Perfect Stay At Home Books to Fuel a Hobby or Project

By Lynn Ann Lobash, Associate Director, Readers Services and Engagement
April 20, 2020

As we spend more time at home during the Library's temporary closure, NYPL staff have been turning to books for inspiration and information to aid us in all kinds of projects and endeavors—from home improvements, self-improvements, cooking, crafting and much more. Find out what we've been up to and the books that are helping us—all of these titles are accessible at home through our SimplyE app

Great Movies

My 11-year-old son is a cinephile. We have been working our way through Roger Ebert's The Great Movies. Last night's selection: The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman. (Help me!)

—Lynn Lobash, Reader Services

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After a multi-year standoff with a tiny cross-stitch kit, I finally buckled down and learned how to do it! I'm looking forward to Naughty but Nice Cross Stitchby Claire Crompton for a little levity and continued crafting in these strange times.

—Alexandria Abenshon, School-Age Children's Programming

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I’m a stress baker—so you can imagine how well I’ve been doing out at my parents, without my favorite and trusty cookbook. Great news! It’s available on SimplyE! Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America’s Most Trusted Food Magazine. 

—Kate Fais, Bloomington Library

Artisan Bread Every Day

I made English muffins from scratch from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. It took 3 hours over two days. They were delicious.

—Emily Nichols, Branch Youth Education

What's Wrong With My Houseplant

Plants continue to bring me joy and so I have been pampering them extra these days. Here are some titles for aspiring green thumbs:  

The Indestructible Houseplantby Tovah Martin

The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual by Barbara Pleasant 

What's Wrong with My Houseplant?by Kathryn Wadsworth and David Deardoff 

—Emily Wejchert, Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street

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I stress-knit a 7-foot-long scarf for my college kid on my loom. Check out Loom Knitting Stitches by Denise Canela.

—Maura Muller, Volunteers Office

A Baker's Year

Tending my new sourdough starters—yep, plural!—helps occupy the long days. Tara Jensen's A Baker's Year is part memoir, part cookbook, and 100% comforting—a great read for newbie bakers and sourdough veterans alike.

—Erika Parker, Adult Programming

The Big Book of Tricks for the Best Dog Ever

The Big Book of Tricks for the Best Dog Everby Chris Perondi and Larry Kay has plenty of ideas for me. Going to start with "balancing a cookie on the nose " for my dog Jake (let me just say, impulse control is not this Jack Russell mix’s strong point so it is definitely a work in progress.) 

—Danita Nichols, Inwood Library

Parenting Without Power Struggles

Parenting Without Power Struggles by Susan Stiffelman is like a ballast for these times.

—Seth Pompi, Ottendorfer Library

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I'm making collage cards to send to friends and family. I'm keeping it really simple and working with supplies I have at home, but was inspired by the artwork in Bent, Bound And Stitched: Collage, Cards And Jewelry With a Twistby Giuseppina Cirincione.

—Rachel Sweany, Muhlenberg Library

Life in Motion

Since I can't make it to the studio, I've become a kitchen ballerina. Misty Copeland's memoir, Life In Motion, has been a great inspiration! (It even has a Young Readers adaptation!)

—Chelsey Masterson, Belmont Library & Enrico Fermi Cultural Center

The Curated Closet

I’ve been taking this time to revamp my closet. I’ve been using the book The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees to help me and it’s great. I’ve now defined my style as “If Miss Frizzle were a library witch”. 

—Jennie Mayfield, Parkchester Library

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

Aside from spending extra time in the kitchen baking my way through The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz, I've been working on improving my Spanish by tackling Isabel Allende's La casa de los espíritus. 

—Jo Henning, Webster Library

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In addition to weeding and reorganizing all the books in my apartment (you can take the girl out of the library....), I've dedicated myself to learning to make kawaii polymer clay charms for jewelry. From mini strawberry frosted doughnuts to the Very Hungry Caterpillar, I'll have my own Etsy shop at this rate. To get started try Polymer Clay Master Class: 11 Master Artists, 15 Projects, Incredible Inspiration by Judy Belcher.

—Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street Library

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Though my days are overall less active than before quarantine, I've noticed that I'm building significantly more strength than I had before thanks to doing yoga at home every day. Jessamyn Stanley's Every Body Yogais a great jumping-off point for beginners. 

—Sasha Jones, Roosevelt Island Library


I decided to take the Instant Pot that's been sitting in the box for close to a year and give it a go. Here are a few places to find inspiration:

The "I Love My Instant Pot" Affordable Meals Recipe Book by Clark Allen

Instant Pot Magic: 50 Surprising Recipes for Beer, Jam, Bread, and More! by David Murphy

—Elizabeth Paldino, Van Cortlandt Library

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Staying at home means using my slow cooker! I can prep my food early, spend several hours working and relaxing in my apartment as it smells progressively more wonderful, and then have an awesome meal. I recommend Slow Cooker Revolution: One Test Kitchen, 30 Slow Cookers, 200 Amazing Recipes from America's Test Kitchen and Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann

—Andrea Lipinski, Kingsbridge Library

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I've been baking and cooking like crazy and Deb from Smitten Kitchen has been my mentor, as always. Both The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Smitten Kitchen Every Dayare available on SimplyE. 

—Stephanie Anderson, Selection

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My husband and I have finally pulled out our Go game board and are trying to learn how to play after years of pledging to save it for a snow day. When YouTube tutorials aren't helpful enough, we'll be turning to Go Fundamentals by Shigemi Kishikawa on SimplyE.

—Suzanne Lipkin, Special Collections

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!