Summer reads from 2017

Photography: Sam Greenhalgh, Flickr Commons

Catch up on some great reading this summer: pick your favourites from the books we’ve reviewed in Sanctuary over the last year.

microshelter 200pxMicroshelters: 59 creative cabins, tiny houses, tree houses, and other small structures

Derek Diedrickensen, Storey Publishing

Surely Microshelters sets out to inspire the spread of tiny homes and structures around the world. The early chapters feature dozens of homes, tree houses and even playhouses across the United States, where the owners have shoehorned themselves and their limited belongings into cleverly designed tiny dwellings. The practical how-to sections cover topics such as gathering tools, salvaging and budgeting, as well as six handy plans for small homes, cabins and even a wagon. The featured dwellings are a mix of DIY gems built from salvaged materials through to modern minimalist designs, with some of the best design fodder found in the Cabins section where dream homes live in majestic settings. Each structure features full-color photographs and insightful and fun commentary by the author. This is a great resource for the backyard builder, particularly those investigating granny flats or studios.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism - Review 200pxThe Art of Frugal Hedonism: A guide to spending less while enjoying everything more

Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb, Melliodora

This is a book to sit with for long periods and ponder, to dip into the ideas and then reflect on your own life and habits. The Art of Frugal Hedonism disects modern materialistic life down to the bare essentials for living and happiness. Follow the advice within and the obvious outcome is to save money. “Apply the lot, and you’ll wake up one day and realise that you’re happier, wealthier, fitter, and more in lust with life than you’d ever thought possible,” say the authors. The book looks at how simple household sustainability, such as avoiding waste or growing your own veg can be deeply satisfying and positive for a person’s wellbeing. There’s a lot more in this toolkit though, to help shift habits into action for living frugally, ethically and with more joy and freedom. The 50 or so topics include not thinking about money, indulging curiosity, working less and figuring out when you own enough.

positive energy book 200pxPositive energy homes: Creating Passive Houses for better living

Robin Brimblecombe & Kara Rosemeier, CSIRO Publishing

At the Paris conference on climate change in 2015, world leaders agreed to keep global warming below 2 degrees. This commitment has led to a shift in thinking about residential buildings, with many jurisdictions, including some in Australia, setting zero-emissions targets for housing by the middle of this century. Positive energy homes: Creating Passive Houses for better living argues for stronger and faster action, and shows readers how to go a step further than zero to create ‘positive energy’ buildings that generate more energy than they need to run. Using the Passive House standard as a basis, the authors map pathways for how consumers can not only reduce emissions and enhance the comfort of their homes, but create buildings that are resilient to power outages and natural disasters. If you are already engaged with the ATA, Beyond Zero Emissions and other organisations that have advocated for better building standards for many moons, you’ll be familiar with the technologies explored in this book. But if you are newly motivated, or seeking additional reasons to act, this book could be for you.

Healthy homes book 200pxHealthy planet, healthy people, healthy home: Create a sustainable home you love

Helen Edwards, Recycled Interiors

Helen Edwards is a prolific writer with an eye for style and sustainability, qualities that make her Recycled Interiors blog a popular one. This self-published book is friendly and positive, and aimed at those who are new to green building. However, it will also provide new recycling ideas, recipes and craft projects for those with a long-standing interest. The book’s strength is in Helen’s ability to uncover residential designs that are original and have rustic flair. Her love of storytelling shines through the interviews with designers, owner-builders, and educators that are peppered through this collection. The photography is captivating, particularly of kitchens and living spaces, and there are lots of tips and tricks for making your home more sensitive to the environment. At Sanctuary, we know how much care is required to create a 100-page publication – at over 230 pages, this one is a tome, and will keep you entertained for months.

city house country house 200pxCity House, Country House: Contemporary New Zealand homes

John Walsh & Patrick Reynolds, Random House

New Zealand has a remarkable variety of climatic zones: humid sub-tropics in the north island to chilly inland alpine areas in the south and everything in between. Perhaps it’s this diversity that is behind the oft-startling residential architecture across the ditch. Or potentially it’s the reflection of ‘place’ in client briefs that is leading to the creation of such beautiful and comfortable homes. Whatever the inspiration, City House, Country House reflects the exciting state of contemporary New Zealand residential architecture. Many of the featured projects are in the creative hotbeds of Auckland, Central Otago, Bay of Islands and Wellington, but there are notable houses from many other locations including Christchurch, which is rebuilding its reputation for innovation. For those with a strong interest in sustainable architecture, this book includes a range of buildings that are experimental in their use of natural materials and clever with light and orientation. Authors John Walsh and Patrick Reynolds are also the team behind the excellent Big House, Small House – we can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Food-Forest-Handbook-Review-Copy cover 200pxThe Food Forest Handbook: Design and Manage a Home-Scale Perennial Polyculture Garden

Darrell Frey & Michelle Czolba, New Society Publishers

Don’t be put off if you feel the need to google ‘home-scale perennial polyculture garden’! At its core, The Food Forest Handbook is a permaculture guide to productive gardening, food, biodiversity and community. And its particular focus on the planning, design, establishment and management of perennial plants (those that live more than two years) and polycultures (multiple species in the same space forming interrelationships) makes it a welcome and timely release. Practical knowledge about cultivating perennial polycultures is essential if we are to successfully grow food locally and continue the momentum towards urban agriculture. While the book is structured to step you through the process of creating and tending your own food forest, the bigger picture is never far away. It is fascinating to read about the history of this food system, and to imagine what our cities and communities might become if we blur the boundaries between the natural and built environments. The authors have decades of horticultural experience, and their wisdom will translate seamlessly to the Australian and New Zealand context.

tinkering-cover-print 200pxTinkering: Australians re-invent DIY culture

Katherine Wilson, Monash University Publishing

Sanctuary’s publisher the Alternative Technology Association has long been a hub for do-it-yourself culture; it provides forums for people to share their practical knowledge and find inspiration in the projects of others. But while there are shared values across this community, trying to explain the connections can be challenging – for is there really a group of self-identifying DIYers? Is owner building about more than providing shelter? What about making your own clothes, is that an ordinary activity or a ‘method to resist state and market impositions’? Tinkering is an erudite and witty new book that seeks to define Australia’s unique approach to domestic DIY. Author Katherine Wilson visits the studios and projects of people with a ‘tinkering mindset’, and falls in love with their handcrafted homes. She mounts a compelling argument that tinkering is a growing cultural movement, and its moment is now.

native food harvest 200pxAustralian Native Food Harvest: A guide for the passionate cook and gardener

Julie Weatherhead, Peppermint Ridge Farm

To date, permaculture has said little about the cultivation of Australia’s native food plants and their immense culinary, environmental and health benefits. But this is changing, as gardeners and cooks become curious about these unique food plants and their applications. Julie Weatherhead from Peppermint Ridge Farm in Victoria’s Tynong North is a native food plant specialist and ecologist who has experimented with her own native kitchen garden over two decades. In Australian Native Food Harvest Weatherhead describes 31 native food plants from across the country, and provides tips to support their propagation and harvesting at home. She also includes 60 recipes that show how plants – such as strawberry gum and river mint – can be used in modern cuisine. With an extensive introduction to ‘garden lore’ and tied together with beautiful photography, this is both practical gardening guide and versatile kitchen companion.

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Composting toilets can be installed in boats, motor-homes, regular homes and sheds built on concrete slabs.

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