Book jacket: Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly PrentissIt feels how buttery popcorn smells, or seeing chartreuse flashes while your ears pop from an underwater dive.

Like a rebellious cigarette you had smoked when you were twenty, or a night under the stars with a girl or a boy who had only wanted to be your friend.

These are just some of the ways that the character James Bennett, an art critic with synesthesia, describes paintings and people in Molly Prentiss's debut novel, but he could just as easily be describing the book. One that has left me in such a daze that I'm at a loss for my own words to describe how much I loved it.

Set in a pre-gentrified SoHo, Tuesday Nights in 1980 follows Argentine artist Raul Engales, bright-eyed New York newcomer Lucy Olliason and the wonderfully odd art critic James Bennett; whose lives are all irreversibly altered on a series of Tuesday nights at the start of the new decade.

Whether you're an art lover or just up for visiting a unique time and place through vivid characters, check out this vibrant whirlwind of a book.

 
 

 

In the time it takes your bread to toast, you could be making art.

“No, I cannot help you build a portal to The Nether to mine soul sand.”

Photo of My Librarian Darcee reading Minecraft for DummiesIt felt like overnight my 7-year-old became totally absorbed in a world full of “Mooshrooms” and “Snow Golem” that I knew nothing about. He had discovered Minecraft.

I think most parents experience some sort of struggle between accepting early exposure to technology as part of this generation’s reality, while worrying that their kids will become so engrossed in it, that it will hinder their ability to develop other skills and interests. It was out of this sort of concern, that I started exploring Minecraft on my own.

On my first venture I added an unintentional water feature in my son’s igloo which turned his carefully crafted home into a flood zone. Oops. I’ve since sharpened my construction skills with the help of Minecraft books from the library and even added the Minecraft Pocket Edition app on my phone so I can play with my son. An awesome side-benefit is that setting limits has actually gotten easier. It’s clear to me now why he needs ample warning  to get back to his shelter and stow his inventory before re-joining the real world. I also understand that when you find an abandoned mineshaft or a desert temple you may need an extra ten minutes to explore, because “that is super rare.”

Check out this list for parents who want to get up to speed on Minecraft basics or you might encourage your kid to put down the pickaxe long enough to enjoy one of these books that share themes with their favorite game.

My Librarian Darcee wearing her Esme tunicIf you’re a grown woman who craves a frock with a peacock on the shoulder and a gazelle peeking around the side waist, you’re probably just going to have to go ahead and sew it yourself.

Thanks to a new book by my favorite Swedish print designer, this is totally accomplishable in a single afternoon.  Lotta Jansdotter's Everyday Style, presents crazy simple patterns for functional clothing and accessories to carry you through the seasons. While the designs are drawn from her own personal style, Jansdotter encourages women to adapt these classic pieces to suit who they are. Straight away I loved the Esme tunic that can be shortened to a modish top or lengthened to a free-spirited kaftan. I’ve been collecting (hoarding) fabric with unusual prints for years and can’t wait to transform my stash into things I can actually wear and use.

If you love textiles, modern design and fuss-free sewing, check out Lotta Jansdotter and be inspired to make your own unique something.

 
This past year I've become a downloadable audiobook super fan. I still love to read, but I also love to do and audiobooks free up your hands to do so much. For instance:

Knitting: The voice of the grumpy Swede in A Man Called Ove, with his laugh-out-loud rants against "whipper-snappers doing monkey business" proved the perfect companion as I worked (and then re-worked) a poncho called Ella from this book of Danish knits. 

Commuting: O.K. more of a "have to do" than a "love to do" but Hector Tobar's Deep Dark Down: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in A Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free , kept me anxiously looking forward to my work commute for weeks. And so what if I arrived at work a little weepy as the men were finally freed from the mine. I'm a sensitive person.

The only drawback to my audio habit thus far, is that I've developed a bit of a Veruca Salt syndrome. When I want an audiobook I want it now. I want it right now! Which is why I love Hoopla. With no waiting, I check out my book, download it and quickly get back to the business of doing.
 
Need a great listen while you get stuff done this holiday season? Or maybe you just want to relax your eyes and shelter your ears from that annoying battery-operating talking toy the grandparents bought for your kid?
 
Tune in to something off this list of 10 great audiobooks that you could be enjoying right now.

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