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Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  1,163 ratings  ·  244 reviews
A gorgeously observed chronicle about getting out of the city and living life on the land, in the tradition of Anne Dillard's "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek."When acclaimed novelist Brad Kessler started to feel unsatisfied by his Manhattan lifestyle, he opted to tackle his issues of over-consumption and live a more eco-friendly life. He and his wife moved to a seventy-five acre ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by Scribner
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Community Reviews

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This book came into my life in an unusual way.

I recently finished a series of three IRS exams to become an Enrolled Agent. For the final one, I found a colleague who was also studying for the same test, and we became study partners. Two times a week, for 10 weeks, we met at a Panera in between our two homes and shlogged through the very difficult and boring material.

One of the topics was Farm Taxation. Now, there are no farms to speak of in metro Boston, and the odds of either of us EVER doing a
This is a sweet book in the genre of "over-educated urbanites, usually writers, who move to Europe or to the country, preferably Vermont, to escape mid-life responsibilities and find their souls via artisanal foods." Snarkiness aside, I liked this book, especially Kessler's admirable musings on the life and spirituality of a shepherd. It is a great lesson on the food chain and circle of life. When he describes recalling the heat of the summer when he feeds his goats, in the midst of winter, the ...more
I know when I really love a book, I tell everyone that they need to read it. I also know that it rarely happens, and that it's even less likely to happen when the book in question is on goat farming. But Goat Song is about so much more than just goat farming. Sure, Kessler walks you through his process of buying, raising and milking goats, but don't expect this to be some utopian 'back to our roots' foodie lit. This is the real deal, right from the goat vulva to the spinal parasites that threate ...more
If the joy of escaping with a book is one of life's pleasures, then the rapture at being utterly engaged by a book is inestimable. Enraptured was I today with Kessler's Goat Song. From his invitation to follow where his goats lead, to his introspective and spiritual conclusion in which he reads an anagogic parable within cheesemaking, his affinage of milk and spirit, Kessler crafts his sentences, story, and references with the grace and reverence he displays in his relation of raising, herding, ...more
Lauren Henderson
I just couldn't finish this book. Sure... there are some interesting facts about goats that I didn't know. But the author's writing style is extremely forced. He uses big words to make himself sound smarter and tries to tell stories in a way that makes his life sound dreamy, but it ends up just not flowing. And all the talk of pastoralism and ancient practices is starting to sound snobbish... and I can't stand it. So the end.

"A goat's anus would open like the aperture of a camera and produce pe
Beautiful book. Kessler, a writer, and his wife moved to Vermont and bought a small, rural place. The book is the account of purchasing, raising, tending, and milking Nubian goats. Kessler is a Jew who lived in Dharamsala for a year, conversant about Christianity and mythology, observant of nature and a maker of cheese and philosophy. Plus, poetic!
Ryan Louis
I'm moving again.

Well, technically, I'm always moving. Whether to a new apartment, home, city or region, it seems I can't keep myself still. Maybe that's why I continually return to the Midwest: a place that--in the public mindset anyway--looks to be immutable; still. I love the romantic view of a land so broad and uninterrupted that a sunset is not just an event, it's a spectacle.

Yet, if you know anything about Kansas, you know it's anything BUT still: otherworldly winds, cyclones, torrential
Aspen Junge
Yet another memoir of an arty Manhattanite with a substantial off-farm income who moved to the boonies and discovered the meaning of life by tilling the soil and eating the produce of his farm. His book is contemplative, historical, and literary as he extolls the joys of herding his goats through the countryside. Read it, and realize that this story has been told eleventy-bajillion times before in just the last decade, not to mention during the back-to-the-land period of the 60's and 70's, and p ...more
This was my surprise read of the year - absolutely delightful. Kessler is a lyrical writer so much so that he almost made this city girl want to move to Vermont. He didn't romanize the work or the time that are involved in the care, sexual habits and milking of the goats and the intricate and exacting effort it takes to make cheese. But the grinding reality of the enterprise was countered with endearing descriptions of the personalities of the individual Nubian goats, the magnificent mountains a ...more
If there was any question about whether I had drunk the pastoralism kool-aid, my having digested Brad Kessler's "Goat Song" in less than twenty-four hours should prove it.

While on the F train yesterday:

Lou: I want a goat.

Jeremy: No.

Lou: I want a pair of goats so they don't get lonely.

Jeremy: No.

Lou: You can feed six goats on $745 dollars a year.

Jeremy: Finish a book and then we can talk about it.

Lou: In five years? Then we can have a farm in commuting distance to the city and goats and one horse
Beautifully written story of a couple who left life in the city to raise goats in Vermont. Really liked the ancillary lessons on word origins. TMI on goat sex in the breeding chapter, but all was forgiven when (actually long before) I read this part: "A book is like a key that fits into the tumbler of the soul. The two parts have to match in order for each to unlock. Then --click-- a world opens."

This book was everything I needed it to be. It covers all the vital topics: cheesemaking, goat sex, monks, etymology, mythology, philosophy, and the perfection of the human soul.
Brad Kessler, an award-winning novelist with leanings towards the monastic life, and his doula wife, were already well-suited to an agrarian lifestyle when they left Manhattan to become goat farmers. Unlike other tales of expat city dwellers floundering about in field and barn, Kessler and his wife calmly began breeding, birthing and milking goats, eventually making restaurant-quality artisanal cheese. Other than a few alarming events—prowling coyotes, the frat house atmosphere of lusty bucks, a ...more
The full title of Brad Kessler's book is Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese. I LOVED this book. Brad and his wife decided to leave the life of the city behind and move to the country. One of their neighbors owns goats and they decide they would love to raise a few and start making their own cheese.

Kessler tells the history of both goat herding and the making of cheese while telling his own story of the first year or so of owning goats and making
"A book is like a key that fits into the tumbler of the soul. The two parts have to match in order for each to unlock. Then-click-a world opens."

I have not loved a book this much since Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The author has such a beautiful writing style that I found myself re-reading phrases a few times just to let them soak in. This book is about so many things and like a good cheese, it has layers and terroir. I loved all of the information that I got through his stor
Dawn Hawley
Loved this book! Went right out to the local Food Coop and bought a nice herbed Chevre. Now I want a goat farm.
A well written book, but I guess I'm just not that interested in raising goats or making cheese.
Seeking to leave behind their fast-paced lifestyle in New York City, novelist Brad Kessler and his wife fall in love with a remote Vermont farmhouse and set out to raise goats on their seventy-five acres. What follows is not only an account of the everyday challenges of caring for goats, but also a tribute to the history of herding and to the practice of crafting cheese from start to finish. Kessler begins with a few goats, readying a home for them and becoming versed in their habits and physiol ...more
I've often wondered what it would be like to leave civilization behind and live a pastoral, self-reliant life. This book gives me a first-hand account. The author is a writer, and his wife is a photographer. So fairly artsy people who you think would never want to live outside the city without a theater or Chinese restaurant around the corner.

The author tells you more about goat herding than I ever thought possible! He talks about the role of herding from the dawn of civilization, and how human

This book made me laugh out loud on numerous occassions. As a goat owner myself I was able to relate well to the author as he decided to start on his goat journey. He describes choosing the goats, getting the barns reading, buying them and travelling to their new home. The relationship with the new goats, their personalities, habits, and interesting characteristics.
I could relate so well to the descriptions of the goats, their hierarchy within the group and with the humans. Laughed hard at the
This book did sort of make me love goats. So check plus for that. (Except male goats. I never want to be around a male goat in heat EVER.) And Kessler is a wonderful and intelligent writer. And I understand that the point of the book was to take the reader on the spiritual journey the writer has traveled as he has owned goats and learned to care for them and make cheese from their milk.

But still.

I am a firm believer that one can find religious symbols and/or lessons in most things in life. But b
Kasey Jueds
Wow, wow, wow. I expected to like this book, since it's about so many of my favorite topics: animals, farming, sustainability... plus it's a memoir, and Brad Kessler is apparently an acclaimed fiction writer (I didn't know anything about him before reading Goat Song). But I didn't expect to fall so in love with it; I read it in about three days, and I felt actively sad when I had to put it down to do other things, like go to work. First off, it's beautifully, beautifully written, and it has a sw ...more
I enjoyed this one. Brad Kessler doesn't hold back on his descriptions with the goats. It was exactly the kind of realism I was looking for. I loved the rhythm of his writing, you could almost feel the pace of the lifestyle from the slower pace of the consistent long daily routine, one task to the next and the moments of musing and introspection in between. I really enjoyed the etymology & historical information he interspersed through the whole book.

One thing I would have liked to have seen
Thanks, Sally, for steering me toward this interesting book. I was wondering what it would be like to own a few goats and how to go about making goat cheese. The author and his wife move from NYC to Vermoont and decide to try their hand at raising goats for the cheese. He drew me into their world with his great descriptions of the journey into choosing the breed, putting the two goats into the car and driving them home, eventually breeding them, because,after all,they need to give birth so their ...more
A few weeks back, we were considering the purchase of an old farmhouse in New Hampshire. The rolling hills, the historic barn (complete with working grain elevator), the swaying grasses of the meadow...all these things led to the idea of raising a few goats to provide me with artisinal chevre (the fantasy also including a journey to the French countryside, where I worked as an apprentice to learn the trade from the masters). This book sat on my nightstand long after the fantasy had ended, and on ...more
Lee Ellen
Jun 10, 2011 Lee Ellen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: my best friend
Recommended to Lee by: chad gadya
Shelves: food-travel
My best friend and I have a dream of living out our retirement on a mountain with goats; this will at least help me support my addiction to goat cheese. Thus, I was very interested to read this book by Brad Kessler, who has taken the earnings from a somewhat successful writing career and bought a goat farm in northern Vermont. When he and his wife were crooning over a lump of fresh, creamy chevre covered in chopped fresh chives, I knew I had the narrator as a kindred spirit. I was not disappoint ...more
Kessler’s writing is simply beautiful; the book both tells the story of the goat song and is, itself, a song dedicated to goats. He describes the connection with nature, history, and yourself that raising goats provides, noting that throughout time, goats have been the subjects of many legends and stories, always “helping humans or leading them to unexpected places.”

“If you follow living beings assiduously in the field, or through the lens of a microscope,” writes Kessler, “they lead you to an u
"A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese" this is the subtitle that drew me to this book. There is very little cheese making and just a little more history; with the exception of pastoralism in literature and poetry (there is a lot of that).

When I read non-fiction I tend to be very 'nuts and bolts', I like a lot of the how's and the why's. This book doesn't have much of those. So how can it get four stars? Because the writing is so damn beautiful! This book shows more craft then
Mar 18, 2009 Jackie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jackie by: Wendy from S&S
Writer Brad Kessler and his photographer wife Dona had a successful Manhattan life, but longed for the country, for fresh air and the chance to grow their own food. At last they found the perfect place in Vermont, and decided to become dairy farmers--specifically goats. They string fencing over a 3 acre square, refab an old chicken coop into a barn, and buy their first 4 goats. And so the adventure begins. And what an adventure it is. This is a love story between human and animal, past and prese ...more
Jennifer Miera
Despite my opposition to eating dairy and the raising of animals for food, I enjoyed this book for many reasons that have little to do with the subject. The author was authentic and his writing was detailed enough to satisfy my curiosity. He didn't gloss over some of the uglier aspects of raising animals - like the fact that even in dairying, animals are slaughtered: "and this we understood well: that dairy comes with death. You can't eat an ice cream or a latte without killing animals. All thos ...more
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Brad Kessler’s novel Birds in Fall won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His other books include Goat Song, Lick Creek, and The Woodcutter’s Christmas. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The Kenyon Review, and BOMB, as well as other publications. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and the Rome Prize from the American Acad ...more
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“A book is like a key that fits into the tumbler of the soul. The two parts have to match in order for each to unlock. Then—click—a world opens.” 35 likes
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