Every year at this time I like to devote one post to tell you about some of the reading I’ve been doing. No matter the time of year, my favorite gifts to give, and receive, are ideas. Since this is the season of giving, I’d like to offer you a little list of books that are rich in ideas and inspiration to keep your intellectual fire burning over the winter.
You will notice this is a motley collection of works. Some of my choices come from the reading I do with the kids. Some of them come from my radical homemaking path. Some of them are from my ongoing explorations into the world grassfed meat. Some of these books are new releases. Some aren’t even out yet (but you should really know about them anyway), and some have been out for ages (but they are still worth remembering). I hope you enjoy!
This is a book I would like to see under the tree for every grassfed livestock farmer across the country. Nicolette Hahn Niman, a former vegetarian-environmental attorney-turned rancher, has directed her acumen with research and data analysis to an important cause. Better still, she is a clear thinker and a good writer, and she applies these gifts to make a readable, intelligent and engaging book. Defending Beef is a must-read for grassfed beef farmers as we perpetually seek ways to communicate more effectively with the public about the how and why of what we do.
Of course I’m going to include a review of my own newest book in this year’s list of top picks! If you enjoy following my blog, if the weekly Tuesday Posts feed your soul, then this is the book for you. I’ve been enjoying the letters I’ve been receiving from readers since its release two weeks ago, telling me how they either devour it all in one sitting, or try to read each essay slowly, to make their time with the book last longer. This is a great little introductory book to some of the nuances of the radical homemaking lifestyle, and a source of inspiration (and comic relief) for those of you already on the path. If you’d like to read more about what other readers are saying, check out this page.
Wow! It was a two book year! I released this volume over the summer, and already it has been a wonderful success. If you are new to the world of grassfed beef, seeking straightforward, easy-to-follow guidance about choosing cuts and preparing them properly, you will LOVE this book. The recipes, taken from my other cookbooks, have stood the test of time, and are guaranteed no-fail. The book is easy to read and navigate, allowing anyone to become a master grassfed beef chef in just a few hours’ time. You can order this book through most conventional sales venues, but you can also support your favorite author directly and buy it through this website, too (hint hint).
The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the Gaps Diet by Hilary Boynton and Mary G. Brackett
In my line of work selling grassfed meat, I am always crossing paths with folks who are on a quest to regain their health through nutrient-dense foods. Those hardest hit by the effects of the Standard American Diet are often faced with the GAPS diet (an acronym for Gut And Psychology Syndrome). This diet is advocated for everything from diabetes and epilepsy to autism spectrum disorders, food sensitivities, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and myriad autoimmune diseases. The basic premise is that all health begins in the gut.
And I’ve seen countless customers who are confronting this diet for the first time greett me at the farm stand with drooping shoulders, hung heads, and other signs of despair. Nobody wants to go through this.
…Until now. Quite frankly, in spite of my years of familiarity with nutrient-dense eating, this book inspires and excites me. I want to play with it, to spend time better understanding the concepts within it. My fire is stoked to once again seek ways to improve my family’s diet. The photography is enticing, the writing inviting, and the meals appetizing. I know that, among my readers, there are those of you who are faced this holiday season with the seemingly austere restrictions of a GAPS diet. This book MUST be your gift.
This is an intelligent compendium from my favorite bloggers, Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne, over at Root Simple.com.
I first met Erik and Kelly when I was researching Radical Homemakers, and I was blown away by their creative union of theory and practice to build a radical urban homestead in the most unlikely location of downtown Los Angeles. This is their second book, and true to form, they pay close attention to the how to details that enable a radical homemaking family to sink or swim — from homemade medicinals and garden and beekeeping guidance, to recipes for fermented beverages, shampoos, soaps and body scrubs, and of course, great compost.
This is a wonderful book for couples who have just welcomed new members to their families. Elly Taylor is an Australian relationship counselor and columnist for Practical Parenting magazine. She has observed that there is a lot of great writing about pregnancy and birth, and lots of written instruction and theory on how to parent, but there is little collected information about the transition couples make from romantic partners to parents. This is a book that, to quote the author, looks at “the stretch marks” that spread across a relationship once a new baby (whether a first, second, third…or fifth) enters a household. …An important topic that all of us seasoned parents would have benefited from exploring in advance!
This book is a fantastical twist on Scheherazade, where a renowned chef, Owen Wedgwood, is kidnapped by an infamous woman pirate, Mad Hannah Mabbot, and kept alive on grounds that he can dazzle her with fine cuisine (and, we soon learn, good conversation) each Sunday. As the pirate ship cruises the world, readers are treated to a close up look at the Opium Wars, a poetic exploration of the power of the senses, and best of all to me, the page-turning suspense as Wedgwood must repeatedly figure out how to create something delicious from his limited resources. I like to think of this as soft porn for hard core local foodies. A great read.
This book took the Newberry Medal a few years back, and for good reason. We’ve been reading it as a family, and it is hands-down the best book we’ve read this year. I am in love with it for its deep exploration of what it means to be part of a community, and for the author’s innovative approach to weaving the social history of the world throughout his prose. Saoirse (11) and Bob (my husband) love it for the macabre humor (this is a laugh-out-loud book). Ula (7) thinks deeply about the rich characters, and spends a lot of time trying to solve the murder mystery. The short synopsis is that 12 year old Jack Gantos is “loaned out” over the summer by his mother to Miss Volker, a feisty elderly neighbor with debilitating arthritis who serves as the town Coroner, and who takes it upon herself to write the obituary for every person who dies within the town lines. She uses this literary platform to celebrate the neighbors of this dying community, but also to teach history and advance her social agenda for progressive politics. Jack must become her hands as they both grow more immersed in the inner workings of their town and find a way to save their neighbors from murder, and their community from a slow death. This is powerful reading and fodder for discussion for those of us who are committed to living in place, no matter what blights, imperfections or quirks may scar our home turf. I want to emphasize that this book is targeted at children in the 10-14 age range, but it satisfies far more widely than that. This should be at the top of the reading list for every grown-up I know who values community.
While others may have long known about this book, we only discovered it after my youngest, Ula, found the book on a library shelf, then pleaded with us to take her to see an exhibit of author/illustrator James Gurney’s art last winter. While I agree that this book is one of our best finds of the year, it is at Ula’s insistence that I am including this review.
This is a perfect book to spend some beautiful time with your kids. You will sit down on the couch with them, or cuddle up in the bed together, and read a little. Then you and they will simply sit quietly and gaze at all the details in the illustrations. As you stare, you’ll keep making new discoveries, and finding things to talk about. The fanciful world portrayed is so vivid, even grown-ups will begin to wonder if there is a way to travel there. After you put the book away, your little one will most likely slip off with it, and spend hours just leafing through the pages. The older ones may read the text. But maybe they won’t. It won’t matter.
James Gurney has used his artistic skills and creative genius to construct a fanciful world where humans and dinosaurs coexist in peaceful harmony. The story of the book isn’t so much about the plot, but about the opportunity to immerse our imaginations in all the glorious details of a world where cities are built on waterfalls, where communities can live in tree tops, and where, most importantly of all, dinosaur dung is the supreme gold of the land. I am thankful that our library has these books available, but we soon realized that these were volumes worth owning, as they are timeless treasures that our girls keep re-discovering, and they will likely want to share them someday with their own children.
All the books mentioned above are already in print. However, I’ve recently had the opportunity to look over two books that will be coming out this spring that I think many readers of this blog will be keen on. I found them to be outstanding.
The Nourishing Homestead: One back-to-the land family’s plan for cultivating soil, skills, and spirit, by Ben Hewitt with Penny Hewitt
(Seriously. Could anyone ever go wrong getting a book written by Ben Hewitt?). You can learn more about Ben and his work here.
The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook: 100 delicious, gluten-free, farm-to-table recipes, and a complete guide to growing your own healthy food, by Diana Rodgers with Andrew Rodgers.
Think: Radical Homemaking goes Paleo, and you’ll know instantly what this book is about. You can learn more about Diana’s wonderful work at her website, Radiance Nutrition.