The Knitter's Book of Socks: The Yarn Lover's Ultimate Guide to Creating Socks That Fit Well, Feel Great and Last a Lifetime, by Clara Parkes, lives up to the promise of its exhaustive title.
This is one of those books that embraces both a thorough explanation of techniques and includes wonderful, knitter-friendly (but also challenging) patterns.
Of course, anyone who isn't interested in the DNA-level exploration of sock yarns, design techniques, and considerations needed for long-wearing socks can skip right to the patterns. But, as Parkes points out, that is "the knitter's version of salting your food before tasting it."
The chapter titles, alone, are an education in socks. What a Sock Needs, Fiber Foundations, The Yarns, Stitch Tricks, The Patterns and Resources simply and completely outline anything the knitter, the designer, and the curious need to know.
In "A Final Note About Fit," on page 50, Parkes even reminds us that fit, yarn and sock construction are only part of the solution to socks that wear out too soon. Feet that are properly groomed and shoes that fit well have their parts to play, too.
The chapters on yarns, in particular, take the reader way beyond the ball band and, even facts about fiber composition, and breaks things down in terms of the many ways that yarn is actually constructed. Singles, two-ply, three-ply and more plies are covered, as are S-on-S cables, true cables and core-spun yarns. The descriptions of various fibers is also exhaustive, and even covers some materials that aren't widely available in sock yarns (yet). The downside to this is that I might not be able to resist buying that hank of yarn that includes Tencel, and if I ever see Corriedale wool in a sock yarn, I know I won't be able to stop myself.
I don't want to imply that the sock patterns, all 20 of them, are an afterthought. Far from it. Sock designs range from simple to challenging and the designers include Absolute Rock Stars like Cat Bordhi, Cookie A, Norah Gaughan, and Sivia Harding. The toe-up or top-down dichotomy is broken, leaving the knitter to choose the sock pattern that most appeals for other reasons.
Yarns for each pattern are, of course, suggested. But, each pattern also includes extensive notes on selecting an alternative yarn for that particular sock.
Overall, if Clara Parkes weren't so noble, true and modest, this book could be called The Sock Enthusiast's Bible. It certainly earned that title.