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Small Wonder

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  8,074 Ratings  ·  602 Reviews
In her new essay collection, the beloved author of High Tide in Tucson brings to us, out of one of history's darker moments, an extended love song to the world we still have.

Whether she is contemplating the Grand Canyon, her vegetable garden, motherhood, genetic engineering, or the future of a nation founded on the best of all human impulses, these essays are grounded in t
Paperback, 264 pages
Published April 15th 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2002)
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Silent Spring by Rachel CarsonA Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo LeopoldThe Lorax by Dr. SeussThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Best Environmental Books
73rd out of 580 books — 745 voters
A Room of One's Own by Virginia WoolfWalden by Henry David ThoreauA Collection of Essays by George OrwellArguably by Christopher HitchensThe Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays by Albert Camus
Best/Favorite Books of Essays
29th out of 386 books — 161 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
4.5 stars

I was inclined to think I would like Kingsolver's fiction much better than her essays. Happily, I was wrong. This is a collection of beautifully written essays covering everything from raising chickens to raising children, from global war to birdwatching. There are so many perfectly expressed ideas and sentiments in these essays that I know I'll be reading it again. I laughed with her as she shared her young daughter's pronouncements, cried with her as she briefly shared her rape experi
Mar 20, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
If I had to pick one book that would come with me wherever I went, it would be this one. This is my all-time favorite book. My favorite Kingsolver, my favorite book of essays (my favorite medium), my favorite. She is my hero.
Jul 27, 2009 okyrhoe rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookcrossing, u-s-a
In general terms I, too, am on the same side of the fence as Kingsolver. Maybe that’s why I was disappointed to find that this was not as engaging a read as I expected it to be.
As I was reading through these post-9/11 "essays" I found it increasingly difficult to be sympathetic with Kingsolver's earthmother-y stance, her frequent recourse to phrases such as 'balance,' 'salvation,' 'spirit' and 'small wonder' in the face of pressing global political and environmental issues. These are generalitie
Feb 03, 2010 Andi rated it it was amazing
Okay, so Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was one of those books that significantly changed my life, and I really liked, as did the rest of the world it seems, The Poisonwood Bible, but I honestly cannot tell you what made me want to read Kingsolver’s essay collection Small Wonder. Maybe I read about it on a blog or in a review, and whoever turned me onto this book, I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. This is the book that helped me start my book. No joke, no questions, this book did it.

There’s someth
Jan 03, 2012 Lusi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kingsolver has a way with words, that after reading the first couple of essays, you feel as though you should start a garden, start a chicken coup, and start riding a bike to limit your carbon footprints. Then after a few more essays, you feel as though, you should volunteer more often, and generally do better at being a human being. Assuming of course you weren't already. Kingsolver forces us to have questions of our own, about the state of affairs in our country, from the seemingly endless ...more
Dec 08, 2014 Donna rated it really liked it
This was a collection of nonfiction essays written by Barbara Kingsolver. I probably would never have read this on my own, but it was a book club read so I took up the challenge.

There were parts of this that I liked. Overall, it is worth the time to read. Some of it was definitely thought provoking. It felt quite personal in that she shared so much of herself and her stand on various topics. She makes her points politely and does so in an easy manner. I thought she was careful to not offend or t
Jul 10, 2016 Jocelyn rated it did not like it
I get the feeling that Barbara Kingsolver wrote this book mostly for herself. Sure, there are the great environmental, feminist, and pacifist morals, which I must note now that I did often strongly agree with, but they are overshadowed by Kingsolver reveling in her own writing.

At several points, Kingsolver takes on an insultingly self-righteous and condescending tone, and in these sections most of what I got out of the book was "gardens, hope, nature, I'm better than you, peace." She's got it al
Mar 29, 2014 Lukie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, essays
Kingsolver is my personal hero. She puts everything I believe, and more that I didn't know I believed until she says it, into gorgeous, heartfelt, clear, high-impact prose. If the world worked according to her ideals, it would be an awesome place. I would be so happy living here, as would everyone else. (Okay, not the truly greedy or fanatics.)
One of the things I admire most about her is that she makes the effort to scrutinize and write about so many topics that most of us think about from time
Jun 11, 2008 Luke rated it really liked it
Excellent ideas, a writer who likes to hear herself write a little bit, but that goes with the essay as a tool, and it must be said that she is very witty and clear. . . I really liked it. She has a similar message to Wendell Berry, but she's not the "female Wendell Berry" that some people describe her as. There are some fundamental differences. She is missing the solid Christian underpinnings that Berry writes from with strength, though doesn't lean on as a crutch. Kingsolver doesn't seem so ...more
Apr 29, 2011 Matt rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this book to anyone. It is worth the price of admission just for the essays "Knowing Our Place" and "Lily's Chickens," although the whole thing is worth reading. The first essay and some of the others feel a little dated since they are reflections written just after September 11, 2001 (Not that that makes them any worse--they capture the mood of that time very well, it's just that a lot has happened since). One of the essays, about the author not watching TV, touches on the ...more
Tyler Jones
Apr 17, 2012 Tyler Jones rated it really liked it
Shelves: environment, essays
Gee, I hope nobody finds out I not only read but liked a Barbara Kingsolver book or my reputation as a tough guy will be ruined. Still, I am man enough to give credit where it's due and these essays, while sometimes flowery, delivered a lot of information as well as passion. If her arguments are as emotional as they are logical it can be forgiven because, well, if you can't get emotional about topics like the destruction of the environment or the hi-jacking of democracy, then you should check yo ...more
Jul 13, 2007 Lani rated it really liked it
I first read sections of Barbara Kingsolver's "Small Wonder" aloud, while recording a Christmas gift CD for friends and family in 2003. Several of the essays were so poignant to those of us hurting from the Sept. 11 attacks and tensions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

I re-read the book last month (June 2007), and found new messages in Kingsolver's beautifully formed essays. Her well-researched and rational pleas for the environment, her touching stories about family, her hopes for humanity
Jan 22, 2009 claire rated it did not like it
I love Barbara Kingsolver but I think I was reading this book at the wrong time. It was written in 2001 and has a lot of essays about how terrible our country it. If I read this book 5 years ago I probably would've really liked it, but right now I am riding the Obama wave of optimism and hope to not going back to hating our country for a long time.
Written in the period after 9-11, this diverse set of essays advances one's sense of participation in life around us and ways to move toward sisterhood with others on the planet. The resonance of the universal in the particular shines throughout.
Meghan Pinson
Jul 27, 2007 Meghan Pinson rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
If I could get my dad to read this book, I wouldn't have to ruin perfectly good camping trips arguing the points she so effectively tackles. Sorry about the tilapia, Dad!
Dave J
Oct 10, 2016 Dave J rated it it was amazing
Very much enjoyed it. Having read Lacuna and Flight Behaviour I thought I'd turn to her essays. She's preaching to the converted (me) about environmental and social issues of the day but I still found all of the essays readable and relevant and sometimes inspiring.

On political and social issues (war, migration, parenting, TV, etc) it felt to me that she wasn't particularly saying anything new or in a different way although it is important stuff and I'm happy to see it being restated and reinforc
This is actually a re-read for me, and though I liked it a lot then, I appreciate it more now. The first time around, I had difficulty with the first few essays - "Small Wonder," "Saying Grace," were very well written, but didn't speak to me nearly the way the others did. They each have a message, a lesson, an opinion that some have interpreted as preachy, pretentious; to me, they're proof that it's possible to live differently and happily, but that the later is the more important of the two.

Apr 13, 2013 Amanda rated it it was amazing
This series of essays is like anything that I've read before. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them, and found myself making numerous highlights in the book of areas that mirror my own thoughts, fears and hopes. Here are a few passages that really stood out:

In her "Letter to My Mother" essay, Barbara Kingsolver writes several passages to her mother about key moments in her life. One passage deals with death, and her worry about it mirrors one that still nags me to this day. "I am the s
Sep 12, 2012 Heidi rated it it was amazing
I love Barbara Kingsolver with an enthusiasm I have rarely felt for a person I don't actually know. Partly that's because I feel I do know her, because she willingly includes so many details of her own life in her books. And partly it's because she eloquently writes so many of my own thoughts and feelings into books that find their way into thousands of homes and minds, and it comforts me to know that I am not the only one who thinks like this. There is a champion of these ideas for peace and na ...more
Oct 21, 2009 Lori rated it really liked it
Small Wonders is a thought provoking collections of essays by the great wordsmith Barbara Kingsolver. In this collection the reader is treated to heart wrenching descriptions of the natural beauty surrounding us everyday. Kingsolver has an eye that many of us do not possess and is able to write in elegant, flowing prose and capture on paper the heart and soul of the land, animal or body of water she is describing. She uses some of these essays to promote her political views which consist mainly ...more
Nancy Andres
Mar 05, 2013 Nancy Andres rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
One measure I use to rate a piece of literature is that I return to the ideas or insights I've gained as a result of reading it again and again. This book of personal essays, Small Wonder, by Barbara Kingsolver certainly deserves the high rating I gave it-just for that reason alone. Within, Kingsolver discusses topics such as the aftermath of 9/11, love for the creatures of our planet large and small, her family, and especially muses about the legacy she is leaving for her children. I wonder ...more
Feb 04, 2014 Leslie rated it it was amazing
I think Barbara Kingsolver has a new disciple in me. I'd read "The Poisonwood Bible" and "The Bean Trees" and loved them both -- for the writing, for the story telling, for the way the characters have stayed with me over the years, for the way they made me consider my world differently. But I've not been compelled to read everything she wrote. I am now. This collection of essays touched on all the things that matter and she writes with grace, compassion, hope, and intelligence. I found myself ...more
Bud Mallar
Oct 19, 2013 Bud Mallar rated it really liked it
No, it doesn't take months to read this as it appears I did....

It is a collection of essays, to be picked up and read, one or two, when time permits.

Ms Kingsolver is a champion of the environment, culture, of common sense. Each essay deals with a specific subject, told, almost as a story by her.

One I particularly liked was the demise of the local bookstore in favor of the giant chains. Another was about the obligations a writer has to the reader, and vice versa. And several touched on raising h
Amy Hoffman
Oct 24, 2009 Amy Hoffman rated it it was amazing
This book made me realize that I have been ignorant and extremely naive about my country and its involvement in world politics. Now I finally have an idea of just why other countries (especially those much, much poorer than our own) hate America and would like nothing better than to see us brought to our knees. With the current sluggish economy and thousands of people (my husband included) currently out of work, they may have gotten at least part of their wish. Kingsolver's book makes me want to ...more
Mar 11, 2011 Marianne rated it it was amazing
Small Wonder, Barbara Kingsolver’s second book of essays, was written after the events of 9/11, and touches on subjects as diverse as Terrorism, why the world doesn’t like America, Genetic Modification, Teenagers, Mothers, and Self-Sustainability. While I may not have agreed with every single word of the essays, on the whole, I found Kingsolver’s to be the Voice of Reason. As with her previous book of essays, High Tide in Tucson, there were some aspects that avid readers of Kingsolver’s novels ...more
Feb 25, 2010 booklady rated it really liked it
Recommended to booklady by: Meg
My oldest daughter just climbed into bed next to me with her English 4 textbook. She said, Letter to my Mother is what I'd write to you if I could write like Barbara Kingsolver. When she left to take her shower, I asked her to leave the book with me. I read it with tears running down my face almost from start to finish. But they were tears of joy and it was one of the most beautiful tributes to mother-daughter love/relationships that I've read in a long time! Tender and oh so true!

Now I must tr
Aug 11, 2008 Emily marked it as to-read-books-collecting-dust-on-my
I wanted to add this one A.) because it has been on my shelf for a long time and B.) because I thought you Kingsolver addicts should know about it. This collection of essays has a fairly broad span-- some of them the beginnings of AVM. (Like the essay about Lily's Chickens.) Anyhow, I've read a few of them and they are worth the read.

Jill, have you raised any chicken on your own? I'm thinking of starting a coop in my backyard. I have two friends that keep chickens who can offer consult, but was
Feb 07, 2012 Krysta rated it it was amazing
I'm giving this book 5 stars, knowing I'll need to read it again (and again) to fully appreciate its wonder. I glossed over some of the deeper parts, but there were plenty of points that got my full attention. I loved reading this book. I feel like Barbara Kingsolver comes from my world. Some of her expressions remind me of my mother, and her ideas/arguments/musings make a lot of sense to me. This is a well-thought, well-read, caring woman who is showing off a whole new kind of patriotism.

Dec 15, 2008 kailin rated it it was amazing
If this book only had two essays in it(the one in which she writes a letter to her mother and the one in which she writes to her teenage daughter), I'd be happy. Both made me appreciate my mother infinitely more than before. I think there is also one towards the end of the book about flying that I particularly loved as well. Luckily, every essay is amazing, so if you don't like my favorites, you're bound to find your own. It's a perfect nightstand book--read one a night before you drop off to ...more
Feb 28, 2013 Jennifer rated it did not like it
I just thought this was bad. Maybe it was my mood but it just seemed condescending (by that I mean it was dumbed down too dramatically) and far to preacher-y. Sorry Kingsolver, I generally love your writing but I wish I never read this.
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Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist, and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in Africa in her early childhood. Kingsolver earned degrees in Biology at DePauw University and the University of Arizona and worked as a freelance writer before she began writing novels. Her most famous works include The Poisonwood Bible, the tale of a missionary family in the Congo, ...more
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“The changes we dread most may contain our salvation.” 286 likes
“What we lose in our great human exodus from the land is a rooted sense, as deep and intangible as religious faith, of why we need to hold on to the wild and beautiful places that once surrounded us.” 21 likes
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