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

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,399 Ratings  ·  267 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 g ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by Scribner
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Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Mar 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
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!
G.K. Hansen
Jul 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
I hated everything about this narrator but I loved his goats.
Ryan Louis
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top10nonfiction
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
Jan 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: food
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
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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."
Dec 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

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.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
My friend Maryellen recommended this (she read it with our friend Linda on one of their 2-person retreats; they get together for marathon reading sessions), and accurately characterized it as enjoyable and worthwhile because of what the author brings in alongside the story of raising goats.

This is really a good read, I'm sure I only gave it four stars because I am envious of someone who has goats AND wins literary prizes so he can write books about them, too. Talk about having it all!

Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A friend recommended this book to me. Wasn't sure what I was getting in to, but I loved it! A delightful book of raising goats, making cheese, & pure and simply living life.
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Beth Lequeuvre
Oct 23, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"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
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
I loved this book because in addition to talking a lot about making cheese, the dude takes a lot of random trips off to talk about goats in history and literature and stuff...he's always shooting off on tangents, and they happen to be tangents that work for me. Your mileage may vary. My wife loved it too though.
Phil Meyer
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is a real charmer. It's "A Year in Provence" with goats, sort of. A couple gives up the big city life to become goat farmers. While it may be a somewhat a romanticized view of the farmer's life, it captures both the travails of raising goats on a rural farm and the real joy that these animals give their lives.
Nov 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
We had Nubian goats when I was growing up and this book makes me sure that I need goats again. This book reads like poetry and causes me to crave pasture land and cheese.
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
A well written book, but I guess I'm just not that interested in raising goats or making cheese.
Dawn Hawley
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! Went right out to the local Food Coop and bought a nice herbed Chevre. Now I want a goat farm.
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly different than I expected. Much more than a memoir.
Sandy D.
Goats and cheese and pastoral philosophy.
Tattered Cover Book Store
Jackie says:

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, pa
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
With tensions high during the presidential political campaign, I decided to pick a decidedly nonpolitical and noncontroversial book for my book club to discuss in November 2012. I already had Goat Song on my list of potential books and moved it to the top.

The book’s subtitle tells a potential reader a lot about what to expect: “A seasonal life, a short history of herding, and the art of making cheese.” Author Brad Kessler and his wife left New York City for a remote farmhouse in Vermont, where
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Don't have any idea why I enjoyed this book, but I really did. I found it fascinating and I wanted to move to a rural area and figure out how to live off the land. I really found some fascinating ideas within, like about the economics and politics behind animal husbandry. "Fredrich Engels argued that the domestication of cattle was a pivotal point for human society. Once the wild bull was broken and used to plow fields he could also be used for trade. Some humans inevitably accumulated more catt ...more
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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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.” 46 likes
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