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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  83,677 Ratings  ·  9,705 Reviews
Bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver returns with her first nonfiction narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.

"As the U.S. population made an unprecedented mad dash for the Sun Belt, one carload of us paddled against the tide, heading for the Promised Land where water falls from the sky and green stuff grows all arou
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 2007)
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Stephanie I've read both books. The Omnivore's Dilemma is more of an in-depth look at the commercial side of food from a journalist's point of view, whereas…moreI've read both books. The Omnivore's Dilemma is more of an in-depth look at the commercial side of food from a journalist's point of view, whereas Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is about growing one's own food at home and trying to eat locally-sourced food exclusively. Michael Pollan shines a light on the problems with the food industry, and then Barbara Kingsolver spends more time exploring a solution to those same problems. Both books are informative, but I would say that The Omnivore's Dilemma has a more objective tone—at least until the very end. (less)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. RowlingThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Best Books of the Decade: 2000s
102nd out of 5,507 books — 25,594 voters
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanKitchen Confidential by Anthony BourdainAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara KingsolverFast Food Nation by Eric SchlosserIn Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Food-Related Non-Fiction
3rd out of 747 books — 1,386 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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May 13, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it
I do not want to have lunch with Barbara Kingsolver. I do not want to sit across the table from this self-satisfied woman and have her gently scold me for eating imported "world traveler" foods, like bananas. I also do not want to hear any more of her stories about how awesome she and her family are, and how they were able to eat primarily off what they could grow in their backyard, (plenty of fresh vegetables!) or buy from local farmers (who are all personal friends, anyway! Aren't we cool?). I ...more
Nov 04, 2007 Lena rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Barbara Kingsolver has long been one of my favorite writers, but this most recent book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The book covers the year she and her family spent eating only food they had either grown themselves or purchased from local farmers personally known to them. Kingsolver’s skill as a storyteller is undiminished, and there are some wonderful sections as she relates their adventures plotting how to foist some of their bumper zucchini harvest off on unsuspecting neighbors and how t ...more
Sep 09, 2007 Shaina rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was one of my big disappointments so far this year, because I went in thinking I'd really like it and wound up so unimpressed that I think I actually hated it. The premise of the book is an interesting one, so interesting that I called my mother on the way back from the bookstore to tell her all about this new book I just picked up that I thought she'd really like! Barbara Kingsolver and her family have decided, for various environmental, political, and health reasons, to eat locally f ...more
Jul 26, 2011 Joanna rated it it was ok
Shelves: nature
Well...normally I am a Kingsolver fan. I like the way she writes--simple and straight forward. Her stories, both long an short are well done. But this book just really pissed me off. It's a non-fiction account of her back to the land movement with her family. The book starts off well and good. She describes their reasoning for leaving Tuscon and moving to a farm they inherited. She talks about the trials and tribulations of trying to live off of what they can either produce themselves through fa ...more
Mary Louise
I can forgive the obvious shortcommings of this book for three significant reasons: First, I believe wholeheartedly that by purchasing as much locally grown/made food as possible we can solve our fossil fuel dependency. Secondly, by the luck of the draw I can afford to purchase food from the weekly farmer’s market. And finally, our household is committed to making around 95% of our meals from scratch, which started as a response to our collective allergies (nondairy, meat-eaters) but like the Ki ...more
Mar 03, 2009 Sarah rated it did not like it
Dear Barbara Kingsolver,

I'm very sorry, but I'm abandoning my attempt to read your book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which chronicles the year your family spent living on your farm in Virginia attempting to eat only local, sustainable food.

I adore your novels. And I loved Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma. They even made me stop eating fast food, buy organic when I can, and give up most meat.

I wanted to love your book. I settled in as you scolded me for eating produce that is flown from
Jan 27, 2008 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: humans
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Anna, Sarah
You have to read this book. Not just because it conveys an important message about the sustainability and environmental impact of our foodways. Not just because its "Year in Provence"-style charm makes Appalachia sound as alluring as the French or Italian countryside (no euros required). But mostly because this is beautiful, tightly-strung writing about food and what it means to nourish ourselves. If you've read a certain amount of writing on food you know, sweet and delicious though it may be, ...more
Nicole Prestin
Jul 08, 2008 Nicole Prestin rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I have to admit that I have a real love/hate relationship with this book.

On one hand, when the author sticks to the actual practicalities and stories of what it took to live on local food only for a year such as the hilarity of turkey sex, the pets vs food dilemma or the aggravation that a zucchini crop can cause, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read. On the other hand, when she goes the route of moralizing and fear mongering about the environment and public health, and stoops to the typical "Ameri
Aug 30, 2007 Jo rated it it was amazing
I had a hard time putting this down once I'd started and once I'd finished I wanted to give up NYC life and move to the country to be an organic farmer. I'm hardly joking.

Anyone who eats -- and especially those who eat without thinking about where their food comes from -- should read this book. Not only is it informative and a bit scary (though she doesn't present anything terribly new or earth-shattering to those of us who have read things like Fast Food Nation or Portrait of a Burger as a Youn
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
This books is not AT ALL in my normal wheelhouse, and I'm still scratching my head as to why I suddenly felt impelled to order it on Amazon and read it. It's non-fiction, which, nothing against non-fiction, but again, not a genre I normally go out and buy. I might read non-fiction if it's a gift, or library book/freebie, or it's our book club monthly read, but otherwise, not very likely.

Also it's a whole book about the author's family's year-long culinary adventure of eating exclusively natural
May 29, 2008 Miriam rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: organic farmers, environmentalists, people who enjoy feeling guilty
Recommended to Miriam by: library display
My favorite cameo of all times from The Simpsons features Ed Begley Jr with a non-polluting car that runs on "[his] own sense of self-satisfaction." As I read this book, I couldn't help remembering that scene. Is Barbara Kingsolver a talented writer? Undoubtedly. Her descriptions of food are wonderful, and she makes her life on the farm sound idyllic, although she is realistic about the work involved. However, throughout it all,the undercurrent of self-satisfaction makes it hard to take. It's a ...more
Apr 13, 2008 Renee rated it really liked it
I was so excited to finally get my hands on this fantastic story about one family's year long experiment in growing & raising most of their own food. I love reading about people who think differently, act differently and live differently than the norm.

I think the grow your own philosophy of this family is extreme for our culture but I am so attracted to it because it's a life lived with intention and deep conviction. In comparison I found our own family's efforts in supporting our local agr
Jen Aspengren
Oct 24, 2007 Jen Aspengren rated it it was ok
I have liked Kingsolver's books in the past and I am easily obsessed with sustainable farming/living/eating issues. So, why didn't I love this book? Several reasons:

- Preachy, preachy, preachy. Yowsers, if I wanted to be depressed I'd watch daytime TV, not read a book. It's a lot of doom and gloom, particularly from Kingsolver's husband (uber downer).
- Self-righteous, Party of Four. She and her family spend a lot of time planting seeds, celebrating food, pointing fingers, and patting themselves
Larry Bassett
Sep 02, 2014 Larry Bassett rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
If you have ever grown asparagus, thought about growing asparagus or picked wild asparagus, you will enjoy the Waiting for Asparagus chapter. If you adore heirloom tomatoes that have a limited season, taste like real tomatoes, and probably have to be bought at your local farmers market, you will enjoy the chapter Springing Forward where you will not only read about heirloom seeds and their ilk, but also hear the author rant about genetically modified and hybrid corn and soybeans that have been d ...more
Jun 07, 2014 Jan-Maat added it
Shelves: usa, 20th-century
I read this. Then I gave it my sister, then she gave it to a friend. Where it went from then I don't know, but I am reasonably confident that this book was of no practical use to any of us.

I'm tempted to say that everybody is haunted by the dream of the good life, when your eyes glaze over and you dream of escaping trouble and woe for a better way of living, but I'm probably just projecting my own state of mind here. Certainly though I can sympathise with the position that Barbara Kingsolver fou
Jun 19, 2015 Alison rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Alison by: I was planning to read it, but Sara read it first!
I give this book 5 stars because its cause is very close to my heart. It is an excellent primer for sustainable, local food sourcing: it provides a good overview of the issues (including problems faced by small farms and the many dangers to global food supply and health posed by the industrial food complex) and a plan for gradually incorporating local and sustainable foods into your life (small steps, recipes, food plans, resources for learning more, and advice for approaching farmer's markets, ...more
Jan 11, 2008 sylas rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fict
I received this book in the mail as a recommendation from my dear friend Fievel. The kind gesture was much appreciated.

I initially found myself enjoying this book, though I struggled with Kingsolver's assertion that anyone of any income level could participate in her "locavore" (eating local and organic) diet. Putting aside Kingsolver's complete disregard for her privilege, I was intrigued by her tales of gardening and interested in some of her recipes.

However, Kingsolver totally lost me when s
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

A good message with some beautiful writing, though Kingsolver and her daughter, Camille, can adopt a rather preachy, self-important tone. And I'm sorry, but I've never encountered the "farmer stigma" that apparently runs rampant over the US.

5 stars for content; 2 stars for delivery.

Full Review:

"If every US citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrel
Nov 14, 2007 Tatiana rated it liked it
This book is good, in spite of it's lower rating. It loses two stars for two and a half things:

1) It is a little slow. Kingsolver is one of the best living writers of fiction, so she has a high standard that she can't quite live up to in this book. My theory is that she is too involved in it. The same talent that allows her to write amazing pieces of fiction detract from her nonfiction in that she just knows too much detail and feels too passionately about what she is talking about. Not that I h
Jan 30, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 28, 2007 Lucinda rated it it was ok
Shelves: food
Good Reads is becoming the place I write what I thought what a book was going to be about and then either come back disappointed or pleasantly surprised.

In this case, it's mild disappointment. When I heard about this book and read the review, I thought it would be more like a diary. A multi-person diary about difficulties, triumphs, and oddities of a family living as "locavores" for a year.

Kingsolver and family move to their Virginia farm with the intention of eating local for a full year. They
Amy Formanski Duffy
Jun 11, 2007 Amy Formanski Duffy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: vegetarians, health-conscious folks
It took me awhile to get through this one but it was worth it. Barbara Kingsolver is respected novelist and essayist, but to my knowledge this is her first full-length nonfiction book. She describes her family's first year of moving to a farm in Virginia and trying to grow as much of their own food as possible. They raised their own chickens and turkeys. Anything else that they couldn't grow themselves, they bought from other local farmers.

The idea first seemed extreme even to me, a liberal, he
Apr 17, 2011 Naomi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: could-not-finish
My true GR rating: 0/5 stars

To call this book a trifling piece of trash is, in my opinion, giving it too much credit. This book could have been excellent given the premise of the book. Instead what we get is the author, her husband and her daughter, bloviating at how much America and Americans Europe is so much better..and the list goes on. Just your typical "leftist" book...She could not even look out for other research to support her "claims"! Instead, we are subjected to the ramblin
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I knew I'd never get through this in print, so I went for the talking book. Read by all three authors, but mostly BK.

There were many good reminders and important new things here for me to consider. Even if you think your carbon footprint is small, you're consuming a lot more oil than you think you are if you buy food products that have been transported long distances. Not only that, you're screwing a lot of small farmers dedicated to sustainable practices if you just go for the cheapest produce
Although I didn't plan it, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle seemed like the perfect book to be reading close to Earth Day. Barbara Kingsolver, her husband Steven Hopp, and their children Camille Kingsolver and Lily Hopp moved from Arizona to live at their farm in Southern Appalachia (Virginia). Their goal was to spend one year as locavores--eating local, organic food by growing it themselves and buying it at farmers' markets. In addition to harvesting their gardens and orchards, they raised chickens a ...more
Heather Shaw
Dec 03, 2007 Heather Shaw rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who started--and then stopped--reading The Omnivore's Dilemma
This book is no revelation. Kingsolver herself says in the acknowledgments: "Everything we've said here, Wendell [Berry] said first, in a quiet voice that makes the mountains tremble." True that.

That said, I am grateful to Kingsolver for writing a book on food ethics that my mom could read, because it's not a book on food ethics. For anyone who is already passionate about sustainable agriculture, this book will not teach you anything you don't already know. But, it may very possibly take its pl
First, I want to confess that I didn't finish this book. I couldn't. So there are about thirty pages at the end that I cannot account for, but I seriously doubt that they saved this book from where it had already been, and frankly I was too angered and frustrated to find out.

My two major complaints are these:

1. Kingsolver (and her husband and older daughter whose interludes are also included) are incredibly smug about the entire process. All the descriptions of what they are doing are terribly s
Aug 04, 2007 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Here’s a double-post from our Costa Rica blog ( for my pals on Goodreads. There’s no better place to be readin this book than in a rural part of a developing country. If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s about a year that her family lived off of only local food (they had to know the person who grew or raised it). So far it seems to be about half about their reasons for doing it (the politics, economics, science of it), and half about the methods (how asparagus ...more
Jun 09, 2013 Lilo rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who eats
I have a few questions for you:

(1) Do you care about saving our planet?
(2) Do you care about your and your family's health and nutrition?
(3) Do you care about animal welfare?
(4) Have you ever been dreaming about homesteading and living (at least partially) of the land?

If you can answer YES to at least one of the previous questions, then this book is a MUST READ for you.
Lynn Farina
Jan 16, 2016 Lynn Farina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

This book made me SO MAD. It started out with an interesting concept (eating locally grown or produced food for a year). By the middle of the book though, Ms. Kingsolver became insufferably pretentious and holier than thou about their experiment.

She wrote condescendingly of vegetarians (which she admitted she used to be but that didn't stop her). I hate to say it was offensive, but I'm a vegetarian and the whole "plants are al
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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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“April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot wrote, by which I think he meant (among other things) that springtime makes people crazy. We expect too much, the world burgeons with promises it can't keep, all passion is really a setup, and we're doomed to get our hearts broken yet again. I agree, and would further add: Who cares? Every spring I go out there anyway, around the bend, unconditionally. ... Come the end of the dark days, I am more than joyful. I'm nuts. ” 189 likes
“When we traded homemaking for careers, we were implicitly promised economic independence and worldly influence. But a devil of a bargain it has turned out to be in terms of daily life. We gave up the aroma of warm bread rising, the measured pace of nurturing routines, the creative task of molding our families' tastes and zest for life; we received in exchange the minivan and the Lunchable.” 131 likes
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