The holidays can be difficult for me. I feel bombarded by an overabundance of great food, pressure to meet the expectations of the kids and family, getting the homestead ready for winter, all the while trying finishing the January issue of N-News. Sometimes, I just want to escape and go read a book by the wood stove. It is hard enough to find the time to do that, and harder still to decide what I should be reading.
Now that the holidays are behind us, we have the coldest months of the year ahead. (Well, with the exception of the handful of you in the southern hemisphere.) The axis of the earth is starting to slowly come back around and the days are getting a little longer – but there is a ways to go. Kicking back with a book is great way to spend some of the winter months. I feel blessed that part of my job is reading. But, as is often the case, I seem to bite off more than I can chew.
When the N-News puts in a book order, I often add a few other things that pique my interest. As a result, there is always a huge pile on the nightstand, far more than I will ever get through. Here is a short list:
The American Way of Eating by Tracy McMillan. The author spent two months working undercover in a variety of food-based settings, including a popular chain restaurant, a Wal-Mart, and as a farm hand picking a variety of crops in order to better understand the American relationship with food.
The Natural History of Seeing by Simon Ings. Because my background is in art and photography, I have always been interested in the eye, how it works and how we perceive.
The Best American Essays 2012 edited by David Brooks. Brooks is one of my favorite writers and my wife knows it and bought this for me last year. The Best of American series is a collection of short essays from magazines throughout that year. Easy to pick up and put down, I read one, let it simmer for a while then read another.
Chicken Justice and Other Unexpected Lessons in Country Living by Steve Coffman. This is a back to the land story with a humorous bent. I considered carrying this book in the N-News a year ago, but decided against it.
Leanings 2 by Peter Egan. In what feels like a different life, I was once completely wrapped up in motorcycles. I still love them, but kids, family and money pressure all put a wet blanket on that for a while. I subscribed to Cycle World to help deal with my habit. Egan’s column was always one of my favorites. He manages to mix a bit of life philosophy in with rpm’s and oil. Years ago an N-News reader sent in a letter saying how much he enjoyed the (at the time) new editorials and they reminded him of Egan. Wow – perhaps one of the greatest compliments I have ever received. This book is a collection of his Cycle World writings – fun to read and makes me want to own a few motorcycles again.
Race of the Century by Julie Fenster. At the dawn of the automobile age, racing events were used to prove one machine over another and create interest and excitement about the automobile. This is the story of one of those events.
The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. Year round vegetable production seems highly unlikely when it is ten below zero in January, but, Coleman, a master farmer/gardener from coastal Maine, makes it sound possible. This one gets referenced a lot, but not put into practice as much as I like! (Time to finish the hoop house!)
Ford Farm Toys by David Reed. The photos are not so great, but it is a great reference for the Ford farm toy collector. I bought one, looked it over and went to buy a bunch for the N-News, but the remainder house had sold them. So it goes.
The Likes of Us – America in the Eyes of the Farm Security Administration by Stu Cohen. When I was a kid of 10 or 12 I fell in love with photography. There were photographers that commanded a higher level of my 12-year-old mind, but Walker Evans was one of biggies. Because of Evans, I became a fan of the Farm Security Administration photographers for the gritty, straightforward bleakness and reality in those images. This is one of my favorite photo books in a while and I look at it regularly, which is exactly what a book is supposed to do.