Titles inspired daily life during the pandemic

A silver lining from the chaotic last year was the complete reset of my personal schedule.

Waking up earlier and earlier became something I started to look forward to. It gave me the chance to get out of the house to exercise and return home to make a delicious breakfast from scratch plus brew a great cup of coffee. I found a lot of joy in these daily activities I could do not too far from home.

Here are some of the titles that inspired my adventures close-to-home.

• "Water, Wood, and Wild Things" by Hannah Kirshner

When you're stuck at home, a great travelogue is like the overseas vacation you never got to take. Kirshner parlays an invitation to intern at a sake bar in Yamanaka, a small Japanese mountain village, into an opportunity to learn craft after craft - wood turning, paper making and killer highballs just to start. Around town, she seeks out esoteric farming practices and traditional hunting methods as the elders of the small town soon will be unable to continue them. Kirshner and other young people she meets discover these old ways provide the connection to the land and their food that they crave.

• "Exercised, Why Something We Never Evolved to do is Healthy and Rewarding" by Daniel Lieberman

If you're curious about what "the science" says about the very unnatural way that modern people approach exercise, this is the book for you. Lieberman takes down exercise myth after exercise myth in a comprehensive and very readable manner. Journeys with subsistence hunters, running for 50+ miles in the Mexican desert and other vivid experiences form the background for this title.

• "Floret Farms: Cut Flower Garden" by Erin Benzakein

The best way to bring nature inside is fresh flowers. With beautiful photography, Benzakein will show you what and how to plant so you can cut flowers from your own garden to brighten your home. My favorite part is that many of the plants don't require a lot of care to produce lots of blooms. Also covered is flower arranging, to help you create wonderful gifts to brighten a neighbor's day.

• "The World According to Jeff Goldblum" series

I'd recommend this Disney Plus series if you've been missing the people-watching that comes with travel and being out-and-about. Jeff Goldblum takes you to places where truly unusual people (denim hunters, Amish RV craftsmen) are doing unique work. It's fascinating and a fun watch that'll inspire future excursions.

• "Smuggler's Cove" by Bill James

For the nights when you don't have to get up early, I'd recommend this cocktail book. Great drink recipes and a fascinating deep dive into Tiki history, this book will transport you to a bygone era of going out. It doesn't hurt that the cocktails are often very strong!

• "The Joy of Cooking" by Irma Rombauer

This book probably doesn't need a recommendation, but the biscuit, pancake and waffle recipes were my pandemic go-tos. It's a great feeling to be the "Breakfast Master" of the house.

- Ridgeway Burns is the assistant director and youth and young adult services manager at the Hinsdale Public Library.