If you’re like me, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can stop googling “how to make and keep friends” and just read this great new book: Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends. Written by Trin Garritano and Jenn Bane, the team behind the feel-good podcast of the same name, this is a practical guide to the confusing world of 21st century friendship.

My favorite thing about this book is its clear division into three sections (named in the full title): Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends. Each section features real-life tips and tricks for being the best friend you can be, along with specific questions submitted by their listeners. Full of empathy, their tips and tricks acknowledge that everyone is a little different, which means the tips will need to be customized, AND that making friends is a process, which requires patience. One of the keys to success, according to the authors, is to be kind to yourself through a practice called “metathinking”: listening to your thoughts and questioning whether or not they’re actually true. For example, if you find yourself thinking “I’m so annoying” or “This is going to go badly”, you’d challenge that thought and think carefully about where it’s coming from and what’s more likely to be an accurate statement.

One of the other unexpected gems in this book is the authors’ acknowledgment that sometimes we ARE the problem and need to make realistic changes. They provide tools for the reader to examine their behavior and habits to see if anything toxic or unhelpful is going on, and if the reader does come to the conclusion that their behavior is harming their friendships, the authors encourage them to seek therapy and other assistance. Warmth, inclusion, kindness, and yes, recommending therapy, are big themes in this book.

If you’re struggling with loneliness, want to do better at keeping up with people, are looking to make new friends, or feel like social awkwardness is really getting in your way, you might enjoy reading Friendshipping by Trin and Jenn. And if you love podcasts, check out all their new and archived episodes of the Friendshipping podcast on their website.

Checkmate: Queen’s Gambit Readalikes

Did you catch chess fever when The Queen’s Gambit came out on Netflix? If you did, you’re not alone! If not, it’s never too late to start! Here’s a few ways you can discover more of the amazing world of chess through books.

First up, read The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis to see where it all began. In this page-to-screen story, an orphaned girl finds skill and passion when she learns how to play chess. She enters tournaments and becomes a rising star in the game… but is the pressure too much?

Next, check out a few real-life versions of the story with All The Wrong Moves by Sasha Chapin and The Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers. Sasha Chapin’s memoir takes you behind the scenes of ultra-competitive chess matches all around the world, by turns highlighting his humiliating defeats and celebrating a beautiful game. In another famous page-to-screen story, The Queen of Katwe tells the story of a young girl from Uganda who, through the support of her community, becomes determined to follow her skill and become an international chess champion.

Then, try How To Become A Candidate Master by Alex Dunne to build your own skills. Based on real games, this book will help amateur chess players gradually build their skills through a series of matches, with the goal of eventually achieving master status. If you’re not yet looking to become a master, you could read How To Beat Your Kids At Chess, a guide specifically for adult beginners, or try a Great Course on How To Play Chess, good for players of all levels.

Finally, get philosophical with The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson. In this case, a real-life grandmaster demonstrates how the complexities and strategies of the game also contain lessons for living life, including about sustaining focus, making hard decisions, overcoming failure, and much more. Using chess, Rowson shows how to gain a new perspective and appreciate the meaning and beauty in life.

Whatever kind of chess fan you may be, rest assured there’s a book out there for you!