Let's talk about books, baby

As someone who grew up mostly before the internet age, an only child and a nerd, it's perhaps unsurprising that I've always been a huge bookworm. Scott, who also is all of the above, was practically born reading (you think I'm joking, but he's one of those super overachieving types; I like to joke that he "came out of the womb reading Moby Dick," and I'm only half joking). At any rate, books have always been a huge part of our lives.

Somewhere along the line (ahem, attending UC Berkeley), my love for books became lost. Given how much I love books (and come from a book loving/hoarding family), this is pretty inconceivable, but after I graduated from college, my love of reading took a serious hit. I was so tired from spending what felt like endless years cramming words into my brain ... I even had to get reading glasses. But this is what 5 years of endless reading (I was a social sciences double major) did to me: I had no desire to read a book. For years.

Thankfully, two things happened. One: this always really, really bothered me, and I always endeavored to do something about my newfound disinterest in reading, which I actually began to make headway at beginning in 2008 ... only to run into an additional problem, that of my house and storage units being stuffed to the gills with books already. And then, in comes number two: my uncle bought me an Amazon Kindle last year.

Acquiring a Kinde has made more of an impact on my desire to and my ability to read books than I could ever have anticipated. I'm not sure why, but I think it has something to do with how easy on the eyes it is to read with a Kindle, and, additionally, how much more awesome it is not to wreck a book taking it around in my bag for a month. I have wrecked so many books that way. And finally, I don't have to buy a physical book, which is great since not a single extra book can fit in my house at the moment.

Anyway, the point of this entry is to talk about the books I like to read and recommend some to you, so I better get on with it. I've always been a huge fan of nonfiction, and in particular, historical nonfiction.

I'm also really into issues of food, cooking & the history of what we eat and why. If you've been reading my blog for a while or otherwise know me well, this should not surprise you. I've been reading pretty exclusively for the last few years, books about these topics ... and I think they're so fascinating & valuable to society. I'd love to share some of what has been or is now on my reading list, and I hope you'll either chime in and say "hey, I've read these too!" or put them on your reading list:

These are books I've already read. All are excellent:

The Omnivore's Dilemma & In Defense of Food (Michael Pollan) — These were "the books that started it all," for me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I have a major author crush on Michael Pollan. His books, his research, his writing has absolutely changed the way I live my life in a significant way. I will never forget how I felt while reading The Omnivore's Dilemma; I knew I would never be the same. If you haven't read it, I recommend it to all human beings who live on Earth and eat food (see what I did there?).

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver) —I read this book after I finished The Omnivore's Dilemma, and it has been almost as important in changing how I view my place as an eater in this world. I would love to do what Kingsolver did, myself one day. With the exception of killing animals. This book is where I first became brave enough to make my own pizza from scratch; in addition to being a great book it also has a ton of recipes throughout, and they're good.

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food (Paul Greenberg) — As difficult as it was to read, as a geography major in college this was not new information to me: we need to stop eating a lot of the fish that we love in this world, or they'll be gone forever in a very short amount of time. The one that really got me about this book was the bluefin tuna; a beautiful, gorgeous giant that is, yes, tasty, but also fished nearly to extinction. To learn the history of four fish in the way Greenberg presents it will turn you into a fish activist. If it doesn't, I'm afraid you may have no heart. Just keepin' it real.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles (Jennifer 8. Lee) — I gave this book to my uncle for Christmas last year and he read it and also enjoyed it, like any geek would. You will want to eat Chinese food all through this book (erm, American Chinese food). You will never look at it the same way again, either, but that's not bad!

Tomatoland (Barry Estabrook) — I have long known that the tomato industry in this country is messed up. But reading this book will educate you on exactly how screwed up it is. You know those disgusting "winter tomatoes" you see in the grocery store when it's not summer? Yes, well. On top of being tasteless and mealy, they're also potentially bad for your health and the workers who farmed the fields where they were made.

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally (Alisa Smith, J.B. MacKinnon) — I really loved this book because it was an honest depiction of a husband & wife team that tries to only consume foods & beverages made within 100 miles of their home in Vancouver, BC. This would be a lot easier for me to accomplish, given where I live and the amazing climate, so I seriously salute them.

The Quarter-Acre Farm (Spring Warren) — This one struck even closer to home: it's about a wife & mother & writer in Davis, California (so close by!) who chooses to turn her yard into a farm and sustain herself (and, to a great extent, her family) on it for a year. Spring Warren is hilarious, humble & honest, and her geese have the best names ever ever ever!

Growing a Farmer (Kurt Timmermeister) — This was the latest book I read; I finished it last weekend. I actually had a tough time with parts of this book, and I admit that I had to skip over the part where Timmermeister butchers a pig in extensive detail; as a mostly-vegan I think it's understandable why. There is some debate while you read this book about whether you actually like the author as a person, or his writing style; but I found that by the end of the book, I was totally into it.

These are the books I'm in the process of reading now: 

The United States of Arugula (David Kamp) — I want to like this book, but I'm having a rough time finishing it for some reason. I think it's a bit dense and very foodie-name-drop heavy, if that makes sense. I do plan on finishing it at some point but I've been taking a break from it for at least 2 years.

The Botany of Desire (Michael Pollan) — No reason why I haven't finished this, other than that it's a paper copy (rather than Kindle). Perhaps I'll get it on Kindle. I love Michael Pollan!

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil (Tom Mueller) — I just found out about this book on Girl's Gone Child yesterday, and it will be the very next book I read. So excited!

Here's what I wonder: are any of you out there into the same kind of books/subjects I am? Please leave me comments and let's talk about books, baby! :)  </nerd>  


  1. Nice post! Clipped it to my "books" folder for future library visits. I love my visits to the library and coming out with a bag straining with new stuff...

    1. Awesome!! Yes -- all of these are truly fantastic. What have you been reading lately?


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