WITH Christmas coming shortly, this is a good time to suggest some appropriate presents for lifestyle fanatics, so I have collected together details of a few books which you might find useful.
At about this time last year I mentioned a book by that doyen of self-sufficiency advocates, John Seymour, called "The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency". Since then it seems as though he has been writing books at the rate of about one a month; every time I go into our local bookshop there is yet another Seymour book on the shelves.
One of the latest is called "The Self-Sufficient Gardener", a large-format book which is beautifully illustrated and is ideal as a coffee-table volume, good for passing winter evenings dreaming of the coming spring.
Unfortunately it is fairly expensive (£6.95, published by Faber) and it goes over much of the ground covered by his earlier book. That is now available in paperback at £3.95, and really does represent good value for money.
With all the interest in home food production, several publishers have introduced a series of books on related topics. One of the most informative of these is the "Invest in Living" series produced by EP Publishing with titles on subjects like poultry, goats, rabbits, vegetable growing, herbs and the use of wild foods.
The title of the series does sound rather "consumerish", but the books, which sell for about £1.50 each, really are useful. They have sufficient information for the complete beginner, without overloading you with too much detail, and the illustrations enhance the text.
We have Lois Hetherington's book in the series on "Home Goat-keeping" and our goat swears by it. Admittedly, given half a chance she would prefer to eat it!
Prism Press competes directly in this market with its "Backyard" series such as the "Backyard Dairy Book". These books are also useful, tending to be more detailed than the EP
books although less well illustrated.
Turning to books of a more general interest, one of my favourites and a classic for winter fireside reading, is "The Natural History of the Garden" by Michael Chenery (Collins, £4). This beautifully illustrated book is fascinating in its account of the wild plants and animals which inhabit our gardens.
I read the chapter on weeds avidly, hoping to get some tips on weed ecology which would help us in our never-ending battle. But the author's description of all the animals which live in or feed on weeds clearly made me decide to let the whole garden run wild instead, setting up an instant nature reserve.
Finally, and on a completely different topic, I would also recommend, Gillian Darley's book "Villages of Vision" (Palladin, £2.50). The countryside is dotted with all kinds of planned villages and other social experiments. Some of them, like Bourneville or Port Sunlight, were linked to particular companies whereas others, such as Robert Owen's New Lanark, were meant to be independent communities.
The book is mainly concerned with the planning and building of the communities, and more than 100 photographs and plans are included. A gazetteer of over 400 places is included, so that you should find it easy to visit some of the places described.