Tag Archives: book reviews

The Bard’s Book Reviews: The One Straw Revolution

Hat tip to JB for suggesting this great read!

The One-Straw Revolution, written by Masanobu Fukuoka the father of “natural farming” or “do nothing farming” reads like a treatise on the philosophy behind permaculture.

Let me begin by saying the book is most definitely influenced by Bhuddist and eastern metaphysics, particularly the view that everything represents an integrated system and that mankind cannot improve upon this system but should instead strive to be in harmony with it. While these philosophical roots will occasionally fly in the face of the Christian worldview, the book is still worth the read for a variety of reasons:

I am deeply concerned by the level of compartmentalization in American and other western cultures today. Particularly in agriculture this compartmentalization is very dangerous as it is largely responsible for our industrial, monoculture based system. While Fukuoka probably goes to far the other way, his influence deeply helps Western readers to be pulled back to a healthy middle ground n this issue.

In addition this book provides a beautiful philosophy of permaculture both I. Terms of the good of mankind and of the earth, while pointing to some of the dangers of an overly scientific approach. All of this is wrapped in fascinating narrative with neat first hand accounts of Fukuoka’s success with his very unusual approach to farming.

I don’t know that this book would be on my top recommended reading,list for those interested in sustainability, particularly since most of the technique is tied to Japan’s unique environment. However, it is a short and delightful read and well worth your time if you are looking for more of the “heart” of sustainability.

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The Bard’s Book Reviews: Folks This Ain’t Normal

I fell a bit behind on my book reviews over the last several weeks, and since I read quite a bit there will be a few over the next week or so. 

Folks, This Ain’t Normal is the latest book from lunatic farmer, Joel Salatin. For those who aren’t familiar with Mr. Salatin, he became well known after being referenced in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and appearing in the movie Food Inc. Mr. Salatin’s farm, Polyface, has been an active player in the local sustainable movement longer than most of what we would consider the local sustainable agriculture movement has existed and is a leading source of innovation in sustainable agricultural technique.

I have read a number of Joel Salatin’s books in the past and have always found them to be excellent, fast moving reads. In addition they are consistently packed with useful information about realistic solutions to the complex problem’s we are facing as a nation today, particularly in our food industry.

I would argue that Folks, This Ain’t Normal, is the most lay friendly book Mr. Salatin has written thus far. Anyone interested in agriculture should read his other books, particularly You Can Farm; but Folks, This Ain’t Normal is packed full of information for any reader looking for solutions to the issues we are facing with our industrialized, chemical food supply.

The book takes on a variety of issues and lays out how our move away from personal stewardship and responsibility over our food supply is directly responsible for many of the social and political issues today. Mr. Salatin doesn’t stop there, however, he provides common sense, non-government solutions to each problem he presents. Specifically, he presents many small scale solutions that can be implemented by the reader personally.

In addition to laying out practical solutions to difficult problems, Mr. Salatin also references dozens of other excellent books for further reading and like all good non-fiction works should the index in the book is lengthy and well put together.

I strongly recommend this book for anyone concerned, are not informed enough to be concerned about the dangers of the industrial food system, GMO’s, energy independence, sustainable agriculture, or the return of common sense.

The Bard’s Book Reviews: The Quest of the Simple Life

The Quest of the Simple Life, by William J. Dawson is the story of one man’s journey from the urban world of early 20th century London to a life living off the land in the countryside. The book has a more unique topic than most such books, however. Rather than seeking to be a handbook of useful skills or a how to on sustainable living topics which, in my opinion, have been thoroughly covered elsewhere; it instead takes on the more difficult topic of the moral and philosophical motivations behind the back to the land movement. If you are looking for more of a homesteading handbook then my current recommendation is Abigail R. Gehring’s Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills.

Mr. Dawson takes on his topic in a way that most modern readers will find fascinating, since all of our modern knowledge about the consequences of an overly industrialized society is absent from the book. The author argues instead that the countryside is better suited towards men’s happiness than urban life, and that it represents a better stewardship of his economic and physiological resources. For my part I was often shocked by the authors deep understanding of his material, and in particular areas where he frequently anticipated the negative consequences of urbanization. For example, the author argues for the paying of all expenses in cash, lest the we forget just how much were spending on any given object. This topic of course has come more and more into the spotlight as our society gets more and more reckless in its spending.

The author proceeds to explain how it was that he finally managed to take his leave of London, and then in response to criticism from a friend gives a moral defense of his move. This may represent the most interesting part of the book for some as it works towards reconciling the happiness of the author with his country life with the collective good of his society. As noted above this particular section is particularly interesting since it is written well before we realized the environmental and sociological damage that industrial based urbanization would ultimately cause.

Particularly if you are day dreaming of one day escaping to the countryside yourself and living in a more traditional human relationship with the earth this book is for you. This book is also available as a free, public domain download for your e-reader.