Friday, May 9, 2008

Book It, Bookworms

We're a third of the way through the month and, with it, the Be a Bookworm Challenge. I just finished my first book, Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle, and am breaking into the next on my list, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. I love the optimistic tone of both of these books. They signal a change in how we approach "saving the planet" - a demise of calls for sacrifice and a joyful immersion into a healthier, more honorable and honest way of being. David Wann wrote that "we are wasting our time if we expel hope from our everyday lives, because without it, we can’t win." (239). If we want to transition to a richer, more meaningful culture, unite the world in its battle against climate change, and unburden ourselves from the waste and inefficiency of our time, we cannot do it by clinging to dread and despair. Rather, we must be motivated by a vision for a better future . . . and believe that future to be attainable. These books are slowly transforming a frightened pessimist into a hope-wielding optimist because I do believe.

That's what I'm reading. What about you? Have you picked your book? Started reading it? Had any epiphanies, thoughts, disagreements with your book? If you haven't yet joined, it is not too late. Please leave a comment and I'll add you to my sidebar. If you haven't picked your book yet, check out the amazing and comprehensive sidebar list of Greening Our Beans. If you have picked your book and it is not on that list, please leave a comment so that I can add.

I hope your weekend is booked . . . with a good book.


innercitygarden said...

Linda Cockburn's Living the Good Life was a great read. She lives in a different climate from me (she was in Queensland, I'm in Victoria) and I'm fascinated with the tropics. While it was promoted as "six months without spending a dollar", they made it clear that their aims weren't financial but environmental and family oriented. They also didn't jump in suddenly, they spent several years setting up their house with a solar system, a composting toilet, and rain water tanks. On the whole they succeeded, there were a few break outs, like buying lunch when they had to spend a day in the city for medical tests, and there were things that they missed and moaned about. It was refreshingly honest about the hard bits, including the challenges of owning a goat, and the television broke down for a while and made life difficult. It's well written, it's inspiring rather than preachy, and I'm looking forward to reading out their next adventure.

They have a blog:

Heather said...

I have read "Everything I want to do is Illegal," by Joel Salatin (Polyfaace Farms). It is a look at how one farmer is coping with heavy government regulations meant to monitor the big guys that tend to put the little guys out of business. It's daunting, but he ends the book with stories of how farmers got creative to get around the rules. The whole book is a fun read. I wrote more about it here:

I'm going to give myself a few days and then delve into "Radical Simplicity."

malisa said...

I haven't 'officially' chosen a book or joined the challenge. But I've been thinking about cutting back on/out meat for a while. I did it successfully for quite a while in college. But the few times I've tried while married and in a very BBQ oriented family, I've failed. Probably because I've tried to be all or nothing.

The reason I bring this up is that the last time, what helped me was Diet for A Small Planet (this time, what's done the recent prodding is the processing plant stories in the news). I've been thinking of picking it up again.

But if someone has a suggestion for something that they think would be motivating in that manner, I'd love to hear it.

And after playing catch-up this weekend, after having too much fun last weekend, I may come back and officially join the challenge.

lauren said...

I've been immersed in Omnivore's Dilemma and loving it. I had read a few Michael Pollan articles before, so I had an awareness of HFCS, but it is still an amazing, and dense, read.

I have thought about the connections in his book each time I've gone grocery shopping, cooked dinner, or eaten at a restaurant.

Packaged foods are my downfall, but my newly acquired knowledge on corn production and it's byproducts has helped me significantly wean myself off those foods.

In conjunction with my local foods challenge as part of the eco-throwdown, reading this book has put food issues on the forefront of my brain.

Thanks for the extra push to pick the book back up (I purchased it last October--months before I became more focused on low impact living).

ruralaspirations said...

I finished Slow Food Nation as well as another book (The World Without Us) and have put the reviews on my Book List.

I moved on to Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power, and the hidden battle for the world's food system, by Raj Patel. I just finished that one last night. It was very comprehensive, at times almost overwhelming, but with enough positive notes throughout to keep me going. It basically picks up where Michael Pollan left off in his books, except Patel goes into the politics and history of our food system. I was alternately shocked and daunted by the way our food system has been hijacked by corporate and political interests (for example, Food Aid, which I always thought represented the most beneficial of acts, turns out to be no less a marketing ploy than handing out formula to third world mothers). A heavy, but important, read.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

I'm making my slow way through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I'm loving it! Thanks for recommending it - I'd never have found it otherwise, I don't think.

She has me wanting to make CHEESE, for goodness sake! You know, in all of my spare time.

What I'm actually doing in my spare time is reading her book and thinking of all of the interesting things she's said and am folding this knowledge into the farm business. I am totally on board for getting chickens with my biz partner. Now we just need to get a bit more organized!

Freakonomics was also very weird and interesting. Got my husband to read it too and now I have my BP interested in reading Animal, Veg, Miracle. I think you've started something.

Crunchy Chicken said...

I've hucked Collapse in the corner and am burning my way through Plenty. Thanks!

I've already read through Flour Power, Cubed Foot Gardening, Green Chic and Cooking with Sunshine.

Now I just have the more "involved" ones to read.

There are so many other books mentioned that this book challenge will probably last a few months for me.

Thanks for the challenge!

Green Bean said...

ICG: Thanks for the link to their blog - it is always nice to follow someone's story after the book is over. And look! Caleb has his own blog. What a cutie.

Heather: Left you a comment. It is interesting to hear about what the small beyond-organic farmers go through to put food on our plates. Look forward to reading your thoughts on Radical Simplicity.

Malisa: Come on back if you decide to participate. As to how to eat less meat, first, I'd aim for sustainably raised meat (e.g., grassfed beef, pastured lamb and pork, pastured chicken). That is something that you can switch everyone in the family over to. I don't eat meat but have bought my husband true grass fed beef on a couple of occasions. He says it tastes a million times better than any other beef he's ever eaten. Check out LocalHarvest or ask around at your farmers' market for a source. Second, perhaps try serving smaller portions and more sides - more corn on the cob, roasted veggies, and one cut of steak to split if it is a BBQ or I've read other folks using less by using one serving of meat in a stir fry or a stew. I came across a great article by a mother who did that with recipes and everything but for the life of me, I cannot find it now. Anyway, consumption of meat (particularly red meat, and dairy) correlates strongly with global warming so it is good to chip away at it. I'm a vegetarian but am slowly working on our dairy intake. Good luck! It is tough to change habits but I think new habits can be formed fairly quickly. You did it once, you can do it again! :) (At least that's what I tell myself whenever I try to lose weight).

Lauren: Sounds like you are doing great. I had a tough time getting through OD - a very, very dense read. I eat WAY differently now though. It's hard to push all that knowledge out once it sneaks in and I think we're healthier for it. Congrats.

RI: I'll have to add Stuffed and Starved to the list. Never heard of it but it sounds really good. I just popped over to check out your reivew of World Without Us. I'm a chapter into it but abandoned it a month ago to read CommonWealth (which had to be returned to the library) and then Simple Propsperity (which had to be returned to be returned to the library) and now I'm starting Break Through. There are so many great books out there, I'm not sure if I can make it back to the World Without Us. It too is a library book and I'm on my last renewal. It sounds interesting but like I might not be missing out on too much. No?

Hatchet: I want to make cheese, too! Come on over and we'll give it a go. Barring that, I look forward to reading about all your farming/chicken adventures on your blog. I'm glad others around you are getting booked too (pun intended). I honestly believe the power of a book can never be under-estimated.

Crunchy: Well, Collapse was on my to read list but as you are having such a time getting through it and as there are SO many great books on the list that people are reading, I may have to cross it off my list permanently. At least Plenty and others are easy reads. Enjoy.

malisa said...

I dug out Diet For A Small Planet. I'm almost through the introduction.

When I read the little bits and pieces from other reads here(Laurens' and rural aspiratons') sounds like much of what FML said back in '71 (originally) is being said again (and again, and again). On the one hand it's sad that this was said nearly forty years ago (and probably before that as well) and much is still the same. On the other hand, as long as people keep writing it and more and more people read it...that's got to be good.

2 days meat free, but for Mother's Day at the inlaws...I'll eat what I'm served. Each little bit helps, right?

Beany said...

I finished Plenty by J.B. Mackinnon and Alisa Smith. I started reading "Rubbish" by William Rathje and Cullen Murphy.

Plenty was a very quick read. I didn't like it too much...and I'm only saying that because the theme was similar to Animal, Vegetable Miracle and Kingsolver's writing was so much more fun to read.

I've been busy volunteering and not reading. But am hoping to catch some reading time later today.

Green Bean said...

Beany: I know what you mean about Plenty. I did enjoy it but read it several months before AVM. When you hold the two up side by side, AVM is clearly the more beautiful and compelling read. I still think Plenty is a great introduction, though, and, as you said, a quick read for those who are strapped for time and just getting into the subject matter. Look forward to your thoughts on Rubbish which is a book we've been debating on for my book club.

Joanna said...

Just finished Not Buying It. And I feel like Judi Livine gives good food for thought but she has blinkers on sometimes, and the whole book reads a little high brow for me. I'm afraid I've been compleetly consumed by thinking about this book for days. my hubby is getting bored with me, and I'm getting bored with myself.

eco 'burban mom said...

I am halfway through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle... and yes, my eyes are wide open. I am not a green as many of you all. (getting there, getting there!) but the simple idea of eating what is in season is so habit changing and earth shattering. Just because I might desire strawberries in March, doesn't mean they are going to taste delicious. And, even if they do, they travelled thousands of miles to get to my table.

I have tossed around the idea of a CSA before, but now, because of this book, we are taking the plunge. After looking at a few, I have found one that I truly believe in as a holistic place for both animal and vegetable. And, if I think I might want a strawberry in march or some sweet corn in November, I will be freezing my summer veggies for wintertime fun.

And, this farm offers the ability to add on free range, veggie fed eggs, chickens and a heritage breed of grass fed, free range beef!

So, my bookwork pick has helped me with my eating local challege as well! I am only about halfway through the book, but enjoying every word!

Going Crunchy said...

I've been reading Strategic Ignorance with an open mouthed scream of rage essentially. It's a book that puts Bush's attacks on the environment in a form that is easy to understand. Why haven't I known more of it?

Well, every rollback on environmental protection has been done on a late Friday news day for one. He buries it. He covers it. His administration has a profound belief that what is good for business is good for America.

It's helping me as it clearly formulates what I need to demand from our next leader. What we need to fight to recoup. To know what to change I feel like I need to know more about what has happened.

I'm only on Chapter 2 as I'm also reading Revenge of Gaia. That one I'll save as I have to process it a bit more.

Sue in the Western Great Basin said...

Well, I finished The Forager's Harvest (only skimmed the plants that I wasn't familiar with, but the introduction alone was powerful and worth the read) because it was due back at the library. I'm also in the midst of reading Pollan's Second Nature, but since I own it there's no rush to finish. Then my library-requested Cradle to Cradle arrived, and while it's checked out to me for the whole month, if I finish it early enough there is another library patron who might want to read it before we have to send it back from whence it came, so I'm motivated by that. I'm enjoying it, but it's a dense read. I'm only about one-third through it. In the meantime, my prize Plenty arrived (thanks Michelle, thanks Katrina!) and I'm really tempted to pick it up NOW. I'm making myself wait til I'm through with Cradle to Cradle because of the time rush to get that one back. I've made notes of books others have mentioned here that I'd like to read, but after the ones I just mentioned, I might have to slow down on the reading to focus more on gardening and some work projects. Darn, I half wish it was winter again so I could have more reading time!

Jennifer said...

I got distracted by the book, A Budget Gardener at the used bookstore...I'm most of thw way through it. Some great tips on organic gardening, and reusing things ! Then again... I need to get back to the library and actually check out a bookt hat is really for this challenge. :)

Green Bean said...

Joanna: Thanks for the input on Not Buying It. I've heard mixed reviews on it and, I think with your thoughts, I'll skip it. Maybe now that you've gotten this off your chest, you'll talk about something else to your husband. ;-) Of course, I'm still stuck on Simple Prosperity, which I finished a week ago and have written about 3 times, so maybe not.

Eco Burbs: I'm so glad that you are loving AVM and that it is making it easier for you to eat local. I had a similar feeling when I read it - powerful book. Congrats on finding what seems like an awesome CSA. I look forward to reading about how it goes on your blog.

Going Crunchy: After reading your comment, I'm not sure I can actually bring myself to read the book. My blood pressure is going through the roof. But you are right - we need to be aware of such depths so that we know what to ask for from President Obama.

Sue: Forager's Harvest sounds interesting. I think I'll add it to my library list. I know what you mean. I should have done this challenge in January - I've come across so many books that I want to read and, shoot, but I need to put some seeds in the ground, pick the slugs off of the seedlings in the dead of night, and, well you know.

Jennifer: Sounds like a good book anyway! Always worth it to stop and read something like that. Enjoy.

Ellen said...

I finished my book, "Last Child in the Woods" and it was very life changing. Basically, he says children today are suffering from "Nature Deficit Disorder" and how nature can really help kids deal with the stress in their lives, as well as secure their dedication to keeping nature important when they are adults. I considered pulling my 3 kids from all their activities and going hiking every day after school. Instead, I backed off on the frequency of said activities. Ted has TaeKwonDo 4 days a week. Now we only go 2 days. It's enough. The other 2 days last week he played out front with a neighbor friend. Perfect. For the other 2, we're going to finish out their swim lesson (3 weeks to go) and then stop. We can play at the neighborhood pool. In fact, we will walk to the pool. This week alone, my eldest has rescued worms, a dead snake and numerous roly-polys. Because he had time to stop and LOOK at the world around him instead of being in the minivan getting shuttled to an inside activity. Thank you thank you thank you.
I read Voluntary Simplicity and Affluenza recently too and just finished Not Buying It. Life is a-changing.

Natalie said...

Technically my book for the month is Great Garden Companions, which is more of an organic gardening how-to/reference book. But, to my great surprise, the library called last week to tell me that my requested copy of Deep Economy was available. Yipee!

Great Garden Companions makes me feel like I might be able to cobble together enough know-how to get my garden going this year, despite the fact I just killed all my pumpkin seedlings! :-(

And Deep Economy is really inspirational in the gardening department, too. I'm near the end of Chapter 2 "The Year of Eating Locally". I'm optomistic about our future after reading about Cuba's almost overnight transformation into urban agriculture. I'm getting the sense that it is not only my responsibility, but also my honor, to produce food for my own family.

I've been shoppping at the local Farmer's Market on and off for about a year now and am anxious to expand (beyond food) my role in the local economy. I'm not much a shopper, but I'm sure there are other ways to participate. I can't wait to read more of what McKibben has to say about community and reshaping our overly consumptive society!

Green Bean said...

Ellen: I'm so glad that you felt that way about Last Child in the Woods. I too realized that my kids didn't need all the activities we had scheduled for them. We've slowly chipped away and they have more and more free time. Guess what? They do just fine and are becoming more and more creative, centered, interested. It is amazing what insight a book can provide. Congratulations.

Natalie: Ahh, sorry about your baby pumpkins. I'm having luck like that too but I hope eventually something will work out. We raised fava beans and peas from little seeds so I have hope. Great to hear about Deep Economy - I need to read that!

gregra&gar said...

I have finally struggled through Path Through Infinity's Rainbow and posted my review on my website. Is there somewhere else it should be?

Susan B said...

I just got Collapse from the library and have ordered through interlibrary loan The Bridge at the Edge of the World and Food, Not Lawns. Life has been intervening a lot into my reading time.

Wendy said...

I picked probably the single most depressing, doom and gloom book that was available - Kunstler's The Long Emergency. But it's a fantastic read, incredibly rich with details, facts, and statistics, and obviously a lot of research, and pretty good writing ;). I'm just under halfway finished. I have to stop reading at night, though, because it's giving me nightmares ;).

I found In Defense of Food at my library (where there's rarely anything really good to read for adults ;). I have to renew it this weekend, because I'm not finished reading Kunstler's optimistic tome *said with tongue firmly in cheek*.

Oh, and regarding the first part of your post. I found the same thing to be true for me - once I stopped the cycle of "recreational shopping" (i.e. going to the mall for something to do and impulse buying lots of plastic crap I didn't need), I no longer even desire to be in those places, and I've actually found plenty of things to do with all of the time I used to spend at the mall :).

Julia said...

I've finished "Not Buying It." I found it highly enjoyable and much less fluffy than I had thought it was going to be. The author usually writes academically, so she brought an academic methodology to the book and gave it a greater grounding than I had expected. It's due back at the library in a few days, so I'd best write up an in-depth review while I still have it!

Julia said...

I also just finished "Break Through," and, like you, Green Bean, found it inspiringly optimistic. I went to an event this weekend designed to develop an eco-community in the local area, and was depressed by most of the other attendees' depression. When asked about things like whether or not we thought that humans could overcome climate change, things like that, I was usually the only one or one of a very few who responded positively. My question is: if the people who care about this are so mired in pessimism, how can we expect to inspire anyone else to join the cause?!

Theresa said...

I've finished my first book, The Places that Scare You, and found it to be very uplifting, despite the title! I'll be writing a review of it on my blog probably this weekend sometime. I've started Blue Gold, about the corporatization of water, and it is quite scary. I won't be done that one 'til the end of the month, I'm sure.

Melissa said...

after a big mess and not getting a hold of a copy of common wealth still, I decided to read Fast Food Nation...sort of on topic, sort of not; got started a bit late so quite a bit more to go still, but excellent so far...

Green Bean said...

I've added any book reviews I've come across to my side bar so that other bookworms can read your thoughts. If I missed one of your reviews, please leave me a comment.

Malisa: How did I miss you the second time around. Arduous is a fan of going cold turkey. I'm a fan of chipping away at stuff little by little. Cutting back on your meat consumption helps. Even if you decided you'd eat meant 5 days a week instead of 7, then maybe you'd gradually whittle away at that. Or something along those lines. It's all moving in the right direction, imo.

GG&G: Right place. I guess I'll skip that book. ;-) Thanks for the review. I linked to it on my sidbar.

Susan: I've not read any of those books so I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Wendy: Knustler's book is on my "I want to read that!" list. But do I really? Sounds like I do but that I need to surround myself with happy thoughts first.

Julia: Interesting to hear different opinions on Not Buying It. I'm only two chapters into Break Through so I look forward to finishing it and am glad to hear that it remains upbeat. I truly believe that we can only make this movement work if we at least retain hope.

T: Places That Scare Me sounds great. I can't wait to read your review.

Melissa: I think it is on topic - as much as Omnivore's Dilemma or In Defense of Food are. I actually own that book and have never read it. Clearly I need to get on it!

Erikka said...

the book club is late in starting, but the book is Farewell, My Subaru. It is way more laid back and less well written than Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I can't help but compare the two as I just finished the latter.

However, it is still a look at an ordinary guy with maybe not so much money (unsure on this point) making some major changes in his life. Sprinkled throughout his narrative are interesting facts and stats.

Would recommend another book about simple living over this one.

Theresa said...

So I've finished and reviewed my first book over at my blog...

Donna said...

I finished "Deep Economy" and posted a review on my blog.

Raz Godelnik said...

Kudos for this great green challenge!

The book I chose to read this month is "This Place on Earth: Home and the Practice of Permanence" by Alan Durning. I really look forward to reading this book!

I wrote today on Eco-Libris blog about the challenge ( and I hope many of our readers will join it.

Thanks again for initiating the challenge!
Raz Godelnik

Green Bean said...

Erikka, Theresa and Donna: Thank you for checking back in with your book reviews. So helpful, all of them! I've linked to them in my sidebar.

Raz: Welcome to the challenge and thank you for the plug to your readers. Books are so central to how and why we can live greener. I've added you and your book to my sidebar.

Donna said...

Thanks for hosting this challenge -- this is great to get a preview of all these books!

If you're doing a tally, I want to add my 2 cents worth that I've read "Not Buying It" and I didn't like it. I kept reading only because I thought surely it would get better by the end, but it didn't.

Beany said...

I started reading Not Buying It this weekend because I've already renewed it thrice and I think someone is now requesting I put Rubbish on hold temporarily.

My thoughts are similar to joanna's. I didn't really like it. I couldn't relate to her at all nor sympathize much with her feelings. I suspect its because I've never been much of a consumer myself...I didn't go ga-ga over red envelope or whatever.

One thing in the book I did like was her analysis/critique of The SL forums have been more helpful and inspirational than I could ever imagine but I do think its a bit distasteful to sell stuff while promoting a non-consumer lifestyle. Why not link to a page for all the books that are recommended?

This too was a quick read and didn't have much new info or stats. I suppose its a good book to recommend to someone who is on the consumer bandwagon and want to get off, but I don't think anyone here might find much use for it.

Robin said...

Better late than never, I hope- reread Walden and reviewed it here. Affluenza, I felt, was a bit of "preaching to the choir"; although it was an enjoyable read, I did not find a whole lot of new information here. Although I took careful notes for future use, I would have enjoyed it much more maybe eighteen months ago. Interesting, however, to see how the writers predicted the economic era we now find ourselves in, and to compare their thoughts with those of Thoreau's in his discussion of self-reliance and economy.


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