Urban Adaptation

Sustainable urban living, rural dreams, and daily change for a homemade life.

Archive for the ‘Reading list’ Category

Reference library

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I am my own library.

I’ve always loved reading and having books around.  When I was 10 or so I had one bookshelf, crammed with books, and piles everywhere else for the ones that just wouldn’t fit.

Things aren’t really that different now, although the focus of the books has shifted.

When I started my Masters degree, I realised how hard it was to get some of the books that I needed from the library, if they even had them at all.  I also realised that 3 weeks was simply not enough time for some of them.  So I started buying books.  Not a lot, but when I needed something, especially for my research, I tended to get it so I could have my own copy, always available, that I could do what I wanted with.  This carried through to my doctorate, and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some grant money that has allowed me to buy most of the books that I use for research, many of which are generally good, useful texts that will be handy for a wide variety of academic work in the future (Veblen, Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Baudrillard, Bourdieu, de Certeau, and Simmel, I’m looking at you).

Once I became aware of issues around food security, sustainability, and peak oil, I began to see the value in using this approach of making sure I had books on hand that would help me live the life I was increasingly wanting to lead.  And so, with another bookshelf on hand, I started building up a greater selection of books on cooking, gardening, knitting, sewing, preparedness, preserving, food issues, compost, household maintenance, and most recently, raising animals.

Coupled with the fiction that I also kept around, this makes for a lot of books.  Actually, for awhile I considered getting rid of some of the fiction or academic books to make a bit more room (the fiction especially was considered for the shopping block), but then I read one of Sharon’s posts that included a section about buying books and feeling that she should be the local library, and I stopped thinking that way.

While fiction may not be useful in the practical sense, it gives me some very inexpensive, reusable, and lendable entertainment.  It’s an escape, a way to get away from the world for a while.  Sometimes its inspirational.  Sometimes its relaxing.  But I appreciate having books around that I want to read, and so when I see something at the used bookstore for a few dollars that I want to have around long term, it often comes home with me.  At the most recent 50 percent off sale, I came home with John Steinbeck, Eudora Welty, Dostoyevsky, Douglas Adams, John Irving, and Annie Dillard.  I’m still not looking forward to moving them, and I do trim the collection here and there but, by and large, the books stay.

The building of my library has been facilitated in a few ways.  My long-standing love of thrift stores has certainly helped, and I’d say the vast majority of my books have cost no more than a few dollars each.  Back in my undergrad days there was a thrift store where almost every book was a quarter or less – total bliss.  The annual library book sale here helps as well.  Also, everyone I know knows of my love of books, and birthday and Christmas gifts are frequently gift certificates.  I also do a few reward-type programs that don’t cost me anything, but that add up to a bit of book money here and there.  Occasionally there’s something that I want or think is useful enough to buy new, but this is very much a rarity.

Missing from this post: photos of my book-covered coffee table, bedside, nightstand, desk, and dining room table.

Written by Jenn

April 6, 2011 at 11:18 pm

The book of the farm

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With Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm showing up recently at Cold Antler Farm and at Small Measures, I started rewatching the shows, which I’d seen bits and pieces of already.  It’s an interesting look at how life used to be, and one that I imagine that I’ll write about later.

What really struck me about Victorian Farm, though, was the use of their “bible,” the text “The Book of the Farm”, which appears to be a very comprehensive guide to farming.  While old, it looks to have a lot of useful information in it, and I was delighted to find a PDF copy (only 737 pages) from the Open Library.  So, if anyone’s interested, it’s readily available.

Written by Jenn

January 21, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Good luck at Goodwill

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After being without a computer for a bit (three fun issues, just to add a little spice to life), I stopped by the goodwill bookstore on my way home from the repair shop where it was undergoing diagnostics.  I sometimes lament how tempting its proximity to home is, since this poor little apartment has a rather large number of books in it already, but I really, honestly love it – great selection, great people, and supporting a charity at the same time – definitely right up my alley, so to speak.

Given that the weather has suddenly become incredibly cold, and that I was already somewhat chilled from waiting for two different buses, I seriously debating stopping.  I’m pleased that I did, though.

First, I stumbled across two young adult (I think) books that I’ve been wanting to read – “I Captured the Castle” and “The Yearling“.  Next, I found a copy of “Four Season Harvest“, which deals with ways to extend the life of a garden and keep production up through the whole year.  Finally, I stumbled across “Locavore” and “The 100 Mile Diet,” both of which I’d been considering from amazon relatively recently, but had decided to hold off on.  I’m now glad that I did.

The grand total for 5 books?  $16, or quite affordable.  I’m still trying to reduce my shopping as much as possible, and get stuff out of the apartment, but I’m pleased with these books, which are either classics, or good information and inspiration for my own efforts in living and eating more sustainably.  And now, I’m going to curl up on the couch with a book, a blanket, and some tea, and have a quiet afternoon.

Written by Jenn

January 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Book sale

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I have, in my infinite wisdom (insert snicker here) managed to buy books not once but twice in the last 24 hours.

First was a visit to the public library’s annual booksale.  Table after table of books for the picking, although I only walked away with 6 books and 5 magazine (uh, yes…only…)  For the books, I got two novels that I’ve been wanting to read, two semi-school books, and two books to add to my self-sufficiency pile on root cellaring and butchering and processing meat (The Boy blanched a little, made a face, and then feigned ignorance for the latter two.)  The magazines consisted of Mother Earth News and Countryside.

And then today I woke up after a lousy night’s sleep (odd dreams about old dogs, dying children, and some seriously messed-up surgery) I went for a walk and stopped at the bookstore.  Two fiddle books, a manual of guitar chords, four children’s books, a John Irving novel, and two other novels I’ve been interested in reading.

Some books that I no longer need are on their way out to make for a bit more room but, in general, I’ve come to terms with my love of books, both for pleasure and for practicality.  I think, anyway.  And for now, I’m going to get some writing done and then sit myself down to peruse a new book on the couch with some tea.

*Edited to add: In case this wasn’t clear, in both cases these purchases were for a good cause.  The library booksale directly supports the public library, and the Goodwill bookstore supports their employment efforts in the community, and  I’m especially okay with purchases that have some kind of community benefit like this.

Written by Jenn

October 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm

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On books

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Awhile back, I’d mentioned that I was a bit concerned about the fact that one of my escapes seems to be heading to the local used bookstore and picking up a new-to-me book or two to read.  I’d found that when things were tough I tended to turn to book shopping as an escape – not something I normally do, but somewhat easy to defend since first, I was buying books to read and, second, I was supporting a thrift store in the process.  At the time, I also mentioned that I wanted to cut back a bit and see if I could reduce that expense a bit more.

Well…at this point I haven’t given up on the books, but I think I’m managing it better.

Although I bought books that I wanted to read, I was buying more than I am now.  While the purchases certainly weren’t indiscriminate, I wasn’t as thoughtful as I try now to be about what I was bringing home.  I’ve found that being aware not only of what I buy but also why I buy it to be very helpful (not just when it comes to books, actually) in planning and managing what I do choose to buy.

I find I buy books for two reasons.  First, I like to read.  Books are pleasurable.  I enjoy finding something that I’ve wanted to read and then actually being able to get immersed and absorbed in the content, whether it’s stories or recipes, fact or fiction.  They’re also an inexpensive source of entertainment.  $4 (and usually less) for a used book that I get to keep is better value, for me anyway, than going to a movie, or out to a bar, or buying most video games.  Beyond electricity to read at night and the odd accompanying pot of tea, the cost is usually nothing.  And, psychologically speaking, I love being cozied up on the couch with tea and wool blankets and a good book to spend an afternoon or evening.

So, to keep the shopping for books a bit more under control.  I have a list of authors that I look for, and a few books in mind.  The authors and books are ones that I know I’ll read again and again, and are worth it for me to have.  John Irving.  Annie Dillard.  Neil Gaiman.  Annie Proulx.  Edgar Allen Poe.  Kate DiCamillo.  Classics of various descriptions.  Barbara Kingsolver.  Diane Ackerman.  Agatha Christie.  Neal Stephenson.  William Gibson.

I also read for reference, and try to keep part of my library as very practical and useful.  When a book shows up on making quilts or knitting sweaters, or goatkeeping, or companion planting, I tend to look twice at it (unless I have one already, a distinction I think I’ve been much better at making lately as well).  I want a library not only of books that I want to read for pleasure, but also ones that will be useful.  In some ways this is actually the broader category as I seek out materials that will be useful and informative for building a life that’s even more sustainable.

Admittedly, I already have a lot of books here, and I have yet to read them all (far from it, actually).  I have everything from cookbooks to the classics, and from guidebooks to graphic novels.  But I appreciate being able to have what I want at my fingertips.  I like being able to loan books out.  I worry that, as with so many of the truly good things that make cities great, that library hours and services will soon be cut.  I enjoy having my own copies that I can fall asleep in bed with, make notes in pencil on, and hide little scraps and bits and pieces in the pages to find later.

One day they will have to be moved.  I know this, and I sort of dread that day, both for the pile that I imagine will need to be out the door, and for the struggle involved in moving the rest.  But for now, I like having them, and I appreciate that such a great source of books is close by, not only for the rough days when I’m out hunting for that one book that I want to read, but for all the others that have passed and that are yet to come where I curl up and have swaths of information and whole other worlds ready at my fingertips.

Written by Jenn

October 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Reading: Worldchanging

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While most of the reading I do now is for my dissertation – theory and tech stuff, oh my –  I also tend to have a variety of other books on the go that tie in with my dreams of a simpler, hopefully more rural life.  One of the broader issues that I’m concerned with is the environment, both on its own and in terms of its links to other big issues (more on this later, probably).  Environmental destruction means less land to work with throughout the world, as well as much more difficult and unpredictable conditions for growing food and caring for livestock, along with a whole range of other scary stuff.

The main book that I’ve been working through recently is Worldchanging (they also have a great website here).  Focusing on environmental issues and their solutions, it has a lot of interesting ideas and perspectives.  Admittedly, some of them might be more resource intensive than is really viable now or even in the future (just because something is environmentally friendly once it is made doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cost a lot in the way of resources to make), but they do range from the really simple to the really high-tech, and I appreciate that they cover so much ground.

When I read the first chapter, I’ll ‘fess up that I cried.  The scenarios described – environmental destruction, the consequences, and the difficulty in dealing with our current situation, let alone where we seem to be headed – were horrifying at best.  I curled up in bed and let loose for awhile because it does seem to be beyond dire in more ways than I care to count.  Sometimes a girl just need a good cry about the state of the world.

Somewhat more happily, the rest of the book is focused on a huge range of solutions, projects, designs and ideas that just might help and, as a result, does offer some hope to counter what is a pretty dire situation.  While my faith is still somewhat tenuous – I think we need significantly more drastic measures than most people would like to consider in order to make any kind of reasonable, sustainable long-term environmental impact – I can’t deny that I appreciate the hope that it can give.  Not only are people thinking about and concerned with the issues, but that they’re actively seeking solutions for them, and that some of these solutions are ones that I can use in my own life as I move forward towards greater sustainability.

Written by Jenn

May 29, 2010 at 1:13 am

Posted in Reading list, Saving the world

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