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Books for making things

Three books to reclaim the magic of creating with your own hands.

National Reading Movement (@readingnationSG)

Published: 9 April 2021, 1:10 PM

Most of us have forgotten what it feels like to create something with our own hands. 

We lost touch with the tactile, creative experiences of our childhood – when we were unafraid of getting our hands dirty as we scribbled freely and created imaginary worlds out of building blocks and cardboard, unbothered by whether it was worth the time and effort or not. 

In this fast-paced world that is all about instant gratification, there is a quiet, meditative power in slowing down to make something on our own. We spend so much time in our heads that when we allow ourselves to be with our physical experience – whether it is in cooking a dish or hand-making a gift – it centres us and reminds of our ability to create. 

Here are three books that will help you lean into that very human urge to create. Remember, the goal is not to create something worthy of an award. Rather, it is to rediscover the satisfaction of learning and figuring things out and the magic of bringing something into life through our own effort.

“Food52 Genius Recipes” by Kristen Miglore



“Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink the way we cook. They might involve an unexpectedly simple technique, debunk a kitchen myth, or apply a familiar ingredient in a new way.”

From poached scrambled eggs to the best grilled cheese sandwiches, this book of recipes by cooking luminaries like Yotam Ottolenghi, Julia Child, Nigella Lawson and James Beard is going to change the way you cook.

Each recipe features different – and often easier – ways to make the most delicious version of a dish and has been verified by a panel of cooks and the legion of commenters on the Food52 website. For example, there is one about folding in avocados instead of smushing them for better-tasting guacamole and another for adding olive oil for the most delicious maple granola that even Martha Stewart became a fan of.

This is a must-read for those keen to master a dish or two as a personal challenge for 2021 and also for those who are more experienced in the kitchen, but are looking to elevate their skills with some tried-and-tested genius hacks. 

Borrow the book via NLB Mobile app: eBook

“Art Before Breakfast” by Danny Gregory



“I know you don’t have much time, so let’s get right to the point. You are about to discover that (a) making art with make you saner and happier, (b) you don’t need to think you have “talent” to make beautiful art, and (c) art making can fit into the craziest, busiest, most hectic and out-of-control lives – even yours.”

We know the concern: too many obligations and distractions, too little time. 

Art Before Breakfast though, shows us how just 15 minutes a day of doing something creative over 30 days can change us quite drastically. 

The book is packed with simple drawing lessons, humorous yet practical advice for dealing with procrastination and hesitation and a range of five to 10-minute exercises for every skill level that fit into any schedule.

Enthusiastic and motivating, this is a book to help you remember the simple joys of creating with your own hands, and discover the pleasure in archiving the oft-overlooked parts of your days.

Borrow the book via the NLB Mobile app: eBook

“Secret Garden Embroidery” by What Delilah Did (Sophie Simpson)



Secret Garden Embroidery is a charming, easy-to-follow book of embroidery projects that you could try over a weekend or two. 

It begins with the basics – equipment you would need, templates and commonly-used stitches – followed by projects and ideas that beginners and advanced crafters alike can recreate. Pick up some supplies from a craft store or Daiso, then dive right into the 90s with daisy chain bracelets, or get organised with tiny floral embroidered pouches for storing the knick knacks in your bag. 

With the know-how from this book, you could easily go on to customise anything you wish – perhaps a cluster of embroidered ladybirds on a pair of jeans, or framed initials as gifts for loved ones this Christmas. Happy making!

Borrow the book via the NLB Mobile app: eBook

For more book recommendations, follow the National Reading Movement Facebook or Instagram, or download the NLB Mobile app to browse on your own.

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