12 Books for Living Large at Home

Bored, restless, tired of streaming? Try a new activity, recipe, gardening idea, or delve into the curious histories of everyday items in your home—these titles spark engagement in our current lifestyles during Covid-19.
The author Isabelle Palmer, a Black woman wearing her hair in a French braided up-do, wears a light denim button-up blouse with the sleeves rolled up, dark denim jeans, and leopard print flats. She leans over, tending flowering flowering potted plants.
In #6 on our list, Modern Container Gardening (Hardie Grant 2020), Isabelle Palmer offers simple projects that will transform your tiny balcony or patio into a gardener’s showcase.

Looking for something new to do or to inspire you these days? We have you covered. The Flower editors share 12 new books that will nurture your passion for a new hobby, transform the mundane, up your gardening game, or put the joy back in cooking.

1 | The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible

We have all been spending more time outside than perhaps ever before, which may make you curious about the fauna that visit our outdoor spaces. The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible (Abrams 2020) helps us identify those visitors that chirp and charm us in our quest for fresh air and nature’s balm.

book cover
Using the photos and references in The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible, you can identify a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker adult male and many other species with ease. Photo © Brian E. Small Nature

2 | One Color a Day

If you are looking for a fresh way to express your feelings (and what better time) beyond the standard journal, consider using watercolors to mark the days. In One Color a Day: A Daily Art Practice and Visual Diary by Courtney Cerruti (Abrams Noterie 2020), the creative guides us through a meditative and simple way to visually document each day with a little technical advice about painting with watercolor.

Take five minutes a day to explore the expressive possibilities of a single watercolor dot in One Color a Day.

3 | House of Print

Love the look of block printing but not sure you could do it yourself? House of Print: A Modern Block Printer’s Take on Design, Colour and Pattern (Pavilion New York 2020) is a love letter to the art. Author Molly Mahon takes us on a guided tour of India’s bustling printing studios and then back home where she teaches how to capture the beauty for yourself by providing step-by-step instruction.

book cover (left) and portrait of the author at work making block prints at home
Molly Mahon (right) practices her craft. Click arrows above to see more from House of Print. Photography by Kristin Perers

Colorful block-printed textiles hanging in a studio (left); a blue and white floral block-printed throw pillow against a background of a vibrant yellow and while printed textile
Photography by Kristin Perers

4 | The Elements of a Home

With so many extra hours spent at home, maybe you have become curious about things you use every day like the duvet cover you cozy under to watch Netflix or the chopsticks you use for your Chinese takeout obsession. Question no longer! In ​The Elements of a Home: Curious Histories Behind Everyday Household Objects, from Pillows to Forks (Chronicle Books 2020), design historian Amy Azzarito sheds light on the secret histories of 63 household objects and pairings. You’ll never take the everyday for granted again!

Book cover The Elements of a Home: Curious Histories Behind Everyday Household Objects, from Pillows to Forks, with author photo
Amy Azzarito uncovers the forgotten museum hiding right under our noses in The Elements of a Home.

5 | How to Grow Your Dinner

“Nasturtiums, violas, and calendula (marigolds) are easy to grow and … can be sprinkled over a salad, used to decorate cakes, or frozen into ice cubes to adorn summer cocktails.” — Claire Ratinon from How to Grow Your Dinner
Photography by Ida Riveros, Rita Platts, and Claire Ratinon

How to Grow Your Dinner Without Leaving the House by Claire Ratinon (Laurence King 2020) may sound like an ambitious undertaking, but it’s not because you can grow tasty things even with limited space. From selecting what you would like to grow to space planning, gathering the right tools, and sowing and growing successfully, this organic food grower will show you the way. Especially during a pandemic, how wonderful to reduce your need to go to the grocery! Happy planting.

Urban food farmer, educator, and author Claire Ratinon grows produce for the London restaurant Rovi. Photography by Ida Riveros, Rita Platts, and Claire Ratinon

6 | Modern Container Gardening

When your green-thumbed endeavors are confined to a balcony or tiny terrace, you can still create a stylish home garden with the 25 fresh and approachable projects in Modern Container Gardening by Isabelle Palmer (Hardie Grant 2020). We appreciate that Isabelle gives us the time frames for each project so you can decide how ambitious you are feeling. It’s an ideal book for the novice. Joyful and unexpected combinations await your exploration!

Isabelle Palmer, author of Modern Container Gardening, also founded The Balcony Gardener, a UK-based city garden design firm.

7 | The Little Book of Bonsai

Think of a bonsai tree as a new member of your family that needs caring for, but won’t talk back! Learn how to tend to these miniature, sculptural trees in the Japanese tradition with The Little Book of Bonsai by award-winning expert Jonas Dupuich (Ten Speed Press 2020).

Little Book of Bonsai cover and author photo
Jonas Dupuich packs his bonsai wisdom into a pint-sized volume. Click arrows above to see more from The Little Book of Bonsai. Photography by David Fenton © 2020

fruited bonsai tree in a bright blue container
Princess persimmon bonsai. Photography by David Fenton © 2020

8 | Good Drinks

Find yourself heading to the bar cart or liquor cabinet or scrounging in the drawer for your corkscrew a little more often than before Covid-19? We offer alternatives! Good Drinks by Julia Bainbridge (Ten Speed Press 2020) shares a plethora of nonalcoholic options to fuel your senses anytime of the day. These are no Shirley Temples, but sophisticated libations befitting the author’s background as a former editor at Bon Appétit magazine. We love how each recipe is rated by a commitment level from one to four, so you can judge how much energy you want to put into each delicious sip.

the book cover features a fancy cocktail silhouetted on a black background; the photo on the right features three fancy, colorful nonalcoholic cocktails on an elegant modern tray
Mix up (tee)total joy with Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason. Photography by Alex Lau © 2020

9 | Pie for Everyone

If you love baking, but are feeling your repertoire has run its course, this title will reignite your creativity and passion. In Pie for Everyone (Abrams 2020), Petra “Petee” Paredez, the owner of New York’s beloved pie emporium Petee’s Pie, tells you everything you need to know about creating sweet and savory concoctions from the crust up so to speak. A great book for beginners or skilled bakers, you will be inspired and instructed and perhaps a bit hungry!

Raised in the pie business, Petra “Petee” Paredez has a lifetime of pie-baking knowledge to share. Click arrows above to see more from Pie for Everyone. Photography by Victor Garzon

Berry Dream Pie. Photography by Victor Garzon
Clockwise from top: Chocolate Cream Pie, Key Lime Meringue Pie, and Lemon Meringue Pie topped with Lemon Poppy Seed Meringue. Photography by Victor Garzon

10 | 100 Cookies

In 100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen (Chronicle Books 2020), Sarah Kieffer takes us on a mouthwatering journey of delectable sweets. In addition to cookies, she includes brownies, bars, and “novel treats.” The close-up photography adds to the book’s appeal—you feel like you can taste the goodies, well almost.

Chocolate Chip Pan-Banging Cookies (right) use an old baker's trick to produce a divine combination of textures. Click arrows above to see more from 100 Cookies.
Rocky Road Brownies

Holiday gift idea: cookie boxes for everyone!

11 | Good for You

Maybe you have been going for the comfort carb fix on a more than regular basis or, conversely, you’ve been downright Spartan in your eating for fear of packing on the Covid-19 ten, 15, or more pounds. There are solutions for both dilemmas. In Good for You: Bold Flavors with Benefits (Chronicle Books 2020), award-winning chef Akhtar Nawab offers vegetarian and vegan recipes filled with innovative and intensely tasty flavors with international flair and a clear goal of making you more healthful. Think beyond tofu—way beyond.

An Indian chef from Kentucky, Akhtar Nawab blends healthful, flavorful cooking traditions from many cultures. Click arrows above to see more from Good for You. Photography by Antonis Achilleos


Poblano Shakshuka Eggs with Tomatoes, Cumin, and Harissa. Photography by Antonis Achilleos


My Mexican Marinade (left) and Chicken Tinga. Photography by Antonis Achilleos


12 | Big Love Cooking

Have you been staring at the jar of pasta sauce in your cupboard and wishing you had an Italian grandmother to whip you up some homemade dishes? In Big Love Cooking by Joey Campanaro (Chronicle Books 2020), the chef and owner of The Little Owl restaurant in New York takes us back to his South Philadelphia childhood. He learned his craft from his grandmother and mother by watching them hovering over the stove nursing a bubbling pot of pasta sauce, the smell of garlic filling the house. Joey shares 75 recipes with hearty shareable portions. He also spills some special ingredients he uses to up the flavor factor. The personal reflections are a joy to read as well.

Italian Wedding Soup (right) is celebration worthy. Click arrows above to see more from Big Love Cooking. Photography by Con Poulos


Chef Campanaro and the Little Owl Bacon Cheeseburger. Photography by Con Poulos


The Little Owl restaurant in NYC (photography by Con Poulos), and the author's Italian grandmother Rosie Bova holding his newborn mother, Patricia. 


By Alice Welsh Doyle

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