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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bonus Post:: Holiday Shopping? Here's Book List for You!

Chard makes a lovely holiday gift, but I tend to give books much more frequently.  Something in these chards (maybe the color?) says "HOLIDAY!" 
 As you make up your holiday gift list, take a look at some of these books, they will make good gifts, raise awareness and you'll be acclaimed a wise person for selecting such an astute gift!  Or by them for yourself and be careful patting yourself on the back.  Following are some selections that I have found fascinating and readable.  Next year I hope I'll have one of mine on the list!
A Nation of Farmers by Sharon Astyk et al © 2009 New Society Publishers

Sharon Astyk is one of the premier writers of this decade.  She is a sharp, critical thinker, who writes form a personal style and experience.  She has her facts and she isn't afraid to use them.  In fact, I think the desire to be thoroughly based in reality has lead to a few more facts than I like, the specter of the future this book shows can be the difference between a bleak desperate holocaust scenario, or it can be one of abundance and peace.  How we will do that rests in a large way on how we grow the food we eat.  A new prospective that is enlightening and thought provoking – if not 'action-provoking.'  I read Sharon's blog almost daily because she has a lot of important things to say.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, et al © 2007, Harper Collins
One of the more accessible books on eating locally.  While some folks can afford new hybrid cars, and some folks can put up solar collectors and commute by computer, the majority of us will have to take other steps to lower our carbon footprint.  The Kingsolver family model how eating is a global statement – what is on the end of your fork has more to do with global warming than the car you drive.  Or how fast.
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by J. Hertzberg et al © 2007 Thomas Dunne Books

You like fresh bread?  Who doesn't?  This book gives you a way to come home from work and have freshly baked bread from your own oven with dinner.  It is very good bread.  I have made loaves of this bread for my class and for many potlucks.  It is wolfed down with gusto.  This is good bread.  This is easy.  Do you need another reason? 

In Defense of Food:  An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan © 2009 Penguin Books
There is nothing written by Micheal Pollan that I have found wanting, but this book is the most powerful force to change lives that he has written.  Pulling on the same research that brought us The Omnivores' Dilemma, he brings the lessons to our dinner table.  Excoriating the nutritionists and the fads of modern American eating, Pollan is a voice of reason in the insanity of our supermarket abundance of empty (or worse!) calories.

Independence Days by Sharon Astyk © 2009 New Society Publishers

This is the most recent Sharon Astyk to hit the stands.  An important book of directions to real independence – independence is not won with a gun or massive buying power, but in being self-sufficient in your food.   How do you do that?  This is the manual and it makes so much sense.  The security we often seek in vain can be found in these pages – we don't need a world undone to need independence – the loss of a job or an injury can force us to face difficult choices.  As Katrina showed us in New Orleans, counting on the government might not be our wisest choice.

Oak, The Frame of Civilization by William Bryant Logan © 2005 W. W. Norton & Co.

I know this may seem a little out of place on this list, but I got to admit, Logan's book was one delightful read.  Page after page has some new tidbit to teach me and another tale of wonder about these magnificent trees that populate every continent in the Northern Hemisphere.  You cannot open this book without learning some little tidbit that will surprise and amaze.  This is a well-written and fast paced book of many surprises.  I really recommend it.

Renewing America's Food Traditions:  Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods, by Gary Paul Nabhan © 2008 Chelsea Green Publishing  

Nabhan's research into Native American foods (beans and corn, to name a few) gives him the special insight to understand their value to the world and how we can feed more Americans and the world if we only take some time to enjoy a good meal – if we will save food plants, we must grow them and eat them.  Can't think of a tastier preservation project myself, can you?  As usual Nabhan's writing is first rate. 

The Lost Language of Plants by Stephen Buhner © 2002, Chelsea Green Publishing 

If someone you know is into alternative medicine and they have not yet read this book, they are only dimly aware of what they are doing.  This book profoundly explores the depth of our disconnection with plants, specifically the healing herbs, and brings a sense of ecology and connectivity to a medical practice that few modern healers are more than slightly aware of.  Opens eyes, hearts and calls a thinking person to action.

The Omnivores' Dilemma:  A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan © 2007 Penguin Books
How do we get what we eat and does it matter?  This is Michale Pollan's quest as he opens the book. Looking at how modern America gets its food from farm to table is a fascinating tale that often discourages one from some of the things we often eat for granted.  This is the same research that brought us In Defense of Food although the focus is different.  Here Pollan looks at how our modern food has compromised the very essence of food in a never ending race to the lowest bottom line and the lowest selling price.  How come sodas are so cheap?
Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest to End Famine by Gary Paul Nabhan (c) 2008  Shearwater Publishing

Nikolay Vavilov was a Russian scientist who did more seed collecting than any other scientist in the history of mankind.  Convinced that diversity was the key to ending starvation by famine, he sought out indigenous plants from expeditions all over the world.  Unlike the modern model of filling the world's bellies with food of the First World, he sought out Third World plants and looked to them as being the most important living things on earth.  Vavilov died, ironically, in a Soviet prison of starvation, but his legacy overshadows groups like Seed Savers Exchange and other work to preserve the diversity of the world's food.

Do you have books you'd suggest for gifts for others (or for yourself?).  I read a lot and I'm always looking for new titles that need to be better known.   

Happy Holidays!  


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