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spring reading list

March 10, 2011

While getting our garden ready, I’m inspired to pick up some books that share the ethos of natural living, growing your own food, making sustainable choices, and enjoying this type of life. A first that comes to mind is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I listened to this book being read by the author on a long car ride across the Midwest many years ago. I loved it and kept meaning to purchase the actual paper copy just to gain access to the delicious sounding recipes included within it. This month, I finally made that happen by purchasing the book on my Kindle and deciding to reread it as I ponder my own backyard projects for this coming Spring.

In my recent post on gardening, a helpful reader recommended the book Fork to Fork by Monty and Sarah Don. It sounds wonderful based on the description and I’ve added it to my Spring {Garden} Reading List.

I also came across the book Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes on Pacing the Panicroom and downloaded a sample on my Kindle last night. Before I knew it, I had purchased the entire thing and stayed up way too late reading from it. I can’t wait to return to it this evening.

Now I’d like to hear from more of you out there – do you have any books that fall within these topics that you’d like to recommend? Please add them to the comments of this post for a community reading list on all things food, gardening, backyard farming, and natural living. Thank you! I look forward to all of your tips! ~ S.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2011 10:39

    For just a good, simple cookbook that focuses on how to stock a pantry (grains, beans, other dry goods) and then some really solid, basic recipes that you can use as is, or use as bases to be creative with, I would recommend Alice Waters’ book “The Art of Simple Food.”

    101 Cookbooks’ author Heidi Swanson’s cookbook “Super Natural Cooking” is another of our favorites – she uses a ton of grains, which has been really helpful for us, integrating them more into our meals, as I would normally have no idea how to use them, but they are really tasty, and have a lot of benefits in terms of providing nutrition you need.

    I don’t have a specific book to recommend on pickling, but I’d highly recommend getting one – I’ve heard good things about “The Joy of Pickling”, and just reading up on natural fermentations (like sauerkraut and the like) is probably a good idea. I’m going to try these pickled carrots this weekend, I think (, and we have some preserved lemons fermenting right now as well. We’ll see how that goes :) Anyway, pickling things is a great way to preserve them naturally, and also create new foods with normal ingredients – plus, you grow beneficial bacterial cultures by doing it, that are actually good for you (which unfortunately are purged from most mass-produced fermented items via pasteurization to increase shelf life).

    We really want to do some more canning this summer as well, so we can preserve our summer spoils through the winter – maybe we can experiment with that “together”, and share tips and things we find out along the way :)

    • March 11, 2011 08:23

      Dave, that sounds great! I would love to be able to take some of this summer’s yield and can it or preserve it for fall/winter but it would definitely be my first time experimenting with this. So I would love to keep trading tips and info back and forth!

      Also, I’m about half way through Radical Homemakers and I have a strong feeling that you would love it.

  2. Marie permalink
    March 10, 2011 11:09

    I also listened to the audiobook version of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and loved it! Barbara Kingsolver’s soft, southern drawl made it a pretty soothing listen, too. It definitely changed the way I now look at food. I don’t have any other suggestions but I’m excited to see what other people recommend.

  3. March 10, 2011 15:26

    I loved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. My boyfriend just finished the book The Urban Homestead ( which he really liked. I’m about to start it.

    • March 11, 2011 08:23

      I added it to my amazon wish list, it looks great! It will likely be my next Kindle purchase, so thanks for the tip!

  4. Michael permalink
    March 10, 2011 17:02

    Great book!

  5. Cristy permalink
    March 10, 2011 17:23

    Hi S!

    Animal, Vegetable, Mineral is definitely on my list of to-reads when I get back to the States! But, one book that I read a few years ago that definitely focuses on sustainability and connection to your community in all aspects, is Wendell Berry’s Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community. I enjoyed that very much, and because of the thought process that book started in me, I now want to read Kingsolver!

    • March 10, 2011 17:26

      Oh yeah, Wendell Berry is awesome. I haven’t read that specific book of his, but he is really a great man.

  6. March 10, 2011 18:33

    I use the pizza dough recipe from Animal, Vegetable Miracle every time I make pizza (a few times a year). I also really loved Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter. She took over an abandoned lot in her Oakland neighborhood and started growing vegetables, which led to raising turkeys, then a pig, rabbits, etc.

  7. Loren permalink
    March 10, 2011 19:44

    I’ll second (or is it third?) the Wendell Berry recommendation. As a farmer, essayist, and former college English instructor, Berry fires on all cylinders when he’s writing about local communities, the sensibilities of sustainable agronomy, etc. In fact, I use some of his essays in my own ENG101 course here in Wisconsin. The students usually think he’s dry and dull, but he packs information into dense, expository essays — information that more 18- and 20-year-olds ought to be considering.

    In addition to the title listed above, I think that “Recollected Essays: 1965-1980” is a must-read (though it might only be available used now), plus two more modern collections: “The Art of the Commonplace” and “The Way of Ignorance.”

    One caveat: He’s an essayist, which means no recipes, but his words are packaged in thoughtful yet unadorned detail. Some like it, some don’t. Your mileage might vary.

  8. Ruth permalink
    March 11, 2011 07:55

    I also listened to Kingsolver’s book while on a road trip through the midwest! I would heartily recommend all of the Wendell Berry books–he’s prophetic in his essays. “Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community” is probably the most accessible, but “The Art of the Commonplace” was especially meaningful to me in trying to garden, live closer to the earth, and exist off of food that has been preserved/purchased from a CSA/dumpstered. In cookbook world, “Simply in Season” is wonderful as it organizes the recipes by growing season and the index is organized by fruit, vegetable, grain, or herb, making it good for when you have an extremely random assortment of quickly going bad veggies. “More with Less” is also a mennonite classic.
    Thanks for this blog! I love your synthesis of your life ethic, loves of biking and running, and thoughts. Reading it is often an inspiration to me.

  9. March 13, 2011 17:38

    Animal Vegetable Miracle is on my to-read list. A classmate recommended it as a follow-up to The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which was outstanding.

    I’m not a vegan, but I’ve gotten hooked on Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Not every recipe has tofu, and they are all fresh, healthy, inexpensive dishes chock full of veggies without relying on fake cheese or processed meat substitutes. I’m going to try the garbanzo-broccoli casserole tonight.

  10. March 13, 2011 20:51

    I third the Wendell Berry and Urban Homestead suggestions!

    These kinds of books are right up my alley, though I’ll try and not overload you with suggestions. :)

    If you like Barbara Kingslover, read her book Prodigal Summer. It’s a fiction book but you can definitely see Animal, Vegetable, Miracle reflected in it. It is an amazing read that focuses on multiple different stories that tie into each other, and is one of my favorites.

    Real Food by Nina Plank is also a great read if you are interested in local and traditional food. I read it while I was working at a farmer’s market and just fell in love with the book. She also wrote a similar book on baby and child nutrition.

    You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail has a horrible “girl power!” title but is one of my indispensable resources for gardening and great for someone starting out. She also has a great blog.

    Lastly (I swear!), Holy Cows and Hog Heaven by Joel Salatin. If you want to read a book about local agriculture by a man in the front lines of the movement, read this. Yeah, there’s more than a few grammar/spelling mistakes in it (as it is self-published by the man himself) but if you can look beyond that it is a greatly thought-provoking source of information.

    Ok I’ll stop now. I know how frustrating it is to have a lot of books to read and not enough time to read it in, so I’ll cut myself off. But happy reading!

    • March 13, 2011 20:55

      (Oh yeah! And I just finished Radical Homemakers and agree that it is a great book. I also stayed up late too many nights reading it. I’ve been meaning to go through it and write down some key points, and it is a library copy and need to return it soon…)

    • March 15, 2011 09:00

      Thanks so much for these, Lauren! Can’t wait to look into all of them! (I’ve only read Prodigal Summer off the list you provided).


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