Thursday, December 14, 2017

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

More highlights from my autumn reading! (Read Part One here.)

Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening: How to Grow Nutrient-Dense, Soil-Sprouted Greens in Less than 10 Days by Peter Burke

This book is a fun and friendly guide to a specific sprout-growing methods that uses minimal equipment and no grow lights to sprout healthy salad ingredients all the year long. The writing is clear and thorough, including an index of sprouting seeds, a section of sprout recipes, and a chapter about using sprouts for educational purposes. I’m very interested in the technique, although I haven’t actually bought any seeds or soil for it yet. I hope to give it a try this winter— I’ll let you know how it turns out!

The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency by Anna Hess

This delightful book is divided by month, with a set of projects assigned to each month in order to set you on the path to self-reliance. Some of the projects are concrete, such as building a worm bin, preparing a no-till garden, or brooding chicks, while others are more abstract, such as making a budget, learning how to diversify your income, or taking time to enjoy what you’ve created. If you’re just getting started on building a homestead (whether rural, suburban, or urban), this book is a great guide to walk you through the projects that you can complete in a year.

A Bone to Pick: The Good and Bad News about Food, with Wisdom and Advice on Diet, Food Safety, GMOs, Farming, and More by Mark Bittman

Author and cook Mark Bittman is well known for his opinionated columns about food issues in the New York Times, and this book compiles the highlights of these articles from 2011-2014. This is a great introduction and overview of the various problems that we face today: obesity, government-subsided junk food, concentrated animal feeding operations with rampant antibiotic use, continually increasing application of pesticides, food deserts in cities, and more. Although I disagree with Bittman’s ideas that government mandates solve everything, he presents a lot of interesting information, including one of the most balanced views of GMOs I’ve ever seen. Highly recommended.

The Moneyless Manifesto: Live Well, Live Rich, Live Free by Mark Boyle

I love this book (and its predecessor, The Moneyless Man) for the same reason I love Walden: despite disagreeing with the core premise of the book, I find it irresistible to listen to someone who is so passionate about trying to live out his ideals. (Incidentally, Boyle comes across as humble, in contrast to Thoreau’s laughable arrogance.) 

This book was written three years after The Moneyless Man, and in it Boyle spends more time talking about his ideology of what a moneyless world might look like (in summary, a hyper-localized village-style gift economy), and spends several chapters explaining different ways to meet our needs without money. Everything he explains is on a spectrum from ideal (largely impossible in real life) to less-than-ideal-but-still-better-than-nothing. For instance, for transportation walking barefoot is ideal, but hitchhiking is a way to utilize wasted resources while we are transitioning away from a money-based economy.

Like Walden, this book isn’t for everyone, and many will dismiss Boyle’s ideas as silly fantasies. However, I enjoyed being immersed in his vision that breaks all rules of normality; it got me thinking about the way that money has crowded into places where it doesn’t belong, places where I can wean myself off money, and ways to build community. (One of my favorite lines was something to the gist of, “Real community cannot exist among a group of people who don’t need each other.”) If you’re interested in alternative perspectives, this book is a great place to start.

Tomorrow... Part Three!


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