So here is my little review of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac. I've only read as far as May, so it's not a review of the complete book, but I think I've read enough to get a feel for it.
Once upon a time there was an old woman who loved to knit. She lived with her Old Man in the middle of a woods in a curious one-room schoolhouse which was rather untidy, and full of wool.
At last one day, he said, "Darling, you ought to write a book."
"Old man," she said, "I think I will."
This is from the opening of the book (which is also the excerpt you can read on Amazon). At once, EZ puts you at ease, invites you to sit with her and knit along with her.
The Good: I love EZ's voice - it is inviting and encouraging, like everyone says. She describes how to construct the item (sweater, blanket, etc.) which you can follow along, and make similar decisions in order to make it what you like. These are more like recipes than patterns - she says what her stitch counts are, in a way that invites you to figure out your own. At the end of each chapter, she gives "Pithy instructions" - that is, what most of us would recognize as the pattern. These vary in detail from very detailed to sketchy (say, for a blanket) and includes the chart for charted patterns.
A note for the wary: The patterns are sometimes patterns, and sometimes sketches. I'd really have to sit down with EZ someday and make one of her patterns, following her stream of exposition while making it. This is what people who talk about having her as your knitting teacher are talking about. The result, I am sure, will be that I will be a more thinking knitter, a good thing. But until I do, I won't be making her February sweater, because her Pithy Instructions are just that - pithy. Brief, and not what we spoiled rotten knitters of today expect of a pattern. If you like getting pattern books, and want to sit down and make one of the patterns, this isn't really the book for you. It does not always have a gauge (you can figure out for yourself how many stitches you need to cast on....) and does not always have a schematic. But that is not the point of this book.
All in all, I want to become a better, more thinking, more self-confident knitter, and this book, as well as other EZ books I'm sure, will nudge me in that direction. But I don't see myself making that February sweater anytime soon - like a school lesson, it will take more time to absorb how to make it than, say, the baby bolero from One Skein.
Last word: If you just want patterns, you might be disappointed. This is a knitting text - good for reading for inspiration, great for knitting instruction for getting untied from patterns and just making things. It's also pleasant reading on its own.