From the cover, I somehow didn't expect this book to be as substantial as it turned out to be. It's full of fascinating, clearly presented information...moreFrom the cover, I somehow didn't expect this book to be as substantial as it turned out to be. It's full of fascinating, clearly presented information - I especially enjoyed the chapter on plant toxins - presented in a gently humorous tone. Striking the correct balance between shrilly smug skepticism (peruse any atheism forum online for an example of the tone) and wide-eyed hippified tree-hugging compassion is tricky, and I believe Johnson has pulled it off flawlessly.
If you can hear a 'but' coming, it's true. I am tired of finding so many typos in finished books. I know the publishers are broke, and it seems like they're trying to replace live editors with spell check - but, as any college student would tell you, spell check is no substitute for actual human attention. It's especially jarring and intrusive in a book which emphasizes the human touch. (less)
This was one of the more controversial books we carried this year. A quick look at the online reviews will tell you the same thing - people are worked...moreThis was one of the more controversial books we carried this year. A quick look at the online reviews will tell you the same thing - people are worked up about this thing. Lierre Keith is a brave, brave woman. I wouldn't want to pick a fight with every vegan in the world at the same time.
What I think has been lost in the furor is that her point - the heart of her point, at any rate - is very simple, and very hard to argue with. We take turns eating and being eaten - we consume today, but will be consumed in our turn. If you stop to think about this simple fact, and how it weaves all of us on earth together into an unending cycle of renewal and need, it can give you shivers. It's holy. And it's an idea that encourages us to be more reverent towards all of our food - not just the food with faces, but all of it, the seeds and fruit and leaves, and even the soil itself, richly and deeply alive.
To be reverent and respectful is to think about where your food comes from. It's not enough to give up animal products and think you're doing the world any favors. Monocrops and industrial agriculture, reliant as they are on huge amounts of water, fossil fuel, and chemicals, are not sustainable. And they're slaughtering animal and insect life all around them, so that even your vegetarian meal carries a heavy toll. And who is growing and processing your food, and how? How much fossil fuel is used to get it to your plate? It's at the very least a gross mistake for vegans to feel that their dietary choices have exempted them from considering these things. At worst it's a self-serving lie.
Honestly, I don't care if people are vegan or not. I have known healthy vegans and seriously emaciated unhealthy vegans, who really just needed to eat a steak or something. Keith's nutritional arguments in favor of meat eating are well constructed and meticulously footnoted, but I think it's a little beside the point. Which is hard to argue with: we are not, as a people, healthy, and we are quickly fucking up the earth.
There are some flaws in the book. People have taken issue with her flowery, personally revealing narrative, but I thought it was lovely and compassionate. She could have drawn from a wider range of books for her research, but that's a minor quibble. A larger point of issue is her attack on agriculture. It seems clear that the advent of large scale single crop agriculture brought with it a decline in ecological and human health. But the hunter gathering model, which she favors, isn't an entirely unagricultural enterprise. Many such societies managed certain resources - plants, berries, shellfish - for maximum yields, or controlled the environment in other ways, like by burning. If this is the model to strive for - semi-wild, with a diversity of plant and animal life mixed in (including meat and dairy animals) - then what we're looking at is starting to sound a lot like permaculture. Right? Maybe I'm just being too picky about terminology.
Anyway, there is a great deal to chew on in this book. I can see it stimulating some great discussions, and helping spur people to action. It's unfortunate that the online discussions I've seen have sort of devolved into mudslinging, though given the deep philosophical feelings of the vegan community, it's not surprising.
I'm not going to lie: this is dry. Really, really dry. I like dry, as a general rule, or at least it doesn't bother me - but this? Man. Maybe it's bec...moreI'm not going to lie: this is dry. Really, really dry. I like dry, as a general rule, or at least it doesn't bother me - but this? Man. Maybe it's because the things he covers are so wrenchingly, horribly emotional and in order to get through it with any objectivity he had to cloak himself in boringness. At any rate, the information is valuable - maybe critical - and well worth wading through the whole of the text. The glimpse of our urban future that Davis provides is one we need to look at, hard. And I tell you: you will never take your toilet for granted again. (less)
This book is charming, and it's refreshing to read a book on urban homesteading aimed at poor people rather than middle-class foodies, but it's not pa...moreThis book is charming, and it's refreshing to read a book on urban homesteading aimed at poor people rather than middle-class foodies, but it's not particularly helpful. Good for a breezy evening read.(less)
Clear, well-organized, and with great illustrations showing you how to harvest, clean, and store your grain. With an excellent appendix full of resour...moreClear, well-organized, and with great illustrations showing you how to harvest, clean, and store your grain. With an excellent appendix full of resources for buying seed, storage containers, mills, and whole grains, and with recommended websites, books, and movies. The most exciting gardening book I've read in years.(less)
Like Russian novel concentrate: madness and snow and ruined wastelands and repression and the salvation of the written word; gross and funny and bizar...moreLike Russian novel concentrate: madness and snow and ruined wastelands and repression and the salvation of the written word; gross and funny and bizarre and chilling, all at the same time. This is a book which will seep into your bones & linger long after you've put it down.(less)
Probably more helpful if you own your home, as a lot of the projects are long term and/or involve digging up the driveway. I thought many of the proje...moreProbably more helpful if you own your home, as a lot of the projects are long term and/or involve digging up the driveway. I thought many of the projects could have used better descriptions and illustrations - some of it would be hard to follow for beginners. Lots of great ideas, though, and extra bonus points for the completely awesome cover.(less)