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Small Wonder

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  9,885 ratings  ·  785 reviews
Sometimes grave, occasionally hilarious, and ultimately persuasive, Small Wonder is a hopeful examination of the people we seem to be, and what we might yet make of ourselves.

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 contemplat
Paperback, 264 pages
Published April 15th 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2002)
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Small Wonder published in 2005 when the wounds of 9/11 were still fresh and forefront in our minds.
In the wake of the tragedy, Kingsolver analyzes as best one can why those in power think that the solution to world problems is to kill each other and why it is that America is so hated by other countries. Ours may not have been exactly the most generous or friendly country, or ecologically-minded in 2005, and this concerns her greatly, as it does I. Now, though, taken in the perspective of today's
Jeanette (GR isn't sending comment notifications)
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
Cathrine ☯️
Another great audio. Listening to Kingsolver's soothing voice read out loud to me was like taking her along on my walks to talk about issues and beliefs we have in common. BFFs in spirit. 👭
Mar 20, 2008 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 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
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Kingsolver's in a bit of a tough position; she cares deeply about things like biodiversity, homelessness, sustainable agriculture, and pacifism, but she can't usually approach these topics from a relatable, self-deprecating angle because she's the rare human who actually plans her lifestyle around her beliefs. In light of this, she does a damned good job of keeping the preaching to a minimum, and along the way she offers down-to-earth, beautiful writing on everything from reading short stories t ...more
Feb 03, 2010 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
Sep 12, 2013 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
Feb 28, 2013 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.
Dec 23, 2011 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 war ...more
Feb 25, 2010 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
Feb 11, 2019 marked it as dnf
Recommends it for: Op Ed
I love Barbara Kingsolver's fiction, but after reading 2 of the essays in Small Wonder it's clear to me that this book is an excuse for the writer to air her grievances about the state of the union - and I'm just not interested in reading about it. First of all, the book is dated (it was written post-9/11) and secondly each "small wonder" is a thinly disguised pretext for Kingsolver to dash off into an abrupt segue to a quietly angry rant on a variation of the same dissent.

For example: the Gran
Julie Sucha Anderson
I highly recommend this collection of essays. Even though the essays were written years ago, still very poignant and relative to today's events. ...more
I didn't read much of this but what I did read was way too sanctimonious and condescending, wishy-washy and not nearly as profound as I think Kingsolver meant it to be. Not for me! ...more
Amy Ingalls
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, essays
As with any essay collection, some of these resonated in me more than others. Letter to My Mother brought me to tears. Many of the others spoke so eloquently about the way I feel about our country and the world we live in. I will continue to read anything Barbara Kingsolver writes, just as I will continue to nurture my garden and my children and grandchildren, hoping that they will change the world.
Dec 06, 2014 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
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. ...more
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2006, non-fiction, essays
From my blog post of January 2006:

I discovered Barbara Kingsolver several years ago when I read her debut novel, The Bean Trees. I fell in love with her writing and since then have read everything she’s written, with the exception a nonfiction work entitled Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983 and a National Geographic coffee-table book (Last Stand: America’s Virgin Lands). You might say I’m a fairly devoted fan, buying everything as it’s published. Yet when her secon
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this collection of essays, many with an environmental theme. Reading this collection caused me to restart our farm CSA box delivery so that we could eat produce that is more local. I'm also inspired to do more activism for better bike commuting infrastructure. ...more
Emer  Tannam
I read 18% of this book before throwing in the towel. I’m a big fan of her fiction but this is the second non-fiction of hers I’ve attempted and although it’s beautifully written, it’s terribly earnest and not very interesting. Isn’t nature wonderful blah blah blah here’s a list of plants I can see out my window blah blah why can’t we all cherish nature and all get along ? I agree with her, absolutely, but it’s not interesting to read.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
She is a master and I adore her.
Shandy Potes mangra
Jun 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
I picked up Kingsolver's compilation of essays "Small Wonder," because of how much I liked "The Poisonwood Bible." I looked forward to reading her personal stories and experiences written in the same colorful and poignant style of writing she presents in her nonfiction work.
I am currently half-way from finishing the book, and I am at a critical junction between not finishing the book and willing myself to finish a book that makes me continuously frustrated by its author. I could appreciate her
Feb 18, 2014 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 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 ro ...more
Amy Hoffman
Oct 05, 2009 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
Apr 24, 2011 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 sho ...more
Tyler Jones
Apr 17, 2012 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 10, 2007 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
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature, essays, parenting
Barbara Kingsolver, novelist
and naturalist, writes in
Small Wonder her thoughts
on the raising chickens,
motherhood, television,
and war. She is at her best
when she writes about what
she knows, birds and crabs,
daughters and deserts.

Jan 22, 2009 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. ...more
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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 word “essays” may bring up memories of tedious composition classes, but today’s collections are anything but dull. Whether it’s...
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“The changes we dread most may contain our salvation.” 311 likes
“Maybe life doesn't get any better than this, or any worse, and what we get is just what we're willing to find: small wonders, where they grow.” 28 likes
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