Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Roundup

Do you have any fantastic new books tucked away in your bag for the holiday? Planning on a three day weekend as you vacation, or even stay-cation? Let us know what is on your bookshelf or traveling along with you as we have other readers that may be interested.

Please post a comment to recommend a title, or let us know if you have reviewed a title that you would like to share. I hope everybody has a nice weekend planned!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Environmentally friendly book publishing

Ten years ago, my dad decided to take his best photographs, add some text and publish a nice hard-bound book. He found a local printhouse that could do the job. This was before everything was in digital, so it wasn't cheap. For the sake of cost and also because he didn't want to waste resources, he decided to only print 400 copies of his book.

The book turned into a family project and my primary job was to help with logistics, including the press check. I spent one whole evening up until about 2 o'clock in the morning visiting the print shop and looking at the pages as they came off the press. The pages all looked fine, but I was horrified at the waste. For every page printed in color, the shop ran a stack of oversized paper through the press about three feet high, just to make sure the ink was coming out correctly. That's not a misprint -- for 400 copies, they wasted approximately three feet of stacked paper per page. I was stunned.

Fast forward ten years and like father, like daughter, I decided to self-publish a book. I wanted it in color, but besides the fact that the cost would have been prohibitive, no way was I going to generate that kind of waste. Luckily for me, a new type of printing now exists called print-on-demand (POD). I honestly don't know if they waste feet of paper at the start of the day when they turn on the presses, but with the printing method you can print any number of copies, starting at one. It's slightly more expensive per copy than the traditional method, but here's no inventory to store in your garage or to buy back from a distributer when they don't sell.

If I looked into it further, I'd probably find POD companies that use recycled paper or soy ink or something even friendlier. I didn't go that far -- I was just excited that I could print my book without all that waste and without needing to guess how many copies I'd someday need.

If you've ever thought of publishing your own book, you should check this out. There is a range of services that various companies offer. Beware of those that charge too much or don't leave you with full rights to your work. I decided to go really simple, so I landed at CreateSpace. I had to provide everything in pdf form including the cover. I keep all rights to my work; they print, sell through Amazon and send me royalties. I can order books wholesale as needed and resell them. I've received several shipments of my book already and I couldn't be happier with the quality.

I know on a site like our Bookworm there's a bunch of readers who wish you could publish your own book. You should look into this! Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Book Review: Seedfolks

I first heard about Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman from a post or comment right here on the Bookworm. Anybody want to take credit so I don't have to search the archives? Anyway, I am so glad I was able to find a copy in my local library.

Seedfolks is a short work of fiction about a community garden in Cleveland. The writing is amazing in that the story is told by 13 individuals, each with their own chapter and each in the first person. Fleischman strings these 13 stories together into a whole in such a way as to explain how he once won a Newberry award. The literary technique is amazing.

More than that, though, I found the book to be both pleasant and entertaining. Fleischman explores different cultures and how different people find healing through their work in a garden. In reading the story, I only wished that it had actually happened. But maybe Fleischman's work will inspire people somewhere out there to be seedfolks themselves. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars for gardeners and those who enjoy a light read.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Roundup

Good Monday evening, everyone! School's out and summer has officially started here in Oregon. In the spirit of lazy days, my review later this week will be pure fluff! I've just finished a nice little read that's perfect for an hour in a lawnchair (if your kids will let you get away with that!). Also, a little more seriously, I'll share an environmentally friendly way to publish a book.

What about you? Read any fluff lately? Or something more challenging? Leave a comment and let us know! Also, if you would like to be included on the list of bookworms and are not already there, please leave your request in a comment and we'll add you in.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Food, Inc.

I have a crush on Eric Schlosser. I know he's not a movie star or even a farmer but he's got a way of talking about farm workers rights and corn that makes me soft inside. And then when he says, "Monsanto," and his hand flexes into a fist; what can I say?

I'm his.

I didn't read the book but I saw Food, Inc.. Not only does the movie star Eric Schlosser but Michael Pollan was there too. And so was Joel Salatin. They're the three stooges of the know-your-food movement. And I mean that with the utmost respect. These guys were awesome but they're funny too.

The movie was everything a sustainable food girl could want and yet it was just a taste of how food makes its way to the plate. There was a vignette on factory farmed animals, on the treatment of farm workers, of the growing rates of diabetes as a result of cheap food. There was a vignette on GMO's, on government subsidies, on the source of ingredients in food. The movie stayed succinct but could have taken off in any direction for hours. And I would have stayed for all of it.

There were a couple of times I covered my eyes, a couple of times I covered my heart. And a few times my own fist flexed into a fist and I wanted to punch the air and yell, "Yeah. Tell 'em. Way to go!" And then I would get all googley eyed when Eric Schlosser returned to the screen.

The most surprising information was related to the treatment of the migrant farm workers. Forget about how we treat the animals we eat, or the pesticides and fertilizers being flushed into our water ways. Forget about the destruction of top soil and the inability of farmers to save seeds because a patented GMO seed has blown onto their property. Forget about all of that and there are the human beings that handle the food. I wanted to cover my eyes, my heart and ears all at the same time.

The movie is not doom and gloom however. The Stoneyfield Farms guy is one happy dude. And the guys from Walmart? Complete comedic relief. Sure, there are challenges. When hasn't there been? But Food, Inc. is hopeful for the mere fact that it was made. That it's being distributed to major markets. That's it's been reviewed and talked about and linked all over the place.

A friend told me a year and a half ago that the sustainable food movement would never go mainstream. "It's just a trend," this friend said. This movie is not however a trend. It's ambitious, it's smart and hopefully it will whet the appetite for mainstream to start lifting the veil between kitchen tables and food producers everywhere. Hopefully it will raise the momentum of people voting with their forks for fair food that is considerate of all beings.

But mainstream better stay away from Eric Schlosser. He's mine!

Recommended: For people who eat.
Rated: 4 Stars (I don't want to set expectations too high and parts of it are a bit corny!)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Roundup

It's nearly officially summer and time for summer vacation. Or not. We're usually winter vacation people but are heading out this week for North Carolina and Nashville to visit family. And I have a couple of farm books already sitting next to the door.

Just released this week, Farm City, The Education of An Urban Farmer by Novella Carpeter is my first read. She's local, in Oakland, a former student of Michael Pollan's, and from the reviews and first sentence of the book, "I have a farm on a dead-end street in the ghetto," she's already a hero. I can't wait to get on the plane, plant myself in a window seat and eat this book up.

The second book is from a friend, Apples and Oranges by Marie Brenner. It's a memoir more about sibling rivalry than farming but the brother, the apple or the orange, I'm not sure which, is a farmer in Washington. What is it about farmers' these days? I can't get enough of them.

I hope to get to an independent book store while traveling too and bring home at least one new title.

How about you? Are you heading out for a family camp out, reunion, or time away from the family? Where to? And our favorite question, what are you reading?

Wherever you find yourself, be safe and be well.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Book Giveaway - The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget

As promised, it's time to announce the winner of the book giveaway. After assigning everyone a number and using a handy-dandy random number generator, the winner of The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget is... (drumroll please)...

Dina!

Dina, please email me with your full name and address and I'll get the book out to you this week. 

And a special thank you to all who participated in the drawing!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Crisis and Opportunity

I'm going to be upfront about this and say that this is the ABSOLUTE BEST non-fiction book I have EVER read. EVER. I'm completely serious. Think about what Michael Pollan is to the food movement - then put him on steroids. THAT is what John Ikerd is to the sustainable agriculture movement.

Crisis and Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture is a series of inspirational essays by John Ikerd, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Missouri. From the very first paragraph, I was drawn to his words, thinking as I read each word, "Yes, that's it exactly. I just couldn't put it into words myself."

Ikerd, while taking a look at the large-scale, big-picture crisis of American agriculture, takes an entirely different approach than contemporary eco-authors. Rather than addressing the culprits in the big picture (business, government, etc), he challenges each and every one of us to make change happen.
A farmer can make a difference in the land on his or her farm and in the land of others downstream. A farmer can make the difference in the lives of his or her customers and neighbors. We can all have an influence on the other people in our families, in our places of work, or in our communities. As we change our own lives in positive ways, we begin to influence those who share our little piece of the world. One by one, as we influence our little pieces of the world, the world begins to change.
Ikerd calls upon us to use common sense instead of relying strictly on impersonal technology. He calls us to do what is right, instead of what will make us the most money. Although making money (being economically viable) is certainly part of sustainability, our current industrial model focuses only on this component - consuming more for less. But the future, the sustainable model focuses on physical, mental, AND spiritual components, giving us a balance by being not only economically viable, but also ecologically sound and socially responsible.

Honestly, I've never read a book so full of inspiration, insight and hope. This isn't just a "must read." Crisis and Opportunity is a handbook for daily living and the beautiful awakening to a bright, new future.
Recommended: To anyone who lives and breathes.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget

When I speak to people about my personal local diet experiment, I'm often asked "What have you found most challenging?" It's an easy question for me. The answer? By far, the greatest challenge in eating locally is identifying local food resources. But I also believe that this challenge is understood by anyone attempting to follow a "greener," more eco-friendly lifestyle. We WANT to leave a lighter footprint. We just don't know HOW or WHERE to get help.

And as I've worked hard to make eating locally less of a challenge for anyone following in my footsteps, so has the Lazy Environmentalist himself - Josh Dorfman - made living a greener life both more accessible and affordable.

In his newest book, The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget, Josh Dorfman provides readers an amazing array of wallet-friendly resources for our eco-mindful lives. Whether you're a dedicated non-consumer or looking for greener alternatives to every day purchases, Dofman provides a little something for everyone.

To read it cover to cover, The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget is a light read, but more than anything, it's meant to serve as reference material - offering detailed information on programs around the country where individuals, governments, and companies and thinking outside-the-box providing green solutions that range from the basics like Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, to water conservation, transportation alternatives, and transforming our homes and offices. Each chapter concludes with a list of the programs or websites discussed and how to find more about each one mentioned.

The bottom line is, there are people out there (just like you and me) who are making a difference in our world, people who have initiated programs, developed products, and formed companies in the effort to make it easier for you and I to live a greener lifestyle. The challenge is connecting with those people so that we can either take part or be inspired to transform our own home towns. Well, Dofman has done all the work for us so that we can be, well... lazy environmentalists.
Recommended: as a reference guide to a greener lifestyle
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
So here's the best part... I'll be mailing a copy of The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget to one lucky winner. All you need to do is add a comment to today's post (by Friday, June 12) telling me about the easiest change you ever made in your "green" journey. I'll select a winner at random and make the announcement on Saturday, June 13. Good luck!

P.S. Entries for the drawing must have a U.S. mailing address...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Roundup

It's rare to find a book that actually changes your life and inspires a new way of thinking. But isn't that why we read and share these eco-book reviews? This week's review is a gem, in fact I think it just might be THE gem - A book to challenge our thinking; a book to inspire us and give us hope; a book to live by. I'll be sharing it with you a little later this week. In the meantime, I'd love to hear more about what your reading now? Also, what's your favorite eco read of all time?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Book Review: The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It

I recently read about John Seymour's The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It: The Complete Back-to-Basics Guide over at Chile's Blog. I've just been searching and can't find the post where she mentions it, but it inspired me to get it out of the library. It's one of those huge DK books that makes you just want to sit down and flip through it. The book is divided into sections, such as food from the garden, food from animals, in the dairy, brewing and wine making, energy and waste, and crafts and skills.

This book makes you want to plan a garden, not just something small out back, but a proper garden with sheds and hoop houses and all sorts of stuff! Seymour lives in Ireland, so some of the information on which plants are good are not always appropriate to every area, but it's a great read.

If you read the whole book carefully and really tried to follow it, you'd go a long way towards being totally self-sufficient (assuming you had enough land to do it all on). As I live in the suburbs and can't do most of what he talks about (nor do I really want to), I treated the book mostly as a great read. There are parts I marked to show my gardening husband, and parts I read thinking how great they'd be if I could do them (spinning wool, dyeing and weaving) and parts that I read just marveling that people really did do all these things on their homesteads not all that long ago.

This book is interesting to read, and I'm sure would be a great resource for those who want to do more by themselves on their own land. I suspect if you really want to homestead you'd want to own it, otherwise get it out of the library like I did. 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: Cradle to Cradle

I just read Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. It is a very interesting look at a new approach to creating stuff, whether it be buildings, things we buy in stores, or parts for manufacturing processes. First of all, the book isn't printed on paper, it's printed on a plastic that can be recycled into a new book of the same quality. While this is great if it does get recycled, I wonder how many will.

The premise of the book is that instead of thinking of a product's lifecycle from cradle to grave (from when it is made to when it is disposed, or thrown away), we should look at products from cradle to cradle - from when they are made to when they are finished with that life, and made into something new, or completely returned to the earth. It is a great idea, and the authors talk about how it isn't necessarily more expensive to design and create that way, it just takes a new way of thinking.

This book is pretty high level - great for budding designers and architects, and interesting to others, but not necessarily providing anything that "regular people" can do in their daily lives. In some ways it is very inspirational - there are ways out there to do things better, and some people are doing them, and in a way, it's discouraging - you realize how many people are not doing them, and how the concept of returning something to the earth rather than throwing it in a landfill, is very foreign to a lot of people.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars for the average reader, 5 out of 5 if you want to go into design or production. It's worth it to find it in the library and feel it's heft (due to the plastic pages) and see what you think of this book material!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday Roundup

Hey there Blogging Bookworm readers. I bet since it's June 1 you were expecting a post from Heather (if you are keeping track of who posts during what week)! But here at The Blogging Bookworm we say the week starts on Sunday, so technically it's the 5th week of May so it's my week. (Confused yet? Don't worry - you'll get Heather next week.) So anyway, what's going on with everyone out there? Do you have any good books in the works? Up here near Boston, we get a few days of gorgeous spring weather, and my thoughts turn to garden books, then we have a few days of freezing cold weather where I have to break out the jeans and sweaters again and that makes me want to get back to my knitting instead. I even had to turn the heat back on last week during two days (only for an hour each day, just to warm up the house, and my older daughter was really sick, so I couldn't bear to see her shaking with cold, even all bundled up). Oh well, as we like to say here up North - it beats 95 all the time! Drop us a comment and tell us what you're reading - we love to hear from you!