November 2008


“what they always tell us” By Martin Wilson (2008); 288 pages

Started reading Nov 15, finished reading Nov 20

My friend Joanna went to the local book signing for this new young adult novel and lent me her copy afterward. I’m glad she did– it was perfect for a less-than-a-week-read, and I don’t think I would have known about it otherwise. Joanna attended Central High here in Tuscaloosa with the author, and that’s where the story takes place. As with lots of first-time novelists, the story seems to be at least somewhat autobiographical. Which of course has led me to ask Joanna every time I see her if she knows how much of the story is true. She doesn’t know, but thats OK. I liked the book anyway.

The story is about two brothers and the year that follows the younger one’s sort-of suicide attempt. Although I found that brother to be a more fleshed-out character — not surprising, since he’s the one who seems to be Martin Wilson — in general the book is well-written and feels very authentically high school, circa early 90’s. (I don’t remember anyone ever actually mentioning that it’s the early 90’s, but there is a conspicuous lack of electronic communication and cell phone use; that and I know what year the author graduated.) The descriptions of life in Tuscaloosa are very authentic–which is fun if you live here. You too can pick out all the familiar locations and the very thinly veiled identities of some local characters!

Anyway, the novel is less grim than you’d think, given the almost-suicide with which it begins. About a quarter of the way through things start to change directions– at which point I thought: “Oh, now I see where this is going…” I must not have read the inside jacket too closely because it clearly mentions that “…[Alex is] surprised to find more than just a supportive teammate in his brother’s friend Nathen”. So there you go– one of the major plotlines. Sorry to give it away, but I guess it’s not much of a spoiler if it’s a detail mentioned right on the inside cover?


A friend invited me to do a “virtual book club”, which is kind of like a book chain letter, except you send one person a paperback that you’ve already read, and depending how many people are good with the follow-through, you should then soon get some books (as many as 36—but only if you have really diligent friends) sent to you. And since I’m doing this public reading project, I thought it could be interesting to not only do the virtual book club, but also report all the details here. I can only share with the first six people to contact me– At least for this first go-round–so email me or comment here if you want to participate. Then also email me your mailing address. And watch the books come flying in! If you are the 7th or later person to email me, I will suggest you as a participant to one of the first six. So you will probably still get to play. A request (but not requirement) of your participation is that you write in to the comment section here about what books you’ve received. I’ll attempt to read every single book I get in the mail and write about them here… If that isn’t enough incentive, I don’t know what is.

“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” By Barbara Kingsolver (2007); 354 pages

Started reading October 26, finished reading November 14.

animal_vegetable_mineral_lg obama-wins1

After just getting back on track with the blog, I could have picked a book that I could have read a bit faster. But alas, no. This one had been recommended to me by at least two of you (my friend Sherrie was one; she called me from Israel every day to remind me about this book until I swore that I actually had it in my possession… and let me know if you were the other one so I can give you due credit) so I knew I simply had to read this next. A lovely memoir, easy to read and completely fascinating, but it is pretty long. And 350+ pages is a lot to read while being caught up in election mania. So despite several days mostly devoted to reading (including during breaks between poll-watching on now-historical Nov. 4; and two long hours a week later in the hair salon) it took me enough weeks to read that I’m starting to get embarrassed about how I’m faring in this 50 books project. (Which begs the question- should I be choosing books purely because I can get through them in a week? Or because they’re books that I’m dying to read? So yeah, I want to complete this challenge…. but my choices are going to continue to lean to the side of “books I really want to read.” I already know I can read a fun fluff book a week. But wouldn’t that be missing the whole point?)

So was it worth it to spend three full weeks on “Animal Vegetable Miracle”? Absolutely. Worth every page. If you are a food-eating human, I recommend this book. And if you are one who eats and cooks, I recommend you read it once a year. I’m a bit afraid that as inspired and excited as I am right now…. might I forget by April that I swore to change my eating/gardening/shopping/cooking ways? A periodic re-read may be required just as a reminder…

Barbara Kingsolver – novelist, farmer, biologist, mom, cook – and her family moved from Arizona to Appalachia, started to eat local and even grow much of their own food, and documented the entire year in this memoir. Her professor husband contributed sciency-essays, and her teenage daughter provided recipes and her own thoughts about the whole experiment. They explain what is wrong with conventional agri-business (its horrifying) and why it’s good for us (all of us) to eat more organic, support local farmers, do some of our own growing, do lots of our own cooking, etc etc. It all makes a lot of sense. And if you believe Kingsolver, which I do, we’re all going to have to come around to this way of thinking sooner or later– before we run out of fuel, land, or worse.

While at first this seems like is a whole new way of life–and for Kingsolver’s family, it was– it’s not hard to adapt ideas from this book and make them work for you.This local-food movement has taken off even more since this book was published in 2007. Some of my friends here in Alabama even have their own awesome blog about their own similar locavore experiences… between talking to them and reading this book, I’ve already been able to start incorporating new habits into our daily and weekly routines.  Sure, growing all of your own food may seem completely unfamiliar, or even incomprehensible. But what about going to your own local farmers’ market? Make a commitment to buy more of your veggies from local producers, buy just what is in season (something you don’t even need to think about at a farmers’ market, because what’s in season is all you’re going to see) and you’re already most of the way there. So join me in a new challenge: visit a farmers’ market once a week, spend at least $10 (it just would have ended up being spent at Publix, anyway) and cook something new with it. Or just make yourself an easy, locally-grown baked potato. You’re going to love it. And then go get this book.