You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can learn a lot about a person by their taste in books. (Please excuse the fact that some months don’t feature anything… I am reading, just forgetting to update. I have a kid, you know?!)
- The Quarter-Acre Farm by Spring Warren. About a woman who converts her lawn to a small farm and tries to make 75 percent of the food she eats come from her backyard. Good, though it doesn’t have as much “how to” as I’d like (though there are some great tidbits, such as how to successfully grow potatoes). Also, she lives in California, so a lot of what she writes about just isn’t reality for poor ol’ me in Zone 4 Montana.
- Shogun by James Clavell. Third time I’ve read this book. English guy shipwrecked in 1600s Japan becomes a samurai. It’s 1,000+ pages of AWESOME.
- The Eleventh Man by Ivan Doig. A historical fiction novel about the fictional Treasure State University (based on Bozeman College) football team, which having gone off to the various theatres of World War II, is decimated player by player. Sounds really depressing, and while it isn’t the happiest of books, it’s very well written and I enjoyed it very much.
- The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I’ve read this book a few times before, but it’s so good I re-read it every few years. It’s about the King Arthur legend from the view of the women. Considered one of the premier versions of the legend. For any King Arthur fans out there, you must read this book!
- Greenhorns: 50 Dispatches from the New Farmers’ Movement edited by Zoe Ida Bradbury, Severine von Tscharner Fleming, and Paula Manalo. Essays from young farmers around the country. Full of insight and very entertaining. Makes my Barnheart worse!
- The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on forty dollars a week) by Robin Mather. Part memoir, part recipe book, The Feast Nearby is an enjoyable book about a woman eating locally and living it up in a tight budget. Shatters myths that eating locally and organic when possible is expensive. This woman might be my “putting food by” idol.
- Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. I have enjoyed all of Brooks’ novels because I greatly enjoy her writing and her ability to take a historical event and bring it to life. This book is about a young man from Martha’s Vineyard becoming one of Harvard’s first Native American graduates (in the mid-1600s). The book is from the perspective of Bethia Mayfield, Caleb’s friend. Her perspective (Puritan) is contrasted well with Caleb’s perspectives. Caleb’s Crossing was beautifully written, but if you’re looking for a feel-good book, this is not it.
- Hit by a Farm by Catherine Friend. A very funny memoir about starting a farm with her partner. Not only is it about the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of farming, it’s about a writer finding her voice. And it’s laugh-out-loud funny! Definitely a book I could relate to.
- Wildwood — by Colin Meloy. Written by the lead singer of the band The Decemberists (LOVE!). It’s a modern fairy tale set in Portland, Oregon. Meant for late-elementary aged children. Meloy’s wife Carson Ellis is the illustrator (she illustrated for Lemony Snicket, too).
- The Joy Luck Club — by Amy Tan. About Chinese-American mothers and daughters in San Francisco. Published in 1989, and pretty much started a genre. Very well written and an interesting portrait of a culture.
- Barnheart — by Jenna Woginrich. A delightful little memoir about a lady whose blog I just love purchasing her farm. “Barnheart” is defined as “an incurable longing for a farm of one’s own.” Hello, my name is Kelley and I have Barnheart.
- Breaking Clean — by Judy Blunt. Blunt’s book is about growing up in northern Montana, about gender roles and about breaking free of a life prescribed but not chosen. Well written, though hard to read at times (oh the injustice of it all!). Lent to me by a friend who had Blunt for a professor. Oh, and a friend’s grandmother is mentioned in the book. Small world.
- Lunch in Paris — by Elizabeth Bard. It’s girly book time after reading Breaking Clean (which was great, but heavy). Lunch in Paris is about a woman who falls in love with a Frenchman and never leaves the City of Light. A light, entertaining read about falling in love with a man and with a city. And it has recipes!
- The “Little House on the Prairie” books — by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The only book I read in the series when I was little was the first one, Little House in the Big Woods. So I figured it was high time to read the series. And so far they’re great! I think Farmer Boy is my favorite.
- Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America — by Barbara Ehrenreich. A very interesting journalistic book. Ehrenreich took three minimum-wage jobs in Florida, Maine and Minnesota to see if a person in America can get by with a minimum-wage job. Conclusion: nope!
- The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online — by Kari Chapin. The title pretty much sums it up. Insightful and thought-provoking! Helpful on multiple levels.
- The Tiger’s Wife – by Tea Obrecht. Very well written story of post-Bosnian war Balkans. I am so jealous of this woman, who is my age, and her insane writing ability!
- Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet – by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. A great memoir about only eating food produced within 100 miles of where the authors live. Which isn’t somewhere temperate as you might think, but Vancouver, B.C. If they can do it there, most people can eat on the 100-mile diet anywhere.
- At Home — by Bill Bryson. A history of the modern house. Super neat and loaded with great facts.
- The Handmaid’s Tale — by Margaret Atwood. A cautionary tale about taking rights away from women. And the sad thing? It seems like America is headed in this direction.
- Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness – by Lisa Hamilton. Chronicles the stories of three farmers in Texas, New Mexico and North Dakota who farm organically and in direct contrast to the big, inhumane and filthy agribusinesses that abound in our nation.
- The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love — by Kristin Kimball. Honestly one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I started the book at 6 p.m. one night and finished it the following night. It’s about a freelance writer turned farmer (sounds like the turn my life is taking), and the first year on the farm she works with her husband. Truly fabulous!
- The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture — by Wendell Berry. Long considered a must-read in organic circles. About how agribusiness is ruining America and the need for small farms to rise again. Very dense, very good.
- Blood, Bones & Butter — by Gabrielle Hamilton. I’m charmed by how unpretentious this book by a New Yorker is. It’s a down-to-earth, nitty-gritty memoir of one woman’s lifelong experience in the food industry. Highly recommend it!
- The Help — by Kathryn Stockett. A novel about civil rights issues in the 1960s South. Shocking (separate bathrooms for the “colored help”? WTF!) and completely engaging. Worth a read!
- Death Comes for the Archbishop — by Willa Cather. Beautifully written by one of my favorite authors.
- Trauma Farm — by Brian Brett. A memoir of 18 years of farming in British Columbia. Repeats a lot of the organic farming information I already know, but well-written and a neat history of a farm on Salt Spring Island, B.C.
- The Wolverine Way — by Doug Chadwick. Local author Chadwick studies wolverines in Glacier National Park. I thought the book would be a bit of a yawn, but it’s very well-written and funny! What a great introduction to gulo gulo in the landscape outside my windows.
- Bird Cloud — by Annie Proulx. I like the book, but it feels like she just slapped a bunch of her journal entries together (can be a tid bit whiny) and because she’s a very successful writer, published a book. Wish I could do that. Still, an interesting vignette about buying land and building a house. She explores the history of the place while telling the story of construction and living.
- The Namesake — by Jhumpa Lahiri. A beautiful, beautiful book. The story of how a name can thoroughly shape a person’s life, as well as describing the second-generation American experience. Loved it!
- The Harry Potter series. It’s amazing how much different my perspective on these novels is now that I’m an adult. I am also reading them more slowly than I did last time. Though it was a great rush to devour those books when they came out, it’s nice to sit back and really think through things this time around. I am also enjoying how the J.K. Rowling’s writing style matures.
- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet — by David Mitchell. Gorgeously written. About a Dutch trading company clerk in Japan in the late 1700s.
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — Addicting! A novel about letters between a journalist and the people of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, of their experiences during World War II.
- Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. A laugh-out-loud-funny memoir about appreciating one’s roots. I highly recommend it.
- This House of Sky — by Ivan Doig. Beautiful book about growing up in Montana!
- Garden Spells — by Sarah Addison Allen. A fun beach read of a book. Creative plot and characters. A Southern family has magical powers and an apple tree that allows eaters of the apples to witness the most important event in their life. Magical realism.
- The Whistling Season — by Ivan Doig. Can you tell I’m in a phase? I just love Doig’s writing style and characters. This one’s about a one-room schoolhouse and a man on the run.
- The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Fast reading, great plot. Entertaining and fun!
- English Creek by Ivan Doig. Great read. Doig has a wonderful (if very dense) writing style. Beautiful book about Montana.
- The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett — Good character development. An excellent historical fiction novel. I have read other books about the same time period (most notably While Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman) so I enjoyed putting my historical knowledge to use.
- The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers by Josh Kilmer-Purcell — GREAT read.
- Platte River by Rick Bass — Beautifully written collection of three novellas. “Field Events” was my favorite.