Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What I've Been Reading: Fall 2017, Part One

Since Zach and I gave up Internet (and ran out of Parks and Recreation seasons on DVD), we’ve been doing a lot more reading. This newfound time, coupled with the natural tendency for winter to encourage holing up with a good book, has allowed me to steadily blade through my reading list! Here are some of my favorites from the past couple months.

The Permaculture Handbook: Garden Farming for Town and Country by Peter Bane

Have you ever wanted to create a diverse self-reliant homestead while creating community and saving the planet at the same time? If you do, The Permaculture Handbook is the book for you. This weighty tome (it weighs like five pounds) is a dense, rambling, make-your-eyes-cross-technical-but-somehow-incredibly-accessible, inspirational textbook that outlines what a crazy abundant life looks like. It’s dizzying and puzzling and packed full of hands-on practicality. Reading it from start to finish felt like a chore, but I liked it so much that I bought a copy, and I’m excited for it to arrive so I can spot-read through it again.

Basically, a “garden farm” is a small-scale farm that aims to be a space for living, working, growing, connecting, and sustaining. The whole book discusses every possible angle for helping to make this situation reality. Bane’s advice errs on the side of being prescriptive— I don’t have a large kitchen, room for a sauna, or an inclination to make pie for every meal— but that’s one of its strengths as well, because of the specific examples of what can work. There are also several profiles throughout the books that illustrate his garden farm model in various settings (including his own garden farm in Indiana; I was happy to read a book written from a Midwestern perspective!). 

In short, this book isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s well worth picking up, even if you just look through the index to search for relevant topics. His final chapters, where he envisions the US’s suburbs turned into a patchwork of garden farms, is a vision worth holding onto.

The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living by Mark Boyle

I glimpsed this on the library shelf and I thought, “Ah, this book is going to either be super cool or really annoying.” Turns out it was the former! I blazed through it in no time, listening to the narrative of Boyle’s year-long period in the UK without spending any money. He is a philosopher and an economist (and quite funny, to boot) who believes that money is the root of the major woes of the modern industrial world, and he calls us to action to dismantle the systems of oppression and exploitation.

In case I need to clarify, I don’t agree with his premise. I see money as a neutral tool rather than a symptom of a broken system (although I do believe the system is broken in many ways!). And Boyle is up front about his dependence on money systems throughout the year— biking on roads paid for by taxes, for instance— which keeps the narrative from sounding too self-righteous or annoying.

However, regardless of what you think of his underlying premise, it was fascinating to read about how he lived and hear his musings about the ways that money has distanced us from the resources we consume. In the modern world, we exchange money for everything, but what if we could barter, swap, grow, make, scavenge, forage and mend more of our own stuff? How has money impacted community, or lack thereof? How can you function in a world where everything you do is tied up with global systems of inequality and destruction, and what kinds of solutions are there? Boyle believes strongly that the “freeconomy” is the answer, and while I don’t agree with him, I think he has a lot of useful things to say. I’m currently reading his follow-up, The Moneyless Manifesto, and quite enjoying his perspective.

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Mom read all these books to us when I was a kid, one of the few series I actually liked that featured female protagonists. It was a treat to read through them again, with a greater appreciation of the hardship of their lives. Caroline Ingalls is my hero. Not only did she know how to churn butter and mend clothing and render lard, but she faced the uncertainty of life on the prairie with a kind of moral courage that I can’t even begin to fathom. Definitely glad I revisited!

Coming soon... more books!


No comments:

Post a Comment