September 2011 Reads

Man, I didn’t get a whole lot read this month in terms of working through my color coded book stacks. Only one book from the stacks! But I read my history/sociology non-fiction book for the month and my reading/writing/editing book for the month, so I’m happy. I also spent a lot of time revisiting my favorite scrapbooking books this month to help me get back into the groove.

September 2011 Reads

Here are the books I read in September:

Great Transformation

The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions (2006) by Karen Armstrong

What you need to know: This textbook covers the beginnings and transformation of the major world religions through the Axel Age, from 1600 BCE to 220 BCE, plus an epilogue that brings the history into the current time.

I borrowed this from our friend Steve last fall, and I haven’t had enough brain cells to absorb this much information until now. This was the textbook from one of his religion classes in undergrad (he’s a genius grad school engineer now), and he passed it on to me because he knew I’d love it. I have to give this copy back to Steve, but I’m totally buying it for reference. (For the record- I did not read an entire textbook in a month. I was reading this well into October as well).

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I needed a clear head to read it; it’s a lot of information to take in. But it is amazing to trace the changes in philosophies and religious practices over time with the changes in human development. Each chapter is broken into four parts: one focusing on each of the major Axel Age peoples in China, Greece, India, and Jerusalem.

This was an introduction to this information for me, so I’m not really able to fully criticize the biases or limitations of this text. Armstrong did seem to have a strong detachment from the information, except when she was drawing her main points in the introduction and final chapter. All history texts, of course, are an argument: the author chooses which information to include and which to leave behind in order to strengthen their points and persuade the reader to their way of thinking. It is impossible to be objective when writing about history because of the vast amount of information out there. Armstrong obviously focused on what tied the major world religions together and made connections between their individual developments over the age. A book could probably just as easily be written on the differences of these religions.

I’d love to come back to this after I know more.

P.S. If you dislike religious history that is not written from a theological standpoint, then you may find this work offensive.

And now for a quote: “Centuries of institutional, political, and intellectual development have tended to obscure the importance of compassion in religion.”

damp squid

Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare
(2008) by Jeremy Butterfield

What you need to know: If you’re a wordie like I am, then you’ll absolutely love this.
This was my book on words/writing/editing for the month. This book focuses on the English language: where it came from, how it changes, how scholars keep track of it, and how dictionaries (more specifically, the Oxford English Dictionary) are created.

Sound dry? It’s totally not. The tone of the book is very conversational and often quite humorous. The layout of the book is also appealing and keeps the information separated and easy on the eyes.

I was excited to read this book because our friend Matt and I have an ongoing conversation about the benefits of colloquial language vs. academic/precise language and the merits of each. This book gave me some ammo on the colloquial side (yay!). (And yes, those are the kinds of things we generally discuss with our friends. Our blog name is well deserved).

And now for a quote: “Are dictionaries masters of meaning? Clearly not. First, because language is primarily a spoken not a written medium (think of how much you speak in a day, compared with what you write), and dictionaries mostly reflect written language… There is a Latin tag: ‘Spoken words fly, writing remains’ (verba volant, scripta manent). And as soon as they have passed our lips, spoken words fly away, while the written word remains for hundreds, even thousands, of years.

the secrets of a fire king

The Secrets of a Fire King: Stories (1997) by Kim Edwards

What you need to know: This is a book of short stories. Some of them are amazing, some of them not so much. Still worth reading cover to cover.

This was the only book that I got to from the stacks in September (I’m reading through all of our color-coded book stacks one color at a time).

The stories are incredibly varied. The characters range over many cultures, age ranges, and are of both genders. Edwards must have a deep understanding of human nature to make such a diverse character list believable. The stories focus on human matters, but have super interesting plot lines that take the back seat. You’ll meet circus performers, go skydiving, learn what it is like to be a mail-order bride, and swallow fire. That’s just a taste: you’ll go a lot of places in this book. Which is exciting, at least to me.

The placement order of the short stories is brilliant. For example: only one of the stories has a fantasy element; the rest of them are grounded in reality. However, one of the stories that takes place after the fantasy story seems to have a fantasy element but doesn’t. The placement of the fantasy story leads you into believeing the ridiculous false premise in the later story. Genious.

And now for a quote: “She’d pulled her knee in then, so that the silhouette of her leg looked briefly like a wing. Then she swung it down, and across his waist, until with one smooth movement she was straddled across him.”

Life Artist

Life Artist (2007) by Ali Edwards

What you need to know: If you only buy one book on scrapbooking in your life, let this be it.

Seriously. Because this book isn’t just about seeing great layouts and scrapliftable projects (though there’s plenty of that). It’s about a realistic scrapbooking philosophy that will help you keep to scrapbooking for the long hall. It’s about making your work really reflect you life. It’s about letting go of your fears of imperfections and just going for it.  It’s about keeping it fun.

Another great thing about this book is it’s all Ali. Most scrapbooking books consist of several contributors so you can see varied styles. While that is generally awesome, I love that this one is packed full of 100% layouts that I love. If you like her work, you know you’re going to like everything in here.

And now for a quote: “This is the heart of scrapbooking for me: capturing everyday photos and everyday stories. This is what I want to document. This is what I want to celebrate. This is what I want to remember.”

Sharing Your Story

Sharing Your Story: Recording Life’s Details with Mini Books (2008) by Ali Edwards

What you need to know: If you are a mini scrapbook lover or are interested in testing the waters, you’re gonna love it.

It’s no secret that I love mini books. I make them almost as often (if not more) than I do traditional 12×12 layouts.

I love that this book is both technique and subject oriented. It will give you so many ideas not only for how to put minis together (there’s even a section about different types of minis and bindings in the back), but it also shows the kind of stuff that fits great into a little album. This book got me to expand my mini making from just vacation albums to so much more – baby books, my reads, concerts I’ve gone to, relationships, seasons, etc.

This one has several different contributors. I really liked the “just Ali” aspect of Life Artist (above), but this book really focuses on the variety of things you can do with minis. And for that, multiple contributors are a must. In addition to Ali Edwards, there’s also work from scrapbookers like Mou Saha, Emily Falconbridge, Maggie Holmes, and Amanda Probst. All amazing.

And now for a quote: “One of my favorite things about minis is that they tend to fit within your own two hands. They feel alive.”

Typography

Get Creative with Type: Fun Typography Ideas and Tips for Scrapbooking (2009) by Brian Tippetts

What you need to know: Cool book for scrapbookers that want to improve their type skills (helpful to bloggers too).

I have hundreds of fonts on my computer. Seriously. And I still end up consulting Jake 75% of the time when I’m deciding which one to use. I don’t have the natural type design gene – I can tell when something is off, but I can’t tell what to do to make the type “feel” right.

My favorite part of the book talks about the anatomy of type, the different types of typefaces, and how to increase type readability. This has been super useful to me not just for scrapbooking, but for the blog as well.

The book also teaches you how to create a visual type hierarchy, how to best mix and match typefaces, how to increase readability, and techniques like curving text. I also love that this book has some pages with type multiple ways to demonstrate just how important choosing the right type is.

Oh, and did I mention that the example pages are amazing? Even if you aren’t paying too much attention to the type, the layouts make the book worth it on their own. Contributors include some of my favorite scrapbookers: Elizabeth Kartchner, Ali Edwards, Heidi Swapp, Kelly Perkey, and Mou Saha (just to name a few).

Bonus: There’s a CD with free fonts and other cool goodies.

And now for a quote: “When choosing typefaces, keep in mind that some styles will look dated in a few years- and that’s okay. It’s one more marker to indicate where you are right now.”

We Dare You

We Dare You: Scrapbook Challenges About Real Life (2007) by Kristina Contes, Meghan Heath Dymock, Genevieve Simmonds, and Nisa Finn

What you need to know: If you’re ready to take your scrapbooking to the next level, take the dare.

I love scrapbooking challenges. They get ideas flowing and get me to look at my life or my techniques in a new way. Because of challenges, some stories in my scrapbooks get told that I never would have thought to tell.

I love this book because it pushes you to scrap beyond the best moments and happy events. Scrap some of the bad memories, some of the imperfect photos, some of the things about yourself that your family would love to know in the future. There are also technique driven challenges, which are super fun as well. Often times a new technique can inspire a whole page for me.

I’ve done most of the challenges from this book, but I’m tempted to go through and do them again. After all, my takes will be completely different now.

*Need more dares? Check out the Dare Website.

And now for a quote: “We are aritists. Anyone who is willing to go a little deeper, get real, get a little messy, and be inspired will enjoy the challenges we offer.”

52 Scrapbooking Challenges

52 Scrapbooking Challenges (2006) by Elsie Flannigan

What you need to know: Awesome book if you’re in a design rut.

Elise Flannigan (now Elsie Larson) is one of my favorite scrapbookers. I love her messy, handmade approach to the craft.

The challenges in this one are pretty much all technique driven (as opposed to technique and story driven, like in We Dare You above). I like the format of this, because you can totally try to do one of these challenges a week for a year and at the end you’ll have grown so so much (yup, I did this whole book too. Time to start over again?)

Though most of the layouts in this seem dated now (the price, I’ve realized of having a non-classic style), there are still tons of awesome ideas in here from multiple awesome contributors.

And now for a quote: “I work best when I’m challenged. I sometimes dare myself to find a new use for an old product or to find a way to incorporate a clothing style I love onto a layout. This gets my creativity flowing and my brain searching for new possibilities.”

52 More Scrapbooking Challenges

52 More Scrapbooking Challenges (Creating Keepsakes) (2009) by Elizabeth Kartchner

What you need to know: This is my all-time favorite challenge book.

And obviously, I dig the challenge books. So that means that this is amazing.

I think it’s because most of the challenges are completely new to me. Almost every challenge book I’ve read has something like “use ribbon creatively”. I would have tried to use ribbon creatively even if I’d never taken the challenge… but “Format your journaling as a Mad Lib” (one of the challenges from this book) I probably never would have considered. The challenges in this book are a little more creative in themselves.

Besides, Elizabeth Kartchner is tied with Ali Edwards as my favorite scrapbooker, so getting to see tons of pages by her (and contributors) is awesome and inspiring.

And now for a quote: “If you’re a scrapbooker, you’re creative- period. You may not always feel it. I certainly don’t. But I truly believe that if we nurture our imaginations and learn how to discover and utilize inspiration, the sky’s the limit!”

September 2011 Reads

Those are my September Reads! Have you read any of these? What did you think? What have you been reading lately?

***Tag in the first photo from The Lily Pad Wicket Smart Kit by Karah Fredricks.