There are reads of all kinds here, books that make you think and others that help you do. Those looking to create or transform an environment to please its inhabitants (human or feline) can pick up a volume on design. Crafty do-it-yourself guides spell out smaller projects on a tighter budget.
One of these titles can help folks protect their homes from flooding — which is surely on the minds of many Long Islanders in the wake of the recent deluge and superstorm Sandy — while another takes readers out to their gardens to talk about compost. Those who prefer nonfiction can curl up with Pulitzer Prize- winner Alison Lurie and best-selling author Gretchen Rubin, who ponder the meaning of houses and homes. Choose one or choose them all.
PLAIN SIMPLE USEFUL The Essence of Conran Style by Terence Conran (Octopus, $34.99)
This is a book you can feel free to judge by its cover. Like the sleek, spare pages inside, full of large, color photos, the cover exudes the promised "essence" of Conran style. He is an English designer who founded a furniture company, established a design company and has opened restaurants and written more than 50 books. "I have always believed that objects -- and surroundings -- that are plain, simple and useful are the key to easy living," he writes. In homes that follow these three concepts, "color sings out, pattern adds verve, and there is plenty of room for the expression of personal taste." Conran has dubbed his chapters "Cooking," "Sleeping," "Bathing" and more, based on "the main activities that take place in a home."
CATIFICATION Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!) by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin (Tarcher, $21.95)
If felines are part of your family, you may be looking for ways to make your home cat-friendly without sacrificing a sense of aesthetics. Jackson Galaxy, host of Animal Planet's "My Cat From Hell," has teamed up with Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther.com to write this book (due out in October) to help owners not only understand their pets better, but also to offer more than a dozen project ideas and design tips to make both sides happy. "You can live with a cat and still have a home you are proud to show off," they write. "Catification comes in every style; it just takes a little inspiration and creativity." The colorful pages outline real-world examples from "catified" homes in the United States and abroad.
DIY WINE CORKS Thirty-Five+ Cute and Clever Cork Crafts by Melissa Averinos (Adams, $18.99)
They say one man's trash is another man's treasure. Instead of tossing those wine corks, Melissa Averinos has a few dozen ways to turn them into decorative pieces, accents, accessories, toys and other odds and ends. Project ideas with step-by-step instructions -- for wineglass markers, a mirror frame, earrings, stamps, gift tags and more -- are interspersed with wine profiles and other tidbits about vineyards around the world, opening and storing bottles, and "wine lingo." Not to worry if you're not a big wine drinker; Averinos lists other ways to acquire enough corks to get started.
THE $50 HOME MAKEOVER 75 Easy Projects to Transform Your Current Space Into Your Dream Place -- for $50 or Less! by Shaunna West (Adams Media, $22.99)
"This isn't a book about how to style your grand piano or pick out granite for your butler's pantry," writes Shaunna West, who began the blog Perfectly Imperfect when she and her husband were turning their attic into a writing room, playroom and home theater. "It's a book for the real world, where you're stuck with a hideous chartreuse wall your landlord won't let you paint over." West writes about affordable ways to transform furniture and walls and make decorative pieces, every project in an afternoon's work. Endeavors like a chalkboard table, a pleated paper wreath, an antique door table and a lantern chandelier all come with a handy key that helps readers evaluate cost, difficulty and time required at a glance.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR HOME FLOOD SAFE by Capt. Dan Berg (CreateSpace, $25.95)
With superstorm Sandy less than two years past, the danger of flooding is surely still fresh on many homeowners' minds. In this slim, pragmatic guide, Dan Berg, a South Shore native and professional scuba diver and trainer who has had personal experience with flooding, writes about how to protect a house -- including the people and possessions inside it -- as well as steps to take after damage has been done. He walks readers through flood-proofing, making evacuation plans and emergency supply lists, cleaning up, rebuilding and elevating a house as well as navigating "the seemingly endless government paperwork" they might face if their house has been battered by a storm.
COMPOST How to Make and Use Organic Compost to Transform Your Garden by Clare Foster (Octopus, $12.99)
Clare Foster likens composting to cooking -- it requires the right ingredients, a good recipe and a little bit of love. Foster, the garden editor at House & Garden magazine in the United Kingdom, promises it's easy. "Whether you have a large country garden, a small city courtyard, a fifth-floor balcony or even no garden at all, you can find a way that will suit you," she writes. And most importantly, she says, compost is good for the environment -- "The most effective way of recycling organic waste." Her book begins with the basics -- what exactly is compost? -- and moves through the art and science of composting, the ingredients that go into it, the tools you'll need and when and where to use it.
THE LANGUAGE OF HOUSES How Buildings Speak to Us by Alison Lurie (Delphinium, $25.95)
"A building is an inanimate object, but it is not an inarticulate one." So begins Alison Lurie's new book, "The Language of Houses." "All kinds of buildings -- churches, museums, schools, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, stores and offices," she writes, "speak to us silently." As in her 1991 "The Language of Clothes," Lurie explores the context, meaning and impact of ubiquitous objects that can speak volumes about you and those around you. Chapters center on these different types of structures from the inside and out. Winner of the 1985 Pulitzer Prize in fiction and a professor emerita at Cornell University, Lurie's own language is both engaging and approachable. Fellow author James McConkey praises the book as a work of nonfiction that holds "this reader's attention the way a fine novel does."