Monday, December 29, 2008

Book Review- "The More-With-Less Cookbook" by Doris Janzen Longacre

Except for being proficient at a couple types of cookies, I didn't even begin to learn to cook until I was in grad school. I lived in a co-op in which I was assigned to a "cooking team" and the head of our team sourced all our meals from the "More-with-Less Cookbook." When I moved on, I bought a copy of the book because it contained the recipe for my new favorite dinner. It would be a full 12 years before I read beyond that recipe!

My husband and I joke about it, now, but when we got married I was comfortable cooking two thingss: lasagna and boxed macaroni & cheese. And my husband didn't like boxed mac & cheese. I spent the first summer we were married devouring every cookbook I could find, and I started with More-with-Less. The book is a gold mine, but I should quit here and let our guest reviewer tell you the rest. Here's what Joyce from tallgrassworship has to say about it...

As our economic crisis deepens, and frugality has become the mode, I've thought more and more that I should post a review of "The More-With-Less Cookbook", by Doris Janzen Longacre.

As a young mom, living on a shoestring budget, and trying to learn how to cook from the large vegetable garden I grew to help feed my family, I came to rely on this remarkable little volume, with it's garden-to-table recipes, and instructions that emphasized cooking "from scratch". As a Christian, trying to align my lifestyle with the doctrine of justice for the poor, I loved it's emphasis on consuming only our fair share of the planet's resources, so that we could not only control our own budget, but have enough to give and share with others.

Amazingly, it's still in print, and available through, though Doris Janzen Longacre died of cancer in 1979, shortly after the publication of her second book, "Living More With Less". Both of these books were very influential for me, and have continued to color the way I look at homemaking over the years.

Longacre was commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee to use her background as a dietitian to collect recipes and ideas from the world-wide Mennonite community and adjust those recipes to reflect contemporary nutritional research and food justice issues. Many of the recipes submitted by the mostly agrarian Mennonites were heavy on sugar and fat. Longacre experimented to readjust them so that the well-loved family dishes could be enjoyed just as much, but with healthier ingredients. She collected many meatless dishes, reflecting our growing understanding of the impact of raising livestock on our environment. She gave good, clear teaching regarding moving away from a meat-heavy diet while maintaining good nutrition. At the same time, she managed to celebrate the Swiss-German and Russian culture at the heart of the Mennonite denomination, and elevate the custom of unpretentious hospitality.

I practically wore this book out! It was my essential guide for learning to cook for my growing family for years. In pulling it out to reread the other day, I was flooded with memories of days in our kitchen, surrounded by small children who always wanted to stand on a chair next to me and "watch" as I worked with produce from the garden, or bulk items from a foster parent's food co-op we were part of, or the bags and bags of apples from a second cousin's orchard. Many a dollar was stretched, many a tummy was filled, based on the information and recipes found in this wonderful cookbook.

I hope that you will find a copy of "The More-With-Less Cookbook" and read it, really read it, and absorb the wonderful spirit of Longacre and the Mennonite cooks who submitted recipes to this collection. It has a place in every kitchen where the cook(s) are focused on meals made with love. I'd give it a 5 out of 5, for sustainable and frugal living.

Monday Roundup

I recently started Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses. It is a fantastically frightening read though I admit that I'm having trouble finding time to read it.

How have you spent the holidays thus far? Baking cookies, wrapping presents, celebrating with friends and family or huddling by a fire with a good green book? Are you reading or reviewing anything these days? Please share if you are.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Review: If You Take a Mouse to the Movies

OK, so this is childrens' Christmas book reviews week. :) I haven't had time to do much other reading.

"If You Take a Mouse to the Movies" is the Christmas book in Laura Numeroff's delightful series that began with "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." Those familiar with the books will recognize the enthusiastic, tireless mouse who demands so much of his little host. He reminds me a little of my son...

The "If You Give a..." books are worth reading for Felicia Bond's illustrations alone. This one is pure fluff, but the little ones in your house will love it. Warning: After reading the book, your kids will probably beg to make popcorn chains. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Readers: Parents of small children. If you have small children in your house and you have never read them one of Numeroff's books, get thee to a library!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Book Review: The 24 Days Before Christmas

"The 24 Days Before Christmas" by the late Madeleine L'Engle is a Christmas story about L'Engle's "Austin" family. L'Engle wrote numerous middle grade chapter books about the Austins, but this shorter book is for younger children. "24 Days" is hardly your classical "green" read, but it's a wholesome, charming story about a family who lives the simpler life many of us would wish for. It's also one of my favorite Christmas story books. It's a little long (my copy is 42 pages with only occasional pictures), but my preschooler wouldn't let me quit until I read him the whole thing. Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Readers: Parents with primary grades age children and all those who love a good childrens' book.

It appears that "24 Days" is currently out of print. I found a link (above) that leads to several used copies. I don't think this was one of L'Engle's best sellers, but it should have been.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Roundup

After concluding that the weather forcasters were all nuts with their snowy predictions last weekend, we awoke this morning to 4 inches! We don't get snow very often, so this was a big deal, especially to the preschooler in the house. What a beautiful way to disrupt all the crazy business of December! I had to throw out almost my whole to-do list for the day!

It has been the craziest December I can remember and so I've done very little reading. "Green Collar Jobs" is still half read (it's good, I just can't get to it!) and I don't have any others going right now, either. Most of what I've done consists of reading Christmas books to my son. I'll post about my favorite later this week.

What about you? Does anybody out there have time to read, or are you busy nibbling on treats you baked to give away and playing in the snow with your kids?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Books For Christmas

Forget reading, forget reviewing and let's talk about presents.

I want to know if the books we talk about here are making it as gifts to friends and family, non-profit organizations or even gifts to ourselves.

For two seconds I considered gifting my copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to a family member. I couldn't do it but I could buy a copy and wrap it up. It would be a great gift.

Last Child in the Woods may be good for some Mom's I know. I'm considering it (how many more days do I have?).

My Uncle needs a copy of Bottomfeeder and my Aunt a copy of Mountains Beyond Mountains.

I'd like to give each of my girlfriends a copy of An Unreasonable Woman.

Mom is out. She only reads mysteries.

I could go on but I want to know what books are on your list. Give us some ideas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From Australia - Bottomfeeder

I literally got a huge smile the other day when I found a review of Bottomfeeder at Kathryn's blog, Limes & Lycopenes. It was one of my top five books this year.

One of the things that made me smile about this review is Kathryn found three different covers for the book. And then of course I smiled because she liked the book and I liked the review. If you give Bottomfeeder a read, I hope you do too. In any event, big thanks to Kathryn in Australia for sharing the review.
I’ve been buying some books recently. All sorts of volumes. Books about food, nutrition and cooking. As well as some meaty stuff on sustainability and the ethics surrounding what we eat.

And the first one is Bottomfeeder.

While it seems like one of those worthy books, the sort of thing you know you should read, but don’t really want to, Bottomfeeder is an absolute beauty.In it Taras Grescoe goes on a world tour, eating fish as he travels. He interviews restauranteurs and marine biologists, visits fish markets and joins fisherman out on their boats. All the while looking at the effects we humans are having on sea life.

Each chapter tells a story. About a location and a specific fish. From oysters in Chesapeake Bay, cod sold at the local chippy in Britain, through to sardines in the Med, shrimps in India and bluefin tuna sashimi in Japan, Taras Grescoe examines how what we eat impacts the local fish stocks. And the local environment.

It’s an alarming book. Grescoe’s account of our declining marine environment is worrying reading and he doesn’t shrink from the complexities and difficulties we face.

However, it’s beautifully written: full of humanity, a sense of history, humour and smart commentary. Plus wondrous descriptions of the actual fish themselves: the often bizarre creatures from the deep we catch and eat, yet know so little about.Taras Grescoe is a fish eater and after writing and researching the book, he is determined to keep on eating fish. However he wants to choose fish that is managed and caught sustainably. Therefore at the very end of the book, separated into the three groups No, Never; Depends, Sometimes and Absolutely, Always, is a list of what fish to eat and what to avoid.

W‎hile there is an increasing amount of information available on many aspects of eating sustainably, I’ve found good, smart information on fish hard to find. Taras Grescoe’s book fills many of these gaps.

If you’re interested in climate change, sustainability and where the food you eat comes from, then Bottomfeeder is an important book.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Round Up

Is anyone out there reading a green book? I've been reading the same one for the last month, Coming Home to Eat by Gary Paul Nabhan. It's not the books fault it's taking so long; it's all me. There's too many good blogs to read, petitions to sign, walks to take, meals to cook, friends to see, shadows to watch.

Most days I read a few pages on the bus coming home but that's it. I like Coming Home to Eat and will review it here next year.

Any books you'd like to give a shout too, or a new review we can add to our reference list of reviews? Let me know and I'll add a link.

In any event, be well.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

And The Winner Is . . .

M of the Maritimes - you win Superbia.

Jen - you win Blue Frontier.

Gals, please email me with your contact information at greenbeandreams(at)gmail(dot)com so that I can get your books out. That wraps up our Gratitude Giveaway. Thank you to everyone for participating. The worms are grateful.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Book Review: Green Goes With Everything

This review originally appeared over at Passionate Green. It seems that we are all thinking about the affect of toxins not just on the environment but on ourselves. Thank you for sharing the review, Passionate!

With the witty and pleasant familiarity of friends at lunch, Sloan Barnett lets us in on human’s dirtiest (literally!) secrets. The nine chapters in this handbook, each named with a variation on the word “clean,” uncover the nasty health hazards of our seemingly simple everyday actions, including what we put on our bodies, what we use to fuel our cars, and what appliances we use in our homes.

None of the information in Green Goes With Everything is new; the facts on our environmental impact have already been well published. This book is unique and important, though, in that it includes so many facts all in one place, making it a great starting place for anyone who desires a greener lifestyle but doesn’t know where to begin. As each product and chemical is discussed, it is appropriately suggested that while it may or may not be hazardous – the EPA and FDA don’t have the money or manpower to do enough testing to reach a conclusive result – it is not worth risking our health and we should err on the side of caution. Suggestions for safer alternative products are made, mostly from Shaklee. There is a sizeable resource guide at the end of the book, listing companies, their websites, and what they do that can help the consumer.

Why didn’t this author use a green publisher? The book is about being green and yet, oddly, the book itself is not green. Secondly, why ignore the ill effects of the meat industry on the environment? Every meat eater contributes hugely to global warming, pollution, and water and energy waste, and yet the author mentions eating steak quite heedlessly. She also divulges the fact that she wears leather, while implying that people who do not are not normal. Even if no one cares what the manufacturing of leather does to animals, it is impossible to deny the dangerous chemicals that seep into our water supply whenever leather is made.

Those omissions are not enough to keep one from reading the book, however. It is an excellent resource and should be required reading for every inhabitant of our Earth. Parents and teachers especially should reference the accurate, up-to-date facts and figures to pass on the vital message that we need to think green in everything we do.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Book Review: The Green Beauty Guide

This book review comes to us from JessTrev, aka Olive S. Oyl, aka MamaBird, who blogs over at The Green Phone Booth. Jess has x-ray eye sight when it comes to toxins and can spot them in virtually everything. Even she, though, learned a few things from this gem!

This handy reference guide by Julie Gabriel's been making the rounds of some blogs I love. The funniest thing about the reviews? Take note that none of the bloggers are coughing up their review copies. That's as good a sign as any that a book has some gravitas.

Here's your basic lowdown on Gabriel: she's not a doctor, she's a beauty and fashion editor who saw the (organic, non-toxic) green light when she had a baby. I can empathize with that! But what she's got that I don't (besides perfect skin and years of swag bags containing all the latest in skincare to review) is an almost-encyclopedic grasp of potential toxins. While she refers us all to EWG's Skin Deep database (which I have great fondness for as well), I have to say that I think Gabriel's info is more accessible. In addition to in-depth information about specific toxins (not just synthetics but also organic ingredients of concern), she created a master list called "100 Toxic Ingredients You Don't Want In Your Beauty Products." I am so totally copying this and keeping it in my back pocket when I go to the grocery store. Pshaw! You have room for a 4 page document in your purse. Hey, maybe you already vigilantly access Skin Deep on your PDA so you don't need the hot list. Personally, I used to buy products with no parabens and then hold my breath. No more!!

Anyhoo, in addition to the toxins info which is more thorough and balanced than I have seen anywhere else (including a red flag for my personal least fave in many organic and crunchy products, those troublesome tea tree and lavender oils, the Guide also provides numerous recipes for homemade beauty products. These are beyond fun, and there's a wide range of options for different skin types. Finally, she does include some specific product recommendations for those times when you can't whip up some cucumber puree on the fly. I appreciate that she provides lower-cost yet safe(r) options as well as higher-end perfect options.

If you live in my neighborhood, I'd be happy to loan you the book! This one really is a keeper. Kind of like a really want to have access to one but it could really be in a local lending library...I have the same sense about this book. Once my initial rush of beauty-product making subsides I'm really going to want to use this like a reference guide.

Until then? I'll be in the supermarket picking up fresh and delicious products to slather on my body's largest organ, courtesy of Julie Gabriel. Check out her website at for more recipes and tips.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommended for: anyone trying to figure out safer and healthier personal care consumption choices.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday Roundup

I must admit that with a December birthday and Christmas breathing down my neck, I'm not reading much of anything - except cook books. I did, however, finish up The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones and will post my thoughts on it later this week.

But how about you? How are you spending the busy days of December? Are you sneaking any reading in?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Giving Tree

I'm thankful for Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree as both a beautiful story for children, but one that can prompt a variety of discussions between parent and child. Silverstein created a work that is fluid and precise with illustrations that are unforgettable in their charming simplicity.

Most readers are probably already familiar with this book as it is perhaps one of the best known works of children's literature. But change the lens on how you may have interpreted it upon a first reading. It can prompts a few deep and philosophical discussions as there are a variety of interpretations of the work.

Is this simply a story on giving, or unconditional love? Is it a story of how we use our resources with only our own intentions in mind? Is it a story that parallels parental love? Is it a story of selfishness, of complete unselfishness? I can't tell you a final interpretations because that is left entirely up to the reader. I've talked to a few that feel that it is a powerful story of love, and some that are almost angry at the boy in the book as he took from the tree bit by bit until there was nothing left.

I think also sometimes that a final interpretations of this work can depend on where you are at any given moment, how you see the world and what assumptions we bring into the reading.
And yes, this is a book meant for kids. Or is it? All in all I'm thankful for this book that I revisit year after year with a fresh perspective each time. What is your interpretation?

Green readers can enjoy this book individually, or shared with their children. Warning, guaranteed sniffles at the end.

Gratitude Giveaway: Two-Fer

From Simple Prosperity's Dave Wann along with Dan Chiras, Superbia: 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods is exactly what it advertises itself to do. If you are looking for ways to create community and make a local eco-difference, this is a great and easy resource for you.

Blue Frontier: Dispatches from America's Ocean Wilderness, by David Helvarg, details the true conditions of our ocean, how they got that way and what we can do about them.

Enter to win these two books by leaving a comment. If you only want a particular book, please simply note that in the comments.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

And The Winner Is . . .

Electronic Goose, you are the winner of Depletion and Abundance! Please email me at with your shipping information so that I can mail you your book.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Fans of enviro themed fiction will enjoy Carl Hiaasen's Hoot, a chapter book styled for your juvenile reader. Roy is a middle schooler that recently relocated to Florida from Montana, a move that left him missing mountains and woods. He develops a new circle of friends including one tough chick named Beatrice and a mysterious running boy.

Roy discovers tiny land burrowing owls will soon have their habitat threatened by a stack of flapjacks, AKA Mother Paula's Pancake House. We follow Roy through an ecological mystery as he works to save the tiny homes of the owls and convinces us to give a hoot. It is a rough go as he works against adult conspiracy, apathy and a twist of legalistics that could drive most growns ups nuts.

I'm thankful for writers that are exploring contemporary themes of conservation, justice and sustainability as they mesh real world plots and characters for a read that grips us. This is a book that I've often recommended to parent and child to read together, and even more exciting if you piggyback other non-fiction materials to study upon while you progress through the novel.

If you like Hoot, try Flush, another ecological mystery book Hiaasen writes with the same sense of style and humor for kids. Hoot has indeed been made into a film version, a fun followup you may enjoy after working through the book.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

"All the people you meet here have one thing to teach you." Eddie was skeptical. His fists stayed clenched. "What?" he said. "That there are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind."

I read Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven right at a pivotal point in my life, and can't imagine that a better book could have landed in my hands right when I needed it. Wiki actually has a content rich summary and analysis of the book, and I really don't think I could produce anything better then what is produced HERE. Browse the site for more details on themes, characters and interpretations.

I am thankful that I read this book as explores how our stories and lives are interwoven, and each of us imperfect beings may experience and give a legacy of forgiveness to each other. I read this book shortly after my father died, and though I loved him dearly and deeply I had a few unresolved feelings to work through. Well, mainly being the out-there daughter of a very religious, quiet and reserved person can lend itself to a few communication issues. Albom's book landed in my hands and it really and truly was a book that enabled me to become a "better" person if you want to call it that. One that could look at issues at a deeper level and look at the human heart in all of its glory and weaknesses. Ah, oh so thankful.

This book isn't really about dying, but more about the living and what we give each other. A Six Degrees in a way, showing both the good and bad of our human experience, and the ability to reconcile with each other and with our emotions.

I finished this book curled up in a ball and crying my eyes out, and I'd firmly rate it as a five-tissue read out of five. But it is one of those books that you read and walk around absorbing for days, the thoughts and characters now entrenched in your own mind. I'm happy to say I feel I was all the better for it. I don't know if books can make us "badder" or "gooder" people, but I found that I was deeply moved by the content in this book in my own life.

So I'm thankful for Five People, and thankful that I read it. I find that though it isn't a "Green" read, it is one that Greener readers may surely enjoy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Roundup: Thankful for Books

Hello Wormers! I'm happy to have my week at the Bookworm land on Thanksgiving week. I'm very thankful for books, and for the joy and intellectual illumination that they give my spirit and soul.

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves.~ Gilbert Highet

My selections this week may have elements of Green to them, and just a few that I'm just plain thankful to have read. Pictured above is Beatrice's Goat, a book that I used this year at a guest storytelling gig for a Heifer benefit. I'm thankful for this book as it illustrates how the power of a simple gift changes lives for the better.

What books are you thankful for this week? They don't have to be only Green, but could be books that move you, help you, or just make your life better. Let us know in the comments, and we will be mighty thankful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gratitude Giveaway: Depletion and Abundance

This week, we are giving away a copy of Depletion and Abundance by Peak Oil blogger Sharon Astyk. The book has been reviewed here and here at The Blogging Bookworm and is a quick and illuminating read.

Please leave a comment to be entered to win this book. The random drawing closes on Saturday, November 29. I'll announce the winner next Sunday (November 30) and, at the same time, announce the last book to be given away in our month-long Gratitude Giveaway.

And The Winner Is . . .

Joyce from tallgrassworship.

Joyce, give me a shout at greenbeandreams(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing info so that I can shop Green Christmas out to you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Review: How to Grow Fresh Air

I didn't really intend this to be "how to avoid toxins week," that's just what seems to be on everybody's mind! Anyway, this review comes to us from Joyce from tallgrassworship and I think it follows nicely after Joce's review of "The Body Toxic." Thanks for showing us a pleasant way to help solve a problem, Joyce. I might just have to get over my habit of murdering every house plant I grow!

As much as I love houseplants for their beauty, and the homeyness I think they lend to any room, there is another good reason to have them. In his book "How To Grow Fresh Air", Dr. B. C. Wolverton synthesizes 25 years of research on indoor air quality, and explains how we can prevent Sick Building Syndrome, which can cause allergic and respiratory problems. Since most Americans spend about 95% of their time indoors, this is very important information.

Wolverton worked for NASA, teaming with others to find ways to keep air breathable in space stations, and potentially in sealed modular housing that could be used to inhabit other planets. They studied what chemicals building materials, furniture, and appliances and electronics off-gas into the indoor atmosphere, and which plants most effectively remove certain gasses and toxins.

I appreciated the careful explanation of what chemicals are present in our buildings, and what effect they have on our health. Wolverton is able to make this information accessible to some one like me, who does not have a strong background in chemistry. He gives a clear review of the process of plant respiration.

After you learn all this information, there is a good chapter on caring for the plants. Then, most helpful of all, is an extensive list of plants to choose from, with photos, care information, and an explanation of which chemicals that particular plant is good at removing from the environment. For instance, some plants are very useful used in close proximity to computer equipment, some are especially good in bedrooms, since they do more of their breathing at night, when you are sleeping there, and so on.

I loved this book for it's readability, accessible research, and the way it broadened my understanding of the symbiotic relationship we have with the plant kingdom. If you are new to the houseplant world, you should be able to get off to a good start with the growing information. If you are an old hand at it, you will still learn plenty of interest to you. If you are interested in environmental issues, and how to live in a less toxic space, this book would definitely be of use to you, as well.

I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Review: The Body Toxic

Our guest review today comes curtesy of Joce (aka JAM), who was kind enough to wade through this book and summarize it! Thanks, so much, Joce. I especially appreciate the list of suggestions on how to avoid introducing even more chemicals into our bodies!

The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-being by Nena Baker is a book that talks about the many chemicals that are present in the products we use every day, how they create a body burden within us, and what we can do to limit or remove them. The book is written by an investigative journalist who previously wrote about Nike’s Indonesian factories. Her works on that led to many improvements for workers, so let’s hope that her writing about chemicals in everyday products brings about positive change there as well.

The book begins by talking about the chemical burden that we all have within our bodies. People that have been tested show significant levels of many different chemicals, many of which are stored in fat cells, which means that even if you limit exposure from now on to those chemicals, they will be with you for a very long time. People who have lived very healthy lives are not free from this body burden, while it might be lower than some others, even “clean living” nets you lots of chemicals in your body.

There are then five chapters, each devoted to a different chemical (atrazine, phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, bisphenol A, and perfluorinated chemicals). Research is discussed which shows the effects of these chemicals on wildlife and how we are stewing in these chemicals at a level higher than what damages wildlife. There is a lot of explanation of how difficult it is to avoid these chemicals. For example, polybrominated diphenyl ethers are used in flame retardation, so not only are they in obvious places like mattresses, they are a significant part of every day items like TVs, microwaves, and dishwashers. Also, any item with a stain or wrinkle resistant treatment gets that way due to added chemicals.

The book then talks about new policies that are in effect, or will hopefully soon be in effect, to find safer alternatives to these chemicals. One of the most difficult things is that these are not labeled – for instance a consumer would not know whether a TV has an older, dangerous chemical in it or whether it has been reformulated. A lot of cosmetic companies are starting to reformulate and use that as a selling point, but in more traditional every day items it will be very difficult to know what the hazards are. The book ends with a list of what the author herself does personally to avoid excess chemicals, and then has some resources on environmental and public health groups where you can find out more information.

Overall, the book was very interesting, and pretty scary, but worth a read, even if some of the technical stuff can be skimmed over. I tend to go in spurts as to how worried I am about things – for a while I clean out my house and vow to use only safe things, but then convenience and laziness come into play and I go back to my old ways. This book is a good reminder to stick with things for the long haul. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars, for medium to dark green readers.

I’m going to summarize what the author does to avoid chemicals, since I thought it was a great list and while I think the book is worth reading, if you don’t have it in your library system or if reading about chemicals is not something you can concentrate on right now, I suspect we could all move towards adapting some of her guidelines without reading the book. I think most of us know these already (or most of them) but reading that they were the things that the author does in her own life, after her very extensive research on the subject makes me feel like they are definitely worth doing and being reminded about.

Buy and eat organic foods whenever possible.
Don’t eat microwave popcorn (lots of chemicals in the paper packaging).
Ditch all plastic food containers, use glass or ceramic instead.
Cancel contract for monthly bug control inside and outside your home.
Decline all optional stain protection treatments for furniture and rugs.
Use low VOC paint for home improvement projects.
Replace BPA plastic bottle with aluminum bottle.
Vacuum and dust at least once per week (because dust is loaded with chemical pollutants).
Buy hard-anodized aluminum pots and pans when Teflon cookware wears out.
Ask retailers about things you buy. If they don’t know, contact manufacturers.
Read labels. Even if they don’t tell the whole story, they can give you clues.
Talk to family and friends about the changes you’ve made and why you make them.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Roundup

(Photo by Donna's dad, taken at the Monarch Butterfly reserve near Santa Cruz, CA)

Well, happy Monday, everybody! As we near Thanksgiving, it's good to remember all the things we're thankful for and this week I am especially thankful for two blogging friends who have offered to contribute guest book reviews which I'll post later this week! Also I plan to write a post on a book or two for which I am thankful. Stay tuned!

After winning kale for sale's book giveaway last month, I've been busy reading "The Green Collar Economy." It's very good so far, but the review is going to have to wait until I finish the book -- I keep getting sidetracked reading books like "A Wrinkle in Time" and "Ozma of Oz." (I'm working on a children's chapter book that I'm getting ready to self-publish and I needed some inspiration!)

So what are you reading? Any new bookworms out there in blogland? Drop us a comment!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book Review & Gratitude Giveaway: Green Christmas

About a month ago, I was contacted by a PR firm regarding the book Green Christmas. I occasionally get offers for free items or books and, for the most part, pass. With the holiday season barreling down on us and all my green mom friends scratching their heads as to how to survive the holidays with their values intact, I accepted.

Boy, am I glad I did!

I expected Green Christmas: How to Have a Joyous, Eco-Holiday Season by Jennifer Basye Sander, Peter Sander and Anne Basye to extol the virtues of LED Christmas lights and canvas bags and let folks go on their merry way. It does that, true, but the book goes much much further.

Green Christmas provides ideas by the oodles for a less wasteful and more environmentally meaningful holiday. The tips on reducing consumption, giving meaningful gifts (e.g., experiential, used or "vintage", handmade, charitable), spreading the word through fun and festive parties, and decorating with what you have, what you make and what you grow are insightful and creative. The section on buying local, alone, made my heart sing! It's rare to encounter such a clean and concise argument on why supporting your local merchants is green. Green Christmas doesn't stop at Christmas though. It guides the way to a more eco-friendly life once the holidays are just a slim-carbon footprint memory.

This is the type of book that those who are newly green will embrace. It compiles virtually every eco-holiday idea I've encountered on the web, in magazines and stole from green friends in less than 200 pages. Those further down the eco-path will enjoy the book just as much. It is helpful, meaningful and real. I bet even the deep green can find a nugget or two in the pages of this little book.

Indeed, I liked this book so much, I don't want to give it away! Alas, I promised to so here goes. If you are interested in winning this book, please leave your name in the comments to be entered to win. Check back next Sunday to find out who the winner is and what book is up next in our month-long Gratitude Giveaway.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Recommended: Light to medium green readers.

And the Winner Is . . .

Diane, under anonymous, is the winner of the book Fast Food Nation. Diane, please email me at greenbeandreams(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address so I can send your book out to you.

Thanks to those who put their names in the proverbial hat. Next Gratitude Giveaway coming later today.

Friday, November 14, 2008

November Gratitude #2

When I saw the wormers were posting books we are grateful for this month I grimaced. Not at the concept but at the challenge of separating my favorite books from books I'm grateful for. But I did it.

The two authors I'm grateful for over the long run are Anne Lamott and Natalie Goldberg. I love them both.

Anne Lamott for her honesty, her humor. For her encouragement to be part of the solution. For her struggle and subsequent ability to include everyone. For her endearing and enduring humanness. I love her because she's crazy. But a really nice crazy.

And I'm grateful for Natalie Goldberg's books, Writing Down The Bones and Wild Mind because it was in those pages, in Natalie's wild mind committed to the page, that I found my way to pen and paper. Make positive effort for the good, Natalie instructs with her toothy grin and Zen minimalism. And keep your pen moving. Not always easy, but generally always a surprise.

What books are you grateful for in the long run? Or even in the short run? Let us know.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Uber Amazing Blog

We've won an award. Our first.

Melinda at One Green Generation has tagged us for an Uber Amazing Blog award! And she said nice things about us too.

That us however is You. This blog is nothing without your comments, thoughts and reviews. All of which makes what we have such a great resource for anyone looking for a green read on any number of avenues that road leads.

Thanks everybody for your reading and your participation. It all matters.

And thank you Melinda!

(If you haven't signed up for this week's book giveaway of Fast Food Nation there's still time. Do it here.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Platter of Figs

I rarely use cookbooks for a recipe, I only wish I were that kind of a cook, but they do feed me in a different way. I take note of spices, of combinations, of what ingredients are first toasted, mixed, set aside. I read through lists of ingredients, smelling or imagining the texture of each one. I put an apron in my mind and store the knowledge somewhere between my taste buds and pantry shelves. And then I look at the pictures. It's frivolous but it makes me happy. A Platter of Figs makes me happy.

The photography is delicious. I want to eat the light and the raw beauty of the food primarily unadorned is stunning. The menus are arranged by season which is another of my favorite parts of this book as that's the way we eat. When it's winter, our meals reflect it and I want to cultivate my instinct to make the best of that time. The author, a chef at Chez Panisse six months out of the year, encourages improvising and making the best out of what's available. He knows seasonal cooking.

My last favorite part of the book is that each menu begins with a vignette that provides a back drop to the recipes. The stories make the recipes personal, they prop the kitchen door open and invite the reader in. They're an invitation to notice the stories around the food in our own kitchens, where it came from, how it got there and to think about the people along the way.

And that's a good invitation to accept.

Do you have a favorite cookbook that inspires and makes you happy?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Round Up

Are you finding time to read? I finally finished Three Cups of Tea and needed a week off work to do it. Like all the reviews that inspired me, the book is a good one and timely given all the activity on the Pakistan and Afghanistan border where this book primarily takes place. If one person can embody the slogan of our President Elect, yes we can, the hero of this true story can. We need as many of these narratives in our collective consciousness as we can get. At least I do.

What are you reading or reviewing? Let's us know. I'm optimistic with the rainy days ahead there will be more time for reading.

And don't forget to sign up for the book giveaway of Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser. He's a personal hero of mine and if you'd like to see him in action watch this clip. The guy is hot.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gratitude Giveaway: Fast Food Nation

To show how thankful we are to all you bookworms out there, The Blogging Bookworm will give away a green book every Sunday this month.

This week, we are giving away the classic Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Please leave a comment to be entered to win this book. The random drawing closes on Saturday, November 15. I'll announce the winner next Sunday (November 16) and, at the same time, announce the next book to be given away.

Leave your name so you too can be grateful for the insight this book gives into our industrial food system.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I Am Grateful For . . .

November is the month of Thanksgiving. A month when we look around us and feel grateful for all that we have. In keeping with that sentiment and in participating in tallgrassworship's November challenge, we Wormers thought we would share our gratitude with fellow bookworms both in word (each of us will write a post on books for which we are grateful) and in deed (look out for several book giveaways every remaining Sunday this month).

Here's mine:

I am grateful for books.

All books. I've devoured more than my share since I was a fourth grader busted for staying up all night reading Little Women. I've since moved on to other categories of books, including the ecologically relevant ones littering our side bar, but I find myself particularly grateful these days to a different sort of book. Ones that help teach my children a new, better way of life. That demonstrate clearly the path. And that reconnect them with the cycle of life.

Here are a couple of my favorites for the fall:

Red Are the Apples by Marc Harshman is a beautifully illustrated book that explores the seasonal harvest on a farm, complete with free ranging chickens and a frisky cat. The book takes the fruits and vegetables from plant to bottle (cider) and even has a page about canning. What's not to love?

Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell cleverly illustrates the life cycle of a pumpkin - from Jack O Lantern, to a composted pumpkin with a few extra seeds, to plant, to pumpkin, to, well, Jack again. This is a favorite of my boys took a page from the book and, this year, put their Jack O Lanterns under the orange tree and check on them daily for signs of change.

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey is a fun book about children who visit turkeys at the farm and then spirit them away for a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone is thankful - "the turkeys the most." Recommended for vegetarians as this one drives my carnivorous husband nuts. ;-)

That's my list. What are you grateful for? Check back each week to see what books other Wormers hold near and dear to their hearts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Educate Our Next Leaders

Not the ones elected yesterday. The ones who will run tomorrow.

The ones whom Abbie, at Farmers' Daughter, is teaching as I write this.

If you are not familiar with Abbie, she is a real life super hero. One who teaches AP Environmental Science to high schoolers. She has assigned her students a book review project (due in December) in which they are to read a book on an environmental topic and give a class presentation. Click here for a look at what her students read last year.

Can you make an impact on the leaders of tomorrow? Can you recommend any environmentally relevant books that would be appropriate for very bright and interested high schoolers to read?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Book Review: Depletion and Abundance

I share a phone booth with this week's guest blogger, the Green Phone Booth that is. Hannah, aka The Purloined Letter, aka The Green Raven, has offered to share her abundant thoughts on Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance.

Leading the Way

"If we can take one message from Hurricane Katrina, it is that our government is probably not going to lead," writes Sharon Astyk in her new book Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front. "It wasn't the federal government that was first on the scene in Hurricane Katrina. It was regular people with boats, or at least courage, who got out there and rescued their neighbors and people they'd never seen and would never seen again. It was ordinary people who tended one another's hurts. It was ordinary people who sought solutions. It was ordinary people who led the way, and the government eventually followed."

Astyk's book is a reminder of the power of individuals to make a difference in the world during times of crisis. In New Orleans in 2005, it was Hurricane Katrina. Now we face a global financial crisis, climate chaos, war, and energy depletion (peak oil). People are struggling to hold on to their homes, to pay for their groceries, to know what to do next. As Astyk writes, "Now it is the time for ordinary people like us to get out our boats again and lead the way."

If you are like me, this book will make you rethink your assumptions about population, about the separation of public and private, about the global impact of creating local economies. As Green Bean said in her recent review, Depletion and Abundance is both troubling and reassuring. It will make you have moments of panic and it will also make you commit to creating a just and meaningful life.

I finished the book with a feeling not only of hope, but also with a feeling of radical responsibility. What I love best about Astyk's book is her unshakable commitment to her inner ethical compass. Usually, I am very resistant to authors telling me to do what they think is right for the world. But Astyk combines belief in universal morals (like truly committing our lives to taking care of elderly parents and children, connecting with our communities, and helping strangers in need) with acceptance and respect for diversity. Instead of feeling like she is preaching at me, I feel like she is inspiring me to try to live up to my ideals and attempt to be my highest self.

I highly recommend this book. I'm thinking about buying a second copy just so I can make all my friends read it and yet keep a copy on my shelf, too, for any moment when I need to be reminded what power we have and how we must use it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Recommended: For medium and dark green readers.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday Roundup

Another Monday, another round up. This one to kick off the month of gratitude - of Thanksgiving. With that in mind, you'll encounter posts from each of us wormers regarding the book or books for which we are grateful. Check in weekly for those.

On to the round up.

I am reading Van Jones' Green Collar Economy. I'm only a couple of chapters in but so far I feel pretty strongly that the next President should read this book. If we could work toward a greener lifestyle, create new meaningful jobs, get the economy going again and alleviate poverty, well, Van Jones seems capable of pointing the way.

How about you? What are you reading this month? Have you written any reviews that we can share?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vital Signs 2007-2008

I found a fantastic little handbook that takes the pulse of our globe in only 166 pages if you read the notes and bibliography. Vital Signs 2007-2008 from the WorldWatch Institute provides a clear overview of an extensive range of scientific data on key indicators across our planet. The bibliography of scientific studies stretches for 35 pages with every indicator studies backed up by cold, hard facts.

The introduction provides a profound quote from Utah Phillips, an American Labor organizer and folk singer. He said: "The earth is not dying. It is being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses." Vital signs goes on to say, and to prove that the planet is not dying, but "ecological systems are. And the names of people killing them include political leaders, corporate executives, and millions of ordinary people who are part of an unsustainable consumer economy." (p. 9)

Vital Signs tracks a variety of key indicators for global health. I"m shamelessly pulled this from their web site as they document it nicely:

Food and Agriculture Trends
Grain Production Falls and Prices Surge
Soybean Demand Continues to Drive Production
Meat Output and Consumption Grow
Seafood Increasingly Popular and Scarce
Irrigated Area Stays Stable

Energy and Climate Trends
Fossil Fuel Use Up Again
Nuclear Power Virtually Unchanged
Wind Power Still Soaring
Solar Power Shining Bright
Biofuel Flows Surge
Carbon Emissions Continue Unrelenting Rise
Weather-related Disasters Climb
Ozone Layer Stabilizing But Not Recovered

Social and Economic Trends
Population Rise Slows But Continues
World is Soon Half Urban
Economy and Strain on Environment Both Grow
Steel Production Soars
Aluminum Production Continues Upward
Gold Mining Output Drops Slightly
Roundwood Production Up

Transportation and Communications Trends
Vehicle Production Rises Sharply
Bicycle Production Up Slightly
Air Travel Reaches New Heights
Cell Phones Widely Used, Internet Growth Slows

Conflict and Peace Trends
Number of Violent Conflicts Steady
Peacekeeping Expenditures Hit New Record
Nuclear Weapons Treaty Eroding

Food and Agriculture Features
Agribusinesses Consolidate Power
Egg Production Doubles Since 1990
Avian Flu Spreads

Environment Features
Climate Change Affects Terrestrial Biodiversity
Threats to Species Accelerate
Invasive Species Drive Biodiversity Loss
Ocean Pollution Worsens and Spreads
Bottled Water Consumption Jumps
Sustainable Communities Become More Popular

Social and Economic Features
Progress Toward the MDGs Is Mixed
Literacy Improves Worldwide
Child Labor Harms Many Young Lives
Informal Economy Thrives in Cities
Socially Responsible Investment Grows Rapidly

Health Features
HIV/AIDS Continues Worldwide Climb
Malaria Remains a Threat
Male Reproductive Health Declines

This little handbook isn't necessarily uplifting, but it provides me with clear data to incorporate in my own research and writing. It also dispels many of the willy-nilly statements I hear about skewed data and/or cyclical cycles. (And there are some, but it doesn't account for everything that we see in our systems). I also loved the charts, graphs and photographs that capture the data in a very usable manner.

Signs also provides for narrative facts that are useful and intriguing. For example, the Inuits in the Arctic are now using air conditioners for the very first time. (p. 42) Fishing employs 38 million people worldwide, and as many species are farmed out and our oceans are polluted we have vast economic and job related issues to consider as well as a concern about food source. (p. 26) The portion of adults in the world that have basic reading and writing skills is now up to 82% (p. 110) and I say hooray to that.

I know it isn't a book of joy for the most part, but it is a book of clarity in data and issues. As a lover of facts and figures from time to time I found it an interesting though eye opening read. If you are a lover of data and part of a Green-centric movement, then this may be a valuable resource for you.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food

I'm going to take us on a spin with a great food book for a kid, and one that reinforces many of the things that we are aiming for with a focus on fresh food. You just can't beat The Berentain Bears and Too Much Junk Food by Stan and Jan Berenstain to reinforce the message of fresh simple food. If you've been busy reading books like In Defense of Food, help bring a little awareness to the little Greenies with the help of Mama and Papa Bear.

Mama started to notice a problem in her house and with her little cubs. They were depending on things like Yum Yums and Sugar Balls for snacks and food. The whole "food product" as opposed to "food" issue that we parents are working on! One day she looked over and noticed that they weren't as active and adding inches to their bodies. Just like any good Mama Bear, she decided to renovate her family lifestyle.

I have to giggle at Papa Bear giving support to Mama only to balk at the rules being applied to him! What! No Sweetsie-Cola!! He decides to support the family efforts when he leans over only to rip the back of his pants.

The family goes on a collective fresh food diet with water, food from their garden, carrot sticks, nuts and raisins for snacks. Mama takes the children all to the doctor so that they can learn more about nutrition and everybody gets their Bear butt into gear and begins to exercise. They even ran a family day marathon style race together, and though tempted to treat themselves they celebrate with more good food.

O.k., so it sounds way to idealistic. But it really isn't. The Berenstains manage to do it in a very approachable fashion that gets the message across to kids. The illustrations are charming, and each family in America will see a smooch of themselves in the story. This was published back in 1985, and 23 years later we are finally getting on the bandwagon for discussing all the issues about food, health, diet and exercise with kids that they were already writing about "back" then.

My kids followed up on their story by wanting more books at our Library on junk food and the inside workings of the human body. Fun! It introduced the topic of the skeleton, nerves, digestion and the brain. We've read it so many times and it reinforces what this Mama Bear says about junkety-junk food.

Be prepared to (gulp) answer a few uncomfortable questions about your own lifestyle after this book. Lio actually pinched a little bit of the Mama scooch to ask why I had fat there like Papa Bear. (You will see this in the story). I replied that this is why we are eating so many veggies in our family and why Mama has to go to the gym to lose a little weight and feel good. You know, why Mama has to go and why you need to play lots outside! Blush.

You will have to answer a few questions to your kids about food choices if you do focus on the book and talk about it. But hey, isn't that what we all really want? Your local Library should have a copy handy, or just ask them to find it for you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book Review: End of Food

Ruchi a.k.a. Arduous was our very first guest poster. Since she spoke up on Rubbish here, she's gone back to school, to learn about policy, meet folks from all over the planet, and hopefully solve the world's problems. Today, she is weighing in on The End of Food. Thank you, Ruchi.

About a month ago, I spent some time in the villages of India. with my uncle who works for an NGO there. I had been to these villages on two occasions prior: one for a relatively long stay about 13 years ago, and one relatively short stay five years back.

The changes since my first stay 13 years ago were tremendous. The watershed development my uncle and his NGO have done has had a dramatic effect on the landscape. But one of the things I noticed particularly was that the crops had changed. Previously, the main cash crops had been sorghum and maize. Now I noticed that the sorghum had mostly been replaced by wheat.

I mentioned as much to my friend and tour guide, a member of the NGO for years, who had volunteered to show me around the villages. He laughed, deeply appreciating that I had noticed the change. "Ah, you see, when water comes, wheat replaces sorghum!"

I wondered why the sorghum was replacing the wheat, so I asked one of the local people if the villagers preferred wheat, through my friend who acted as a translator.

Strangely, the villager responded that they preferred sorghum! Confused, I figured something must have gotten lost in the translation. Why would the villagers switch to wheat if they preferred the taste of sorghum?

Later that night, my uncle answered my question. Very simply, wheat commands a higher price on the market than sorghum. Thus when the villagers have enough water to grow wheat, they grow wheat, even if their own taste preference would be to sorghum.

An obvious answer, and yet one that completely evaded me. But perhaps, had I already read The End of Food by then, I would have figured it out immediately.

The End of Food by Paul Roberts is an excellent book, providing a clear picture into the global food market. Similar to writers like Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, Roberts carefully deconstructs the modern food industry, giving us a glimpse at the major players, and exposing the hidden problems with the way the industry is set up.

But Roberts also goes further than that. Instead of talking simply about modern times, Roberts also provides us with a detailed understanding of food production history, that further demonstrates just how unusual the increases in agricultural efficiency of the 20th century are. And importantly, Roberts does not merely focus on the first world food economy, but delves deeply into the food economies of under-developed nations.

Carefully, Roberts builds his argument to demonstrate effectively why the emerging food crisis developed, who is going to suffer the most, and what the dangers are if we don't succeed in reforming our food system.

As for who is going to suffer the most, it is unfortunately the people least responsible for causing the crises developing. Roberts writes:

Projections by Robert Mendelsohn of Yale University, an expert on climate and agriculture, and his colleagues suggest that eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa- Zambia, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Togo, Botswana, Guinea-Bissau, and Gambia- could lose nearly three-quarters of their agricultural output, while the African continent as a whole could see its total food output fall by as much as $194 billion. Overall food security will also suffer: one report predicts that by 2080, climactic shifts will have increased the population of malnourished people by fifty-five million, nearly all of them in Africa. (226)
Clearly, we need to reform our system, but how? Roberts struggles a little to answer the question, and although that's frustrating, it's also understandable. Like Pollan, Roberts is somewhat critical of organic agriculture. Unlike Pollan, Roberts doesn't see the local food movement as the answer. Roberts argues:

The more fundamental problem with the food-mile concept is the same one that plagues organic: it's a simplistic solution to an extraordinarily complex problem. In the same way a pesticide-free head of lettuce may still not be environmentally friendly, distance isn't always the most important determinant in a particular food product's sustainability. Organic food produced in Chile and flown to the United States may represent massive food miles, but it also represents a shift in farming practices in Chile- fewer pesticides and synthetic fertilizers- which might be beneficial to the Chilean environment and people (285-6)
I can't really fault Roberts for not having a clear solution to the food crisis, because … well, it's a complicated problem. And ultimately, there are no easy answers, but there are some changes that we know can be made and should be made. Obviously, the American farm bill needs to be reformed. Clearly, it's important to educate the public at large. And as any nutritionist would remind us, we all need to eat healthier. And maybe, if we start to fix some of the things we know how to fix, we'll start to figure out solutions to the bigger problems.

Star rating: four out of five stars, and recommended for moderately dark green to dark green readers or for people who have already read The Omnivore's Dilemma and want a more global perspective.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From The Bottom Up

If you are looking for inspiration, look no further than From the Bottom Up: One Man’s Crusade to Clean America’s Rivers. The book grabbed me from the beginning with the introduction and brief synopsis, but even moreso when Chad shared his parent’s simple philosophy that was taught to him. That “you can improve the world by persistent endeavor.”

The translation of ideals into action is a theme that follows the book throughout the pages. His one simple mission, to clean up the shores of his beloved Mississippi River and recycle the trash began with just his two hands and grew into a full fledged non-profit. His organization, Living Lands and Waters is still going strong with other environmental projects under its wing such as the Million Tree Project, environmental workshops, and cleanup events.

Chad grew up on the Mississippi, just a mere 67 feet from it in East Moline, Illinois. His back yard and playground became part of his spirit and soul, a connection that later brought about a deep desire to heal the shoreline. He was always a bit of a doer, given the charge to clean up shoreline seaweed at just age 10. This motivation later translated into action followed by awards, even one such as the Jefferson Award for public service shared by the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates.

The story is very readable, and flows well through the entirety. It is full of humor, stories, and many a fact and figure. I enjoyed the additional pictures that provided a depth to the events. Most importantly, I found it inspiring because I see myself and each of us in the pages of this book. One of my favorite Gandhi quotes, “You must be the change that you want to see in the world,” was on my mind at many points of this book. We can all be part of the changes that we need on every level be them big or small.

No, his path was not always easy. In the beginning he was one person grunting and struggling to remove pieces and parts of our debris out of waters that he considers home. His sponsorship began with one small corporation willing to give, and grew bit by bit. His story grew as more people heard and relayed the message. He has removed refrigerators, bowling balls and even a horse head from the shores to leave a cleaner and safer place for humans and wildlife.

His looks and charm have been compared to movie star status, but his path lends itself to a modern day folk hero for the rest of us. I think it is a story worth reading, and a mission worth being inspired about.

Rated 5 out of 5 for all readers.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Roundup

It is a week of celebrations in many respects. This month I've celebrated Diwali with colleagues for the first time, and I'm learning about rich traditions and India's cultural diversity. We also have festivals of Harvest, Halloween, Columbus Day and even United Nations Day. As I've learned about another culture this month, I've also learned more from my colleagues on environmentalism in India as well as a global outlook on the use of resources.

For our Monday Roundup, what is on your shelf? Do you have a review or recommendation you would like to share? We welcome your input, and look forward to a guest review this week. Please share your thoughts in our comments. Happy October!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Book Review: Depletion and Abundance

One of the blogs I first stumbled upon when "going green" was Sharon Astyk's Casaubon's Book. I read her writings religiously for months . . . until I became a bit too paranoid about a the dismal future and a tad depressed. Besides, if you've follow Sharon's blog, you know how prolific she is! I just couldn't keep up. So I stopped.

Until her beautiful first book came out - Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front. I just couldn't resist. It's like I know someone who's become famous. Someone who's made it. And then there is the whole matter of the soft spot in my heart from my first blog love.

So I bought it. Yup. That's right. Even though Sharon and the Riot for Austerity crew allocate only $1000 for consumer goods, I shelled out some cold hard cash for Depletion and Abundance. And proceeded to read it. You might want to too.

Depletion and Abundance is a quick, readable book, peppered with, yes, gloom and doom over the state of the planet (pretty much all true). The book is also chalk full of useful information about how to live a lower energy, more enjoyable life. Sharon shares stories that will inspire you and argues, thoughtfully, for a life in which we treasure simplicity and meaning. If you've followed Sharon's blog, you'll recognize some of the writing which originally appeared as posts in Casaubon's Book. There is a fair amount of new material as well and it is all cleanly synthesized. I felt a bit of the old panic when I started the book, but, once I accepted it, I think Sharon makes some valuable points and can help us alter our paradigm, shift our values and embrace a lighter lifestyle.

I'm glad I read the book but, as the true test of a great book, I'm not actually going to keep it. I'll circulate it amongst my green book club and, if it makes it back to me, I'll do a giveaway here. It's worth a read but not worth the precious space on my bookshelf.

Recommended: for medium to dark green readers, or newly green readers who really want to get motivated.
Rating: three out of five stars.

Look for a guest review of Depletion and Abundance coming soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Book Review: Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

Have any other bloggers had this experience? You have an idea for a post all worked out in your head, and you check your blog for a couple days wondering when it is going to show up before you realize, "Oh. This is my post. It won't show up until I write it!" When this book review still hadn't appeared on the Bookworm by this morning, it finally dawned on me that this was my week, my review, and I hadn't posted it, yet! Anyway, this is a reprint of a book review I did on my own blog a while back, but I wanted to share it here.

I found this beautiful coffee table book fascinating, and not just in the way the authors intended. In brief, Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio, who wrote "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats," traveled around the world visiting families in 24 countries and recording what the families ate for a week. At the end of the week, they took the families shopping to buy "a week’s worth of food" (paid for by the authors) and photographed each family with their groceries. They wrote a few pages about each family and included statistics about the country. The families were not chosen to be representative of the whole country, and sometimes the authors used multiple families from the same country to show differences in, for example, the diet of rural versus urban residents.

The pictures in the book, and it is as much a photography book as it is anything else, were outstanding. The lists of groceries (written in microscopic print!) were fascinating. But what I enjoyed the most was that the text and photo pages of each family gave a snapshot of ordinary life in that country. There was no attempt to be consistent and some families got pages and pages while others got very little. I noticed that whenever there was a particularly cute young child in the family, the family seemed to get more press time! I enjoyed the book so much that instead of devouring it in one sitting, as is my usual manner, I rationed myself to four families per night so I could string it out as long as possible.

I found it both encouraging that there is so much local food culture left in the world, and depressing that our processed food culture has spread so far. The one thing I wish the authors had done differently is I wish they had converted the local prices not only into US dollars, but also into what the food would have cost if purchased in the US. That would have been a really difficult task, though, so I can understand why they didn’t do it. Recommended for all readers, 4.5 stars out of 5.