Michael picked this book up at Goodwill last fall, read it in a few days, and dropped it in the mail to me. It lingered on my dresser for 11 months an...moreMichael picked this book up at Goodwill last fall, read it in a few days, and dropped it in the mail to me. It lingered on my dresser for 11 months and a move, and I finally got around to reading it last week - and loved it.
The author weaves together his experience raising goats and making cheese with reflections on our pastoral history. The writing is simple and beautiful, and I learned a whole lot about goats - in fact, I probably annoyed Nicolas to no end by greeting him after my train commute with "Guess what I learned about goats today!".
Highly recommended if you have escapist fantasies involving farms and/or artisan food production, or if you like goats, or if you like to dabble in memoir and poetry and history without fully committing to either.(less)
I should have written this review much closer to finishing Let’s Bring Back – sometime in July – as I would have been able to share more delightful sp...moreI should have written this review much closer to finishing Let’s Bring Back – sometime in July – as I would have been able to share more delightful specifics. The book is a celebration of nostalgia, of the manners and customs of a better time.
One aspect of the book that I loved was the broad definition of ‘a better time’. In skimming the book together, Mom and I both found aspects of our childhoods – hers from the 50s, mine from the 80s. My grandma, born in 1918, could have done the same. There are remembrances of early 20th century cultural figures – and entries advocating for the return of naps. There are recipes for drinks, and bon mots such as the following list of quotes attributed to Edith Head:
“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” “The cardinal sin is not being badly dressed, but wearing the right thing in the wrong place.” “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.” “Clothes not only can make the woman; they can make her several different women.” “I say sacrifice style any day for becomingness.”
It was thanks to this book that I knew exactly what a remarkable find I’d made when I found a pair of Elsa Schiaparelli stockings in a lot of six pairs for $12. And thanks to this book, I have yet another argument in support of my favorite color scheme: brown and pink and cream, the colors of Neapolitan ice cream: “Strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate side by side: This combination of pink, white, and brown should be made into the flag of some languorous, pleasure-oriented country.”
A languorous, pleasure-oriented country. I like that. Let’s bring that back as well.(less)
When I worked for GSLIS, one of the fun things I did in the summers was record book talks from LEEP students in the Adult Popular Literature class - e...moreWhen I worked for GSLIS, one of the fun things I did in the summers was record book talks from LEEP students in the Adult Popular Literature class - easily one of the most popular, and certainly one of the most fun classes we offered. I picked this one up on the basis of one of the book talks and thoroughly enjoyed it - I was a nascent greenie at that point, so perhaps this book was one of the first to sow the seed of "back to the land" in my little head.(less)
At Home: A Short History of Private Life wasn’t on my list, but since I was too wrapped up in it to read anything else this month, I’m going to count...moreAt Home: A Short History of Private Life wasn’t on my list, but since I was too wrapped up in it to read anything else this month, I’m going to count it towards my 12 books. It’s my challenge. I can do what I want. Besides, it turns out that I don’t own The Accidental Tourist, so I was down one from my list anyway.
Let me get this out of the way: I love Bill Bryson. Love him. I’ve read In A Sunburned Country enough times that I can tell Bryson’s anecdotes as if they were my own. I don’t feel as passionately about everything he’s written, but I am predisposed to enjoy his work.
That said: At Home is excellent. After taking on science and history in his last big fat work of non-fiction, in this book Bryson restricts his focus to the four walls of his home – and the curious and complicated ways that the things we encounter in our domestic spheres came to be there. With every chapter – each focused on a different room, feature, or appliance – I learned something new and more often than not found myself laughing out loud. Among other things, I learned that:
* Someone thought it was a good idea to burn lime for lighting, hence the term limelight – except that it is incredibly hot and dangerous. * Science isn’t really sure why whales produce spermaceti, the oil for which they were hunted – to devastating effect – right up to the 20th century. * A lot of really ridiculous British homes were built for no good reason, and many of them didn’t survive the agricultural and sociopolitical challenges of the 19th-20th centuries. * Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a fan of stairs, but he did have a set of double doors rigged up so that if you opened one, the other opened automatically. It wasn’t until sometime in the 20th century that preservationists figured out how he did it. * Thomas Jefferson may not have invented French fries, but he is almost certainly responsible for them being described as such.
See what I mean? The whole book is packed full of anecdotes and factoids, the sorts of things that will come in handy when you’re walking through a museum and happen across a photo of a man wearing bizarre sunglasses to protect his eyes against the Argand lamp, a predecessor of the kerosene lamp. It’s fascinating, fun stuff, and I highly recommend it to anyone with more than a passing interest in domesticity, history, or anything tangentially related to either.(less)