Thursday, June 12, 2008

Calling All Bookworms


We're nearly half way through June, our second month of Bookworming.

I finished Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility in the beginning of the month. As I wrote earlier, the book, in some ways, reads more like a series of articles than a cohesive book. It leaps from destroying the Amazon, to debunking the environmental justice movement, to promoting the creation of a green movement reminiscent of Evangelical churches. While I strongly agreed with certain chapters and doubted others, overall the book was powerful and positive. I closed the cover clamoring for investments in renewable energy, accepting that we must adjust rather than revel in nostalgia, and shifting strategies for my local green groups. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone frustrated by lack of environmental political progress over the past few decades. It will inspire and instruct you.

Because I was reluctant to let go of the optimistic afterglow of my last two books, Break Through and Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle, I ditched plans to read Deep Economy, The Long Emergency and, based on a bookworm's review, Farewell My Subaru. I now find myself immersed in Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash - a book that is, amazingly, entertaining and educational as it delves into our refuse. I'll report back on junk in the garage man's trunk later this month.

How are all of you bookworms doing? Loving or loathing your books? Please share your thoughts here. If you've posted a review and I haven't linked to it yet (see my sidebar), please leave me a comment so I can get all the reviews in one place. Happy reading.

43 comments:

zfolwick said...

I've been trying to find the book "Mycelium Running" by Paul Stamets. It sounds pretty interesting from his TED talk.

Burbanmom said...

I've only just started Simple Prosperity (can you tell preschool is over and the kids are home and sewing has picked up?!?!). So far it's a good read. Kind of reinforcing some stuff I already know, but that's ok. I like to be "reinforced" every now and again... keeps me from going on shopping binges!

Heather @ SGF said...

I'm really struggling through Common Wealth. I'm only on 50 pages so far. I just can't quite get into to or concentrate for long.

Wild Orchids for Trotsky said...

Great reviews - I am inspired to read Break Through now!

I reviewed Symbiotic Planet, by Lynn Margulis, here. I'm now just finishing Cradle to Cradle (McDonough & Braungart), a truly extraordinary book, and plan to review it soon.

The Purloined Letter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Purloined Letter said...

Thanks for organizing this! I've read several really interesting books for the months and reviewed some of them on my blog.

eco 'burban mom said...

I love this challenge, unfortunately my schedule this week has been too crazy for reviews. I am so late finishing my review of AVM! I am reading Affluenza and I like it, but not as much as AVM.

Now that my power is back on, I am back home after a business trip and me and the kids survived our first week of no-school, I will be back in the groove next week! Promise!!!

Michelle Verges said...

My students and I read Garbage Land last year as part of my goal to relate statistics to the real world. As you can probably imagine, many students don't understand the relevance of using statistics. So in addition to reading this book and learning statistics, we hosted a festival to raise public awareness on the consumption of plastic bags. In four hours, the community donated nearly 75,000 plastic bags for recycling, and over 250 people received a complimentary reusable bag from yours truly. Elizabeth Royte, the author of Garbage Land, was our featured speaker. It was so awesome meeting her and having her on board with this project.

Anyway, I hope that you will enjoy this book as much as I did. She presents it as a personal adventure story, which makes her journey even more interesting and even inspiring. Thanks to her, I've been a member of the compost revolution for a year!

:0)
M

Susan B said...

The last few weeks have been not only sappingly hot but horribly busy at work. I have not been able to find my way back to Collapse. Not sure if it counts for an environmental book, I read "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, stunningly good writing that gave me vague and disturbing nightmares -- just what I needed with my sleep already disrupted.
Now I'm reading which I say falls within the purview of this challenge -- "The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature" by Jonathan Rosen. I like this book, but it is uneven and draggy in places. If you watch birds even very casually or are contemplating what's left of the natural world in a today's world, I would recommend this book, especially if you like literature. The author ties his own ruminations and birding experiences to literature (including the poetry of Walt Whitman and Faulkner's The Bear) and to this country's history of expansion and exploration and the interesting lives of folks like Darwin, Audobon and Roosevelt (that would be Teddy). Thought provoking. Plus you learn a bit about the habits and mystic of birds, including the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker.

Green Plan(t) said...

So far I've enjoyed Harvest for Hope by Jane Goodall, I'm just having a hard time finding time to read it. I've just spent too much time online and not enough time between the pages.

I'm also reading Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century and The Self-Sufficiency Handbook, but unofficially for this challenge.

Debbie said...

Depending on how life goes I will probably finish 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' this weekend. The city of Concord, NH has chosen this book as their 'community wide book read' book - which is exciting! This book is life changing, thought provoking, eyebrow raising - and I don't know where to begin to write only one post but when I do, you will be the first to know - it could be lengthy! I am working with my CSA farmer (I just picked up my first CSA foods this morning - I am very excited!) to see if our CSA might be interested in doing an AVM book group. Happy Reading!

Lori in webster groves said...

I finished Omnivore's Dilemma weeks ago (for the initial challenge) and still haven't made time for the write-up. I will definitely ahve a review up in the next week or so.

Melinda said...

I'm such a slow reader! More than 1/2-way through Fight Global Warming Now: A Handbook For Taking Action In Your Community. It's inspiring, as I, too, am looking for positive books that focus on solutions. FYI, I believe Deep Economy is another that falls into that category!

arduous said...

Well, after reading three green books in May, I took a break, and am currently reading a book about a serial killer. And he seems to fly A LOT to you know ... escape the police, so he's not really a very green serial killer. Once I finish that, I'll probably get back to Deep Economy though I'm like 20 pages in and already disagreeing with McKibben.... Maybe I'll read Commonwealth instead.

Melanie J. said...

Deep into Simple Prosperity, slacking on Silent Spring...may trade Rachel Carson in favor of Earth in the Balance.

Green Bean said...

Zfolwick: Looks interesting. I remember hearing a bit about this. I see they have it used on Amazon but maybe you can find it at a local library?

Burbs: I felt the same way about SP. Don't expect to have your mind blown. I would just look forward to affirmation that you are on the right path and bask in its positive tone. You'll need that to help avoid the shopping binges or whatever else you need to do to get through summer with everyone home! We've still got another week of peace here.

Heather: I hope you enjoy Common Wealth. I really felt it was an important - though not an easy read. I just kind of slogged through it chapter by chapter, but it did take a while. There are a few chapters that should be much quicker as you get into it.

Orchid: Really interesting book. It is nice to hear about solutions. If you enjoyed most of Symbiotic Planet, with its mind toward solving instead of wallowing in problems, I think you would enjoy Break Through.

Purloined: Holy cow! You've been busy girl. See You in 100 Years sounds like a good summer read. I think I'll pick that up at the library.

EB: Let's be clear, girl, no reviews are required for this challenge! Don't worry about it. All you are supposed to be doing is reading. If you feel inspired to write a review, super because they are really helpful but they aren't required. It is enough to just read and maybe drop a comment here. Your AVM reviews rocked, btw. I was going to steal your format for a review of the entire book, Break Through, but I amy be too lazy to even do that. ;-)

Michelle: I always love to hear your perspective as a college educator and someone who's looked at these issues in depth. I'm only a few chapters in but I agree with you. Who knew that reading about trash could be so interesting and not judgmental or depressing - just inspiring. Very cool that you got to work with Royte. She must really be something.

Susan: Life of Skies sounds really beautiful. I do so enjoy the birds we have in our backyard and nothing is better than an early morning walk to hear them chattering to one another. As a former English major, this sounds like it is right up my alley. Thank you!

Green Plan(t): Another busy reader! I, like you, tend to spend more time reading online than books. I certainly would have read more books if I didn't bury my head in the blogosphere so much. That's why this is a challenge for me too. We'll plug away.

Debbie: Wow! What you and your city are doing exemplifies community and the whole green church thing I posted about a few days ago. I can't believe Concord chose it as their city-wide book. I predict a lot of local eating and sustainable gardening there. Good luck with establishing a CSA AVM book club. I really think this kind of grass roots community building is the key to spreading the word. And don't feel bad about not writing a single post about that book. I NEVER write a single post about any book that has truly affected me. What I learned just seeps in to everything I write.

Lori: No pressure. As I wrote to EB, the challenge is to read. A review is just icing on the cake. Do it if and when you feel inspired.

Melinda: I too am looking for inspiring, solution based books right now. I keep getting mixed reviews on Deep Economy and don't know what to do. I haven't returned it to the library yet. Have you read Simple Prosperity yet? Someone who read that one first and the DE, said to skip DE because it brings you down for the SP high. What do you think?

Theresa said...

Still not finished Blue Gold.
Can't. Stop. Weeding.

Donna said...

I should have a review up of "The Long Emergency" in the next day or two. In the meantime, nobody read it. :(

Abbie said...

I finished Plenty the other night. I haven't posted a review yet, as it's "Strawberry Week" at Farmer's Daughter. Now I'm wondering around looking for something to read before bed... I'm going to have to check out what everyone else is reading to find a new one.

lauren said...

I am reading Garbageland also! I can't put my finger on it, but it leaves me a bit dissatisfied.

Don't get me wrong; It is chock full of information. However, it lacks the narrative structure that I enjoyed in Omnivore's Dilemma (4 meals) and AVM (12 month cycle).

Also, it is just plain depressing. Garbage is one of my biggest pet peeves, so to hear about the vast quantities of trash is really disheartening. I knew it would be about trash; I just didn't realize how much it would affect me.

Maybe as I read more I will find something inspiring, but now thus far, it is simply discouraging.

Green Bean said...

Theresa: laughing! I hear ya.

Donna: Thanks for the warning. That certainly doesn't sound promising.

Abbie: Hm? Have you read AVM? Maybe some of the book reviews on the sidebar might give you an idea. I'm kind of in a similar situation. I started reading Garbage Land because I was trying to avoid stuff that would depress me (uh o, see Lauren's comment) and just grabbed what came in first to the library. It's tough. Too many good books out there.

Lauren: I'm still really early on in the book - chapter 2 or 3 - so I don't feel like that . . . yet. Not good news, though, because I was looking for something that wouldn't be a downer. As to something to follow up on AVM or OD, that's tough. Both of those books were life changing and beautifully composed.

Abbie said...

I've read AVM, Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Second Nature... and now Plenty. Loved them all, but getting kind of bored with the same topic over and over. Maybe I'll move on to Last Child in the Woods. Even though I don't have kids. I have students, so they'll have to do. One of my juniors read it and loved it. She said it inspired her to climb a tree for the first time in years. That's a success story as far as I'm concerned.

MamaBird said...

I am reading How to Pick a Peach (which I love) and still reading Garbageland: On the Trail of Trash (also love it!). Interested in picking up Affluenza and perhaps something that will educate me about climate change and/or energy options? Any recs?

eco 'burban mom said...

Feel free to use my review format, I totally thought it was just an easy way to do a review. I am glad you liked it though! I will attempt to finish my reivew of AVM this weekend. I feel a little disconnected with the book, since the last week with no power, the end of school and baseball playoffs. I need a little zen right now! I think I ate too much pizza!! :o)

arduous said...

*Pouts* I take it from your avoidance of discussing that my book on a serial killer doesn't count for the challenge!! Fiiiiiiiiiine. ;)

CindyW said...

I read a book in one sitting (two hours). Yeah that's the kind of attention span I have these days. I happened upon it in a friend's house and could not put it down. Needless to say that I was anti-social for two hours. Afterwards, I was a teary mess! It's been haunting me every day.

Last of the Curlews by Fred Bodsworth. Be warned. It's heart breaking. I bawled like a baby because of a damned bird.

Sue in the Western Great Basin said...

The book I was hoping for, "Farewell, My Subaru" hasn't come from the library yet. The library is going through some major computer upgrades and I think they're too busy to process many requests these days. In the meantime I'm finishing up Pollan's "Second Nature" and if Subaru doesn't arrive by next Friday I think I'll finally read McKibben's "End of Nature" which is on my shelf. Seeing Pollan make a nasty jab at "End of Nature" has made me curious. I'm finding lots of things to complain about in "Second Nature", disappointing given how much I liked Pollan's other books. Better explanation to come after I finish...

Abbie said...

Sue, I know what you're saying about Second Nature. I enjoyed it because he wrote it while living in CT, which is where I live. So the town politics, seasonality, and even the discussion of local businesses make total sense to me. But it is much more about one man's gardening journey than about the food system. It was a good read for me during the winter when I was dreaming of gardening.

Michelle Verges said...

Hey Green Bean!

Have you heard about The New Economy of Nature by Gretchen Daily? I just heard about it this morning when I read about her winning the Sophie Prize for her work on this topic.

I'm curious to know more about it - it may be too academic-y, but you can never judge a book by its cover! :0)

Also, I noticed that you didn't have Nature by Emerson on your list. It's a good book!! I think you'll like it because he synthesizes many of the issues surrounding the interrelatedness between humans and nature.

:0)
M

Joyce said...

I've go a review up on "Serve God, Save the Planet" by Matthew Sleeth, and I also comment a bit on "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral".

Domestic Accident said...

I'm not really engrossed in Living Simply with Children. It seems like basically the same stuff I've read in other books. Hmmm, I'll have to pick something exciting for next month.

Robin said...

I'm all fired up after finishing Last Child in the Woods, reviewed it (sort of) here. My seven-year-old is reading the companion book, I Love Dirt! 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature; I'm sure he'll review that too. And my sister-in-law just lent me Stolen Harvest: the Hijacking of the Global Food Supply, which I am excited about; Green Bean, will we be continuing through August?

kale for sale said...

I can't believe that I'm looking forward to hearing about a book on garbage and another called Stolen Harvest.

I'm half way through Bottomfeeder: How To Eat Ethicallly In A World of Vanishing Seafood. I'm liking it a lot. I did a short write about it because the author had an op-ed piece in the NYT last week about salmon. I'm becoming aware of 1,000 problems I never knew existed and another arena of brilliant solutions to curb the challenges of taking care of the wild oceans. It's well balanced with story and narrative too.

I like it every bit as much as Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds (I wish I could change that title!) and the Omnivores Dilemma.

Green Bean said...

Abbie: Last Child is a great book! I doubt you'd be disappointed with it. I know how you feel about reading books over and over on the same topic. I read all of those books you mentioned in a row. Then, I think, I moved on to Affluenza. It was good just to change the pace. If, however, you decide to do more local eating books, bookworms really liked both Uncertain Peril (genetically modified) and Stuffed and Starved (I think a more global perspective). You can check their reviews on the Bookworm Reviews.

MamaBird: Hmm, based on personal experience, I'd tend to go with Common Wealth or Break Through as positive but informative spins on the need for renewable energy and the global need to act on climate change. Ever since I read Hell and High Water, I tend to shy away from scarier stuff. Purloined Letter really liked See You in a Hundred Years (lighter reading) about a family who lived as if in the 1900s lower energy living. Not sure, though, if that's what you are looking for.

EB: It's a great review format! No hurries on AVM review. Get the pizza out of your system first!

Arduous: Ha! I never even saw your comment - but I think I will avoid it. ;-) We must have posted our comments at the same time. I missed Melanie J too. Anyway, amlost everyone seems to be saying that about McKibben and Deep Economy. I guess I better look at it and decide for myself. I think you'll like Common Wealth. It jives with Break Through in many ways.

Melanie J: Sorry! I missed you the first time around!!! Hope you like SP. Earth in Balance? Haven't read a review of that yet. Would love your thoughts.


Cindy: Just read the info about the book on the Internet. Wow! I feel sad just reading the editor's review. Waaaa!

Sue and Abbie: Interesting. I guess you can't judge a book by its author. You can probably only write a book like Omnivore's Dilemma once in a lifetime.

Joyce: Great reviews! I've got them linked. Thanks.

Michelle, Domestic Accident and Robin - I gotta run out the door to take the kids to the park. Like it's fathers day or something! Gesh! ;-) I'll be back to respond to your comments in a bit. Short answer, yes, the "challenge" will continue.

Donna said...

I've got my "The Long Emergency" review up, now.

Green Bean said...

Michelle: I haven't heard of Economy of Nature but I checked it out. It sounds like something in line what my recent reading but, dare I say this, at a publish date of 2002, is it outdated? I feel like things are happening so fast on the enviro front that anything not published in the last couple of years is out of date. That said, I secretly (okay, not so secretly) hope you or someone else reads it so I can find out more. ;-) Also, I'll add Nature to the list. Thanks for the tip.

Domestic Accident: Total bummer! Sorry that you're not into the book. I really loved it but, looking back, I guess it was one of the first simple living books I read. Maybe I wouldn't find it as helpful now. In any event, pick a good one for next month! ;-)

Katrina: Awesome. That's so great the Bottom Feeder is turning out to be a good read. I need to add that one, and Uncertain Peril, to my list.

Robin: Can I say how cool it is that your 7 year old is reading the accompanying book to Last Child! I didn't even know there was one. And, YES, WE ARE GOING TO CONTINUE TO CHALLENGE. I'll post more about that later this week.

Donna: Sweet! I'll check out your review and link to it. Thanks for the heads up. Sorry it wasn't more of an uplifting book.

Hit Pay Dirt said...

I'm 3/4 through Common Wealth, and still glad to be reading it, but I'm starting to have questions. It's still very worthwhile but I want to know MORE about what's going on in Mr. Sachs' mind. I posted about it here:
http://hitpaydirt.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/bookworm-update/

Gillian

Melinda said...

GB, I haven't read Simple Prosperity - I'm on the waitlist for it at my library. Deep Economy does start out with discussing some of what's wrong with the planet in the beginning, before focussing on solutions. And I would venture to guess that it's a more intellectual book than Simple Prosperity. (Intellectual isn't the right word, maybe, but while DE does give examples, it doesn't delve into stories the way I believe SP does.) So for those reasons, I can see why it might be difficult to go from one to the other (LOL, maybe you read them in the wrong order!).

But Deep Economy was an important book for me to read. I think it delves into a lot of the ideas we discuss in the Riot, and this whole idea of community building. It's not a perfect book, but I am *very* glad I read it.

Now The Long Emergency... definitely don't read that right now. ; ) I never could read the whole thing because it's really depressing and focusses on how the world is going to end in several ways all at once. Yeah.

Green Bean said...

Gillian: Awesome review. Exactly how I felt about Common Wealth and I do think it is a book everyone should read.

Melinda: You have persuaded me. How can I post about the value of dissonant voices in shaping our thinking and then avoid books that I've heard I might disagree with. I'll probably read it after I finish Garbage Land. I really appeciate you following up on DE. So nice to have blogger friends like you. :)

Robj98168 said...

My review on THE GREEN BOOK IS done and posted on my Blog
LOL I feel like i am back in elementary school and have to do a thousand word report on my readin'. Hope I get a good grade on it!

Abbie said...

Hi Green Bean. I just got my book review up... Had to get it done because I'm passing the book on to a friend.

Green Bean said...

Rob: Good job. I give you an A+ for being concise yet getting your point across. Sounds like it might be a good book for people just thinking about going green.

Abbie: Absolutely beautiful review. You really highlighted the overarching themes of the book. And I am also glad you are passing the book on to a friend.

Beany said...

I finished Hope, Human & Wild by McKibben today. I enjoyed the book overall. It gave me hope about the future. I didn't think that McKibben sounded particularly hopeful (from his tone in the book). He seemed resigned to the fact the positive stories from Curithiba, Brasil and Kerala, India and even his own state were anomalies of some sort. Maybe if he did an update on the book incorporating ideas from "Blessed Unrest" showing that an institution or governing body isn't necessary in order for change to occur?

For example I was thinking of the Walmart documentary (high cost of low price) and how concerned citizens all over the U.S. were able to fight the behemoth off. Its that similar sentiment that the governing bodies in Curithiba and Kerala seem to embody except these were actions from regular people. Basically the same idea you've been talking about lately...all of doing something toward a common goal.

I also am thinking about Life and Death by Great American Cities...in there regular citizens made great strides toward ensuring that communities were livable and fighting off any encroachment that would disrupt that community.

The ideas implemented in the places described in the book were really quite brilliant (having bus only lanes, ensuring high levels of literacy, making walkable communities, etc).

Not sure how to end this...

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