32 Things – The Books

Here is another update! This update is simply about books. I love books. I knew it would be pretty easy for me to read 32 books in a year. Maybe I set the bar too low on that goal…Check out  the list here for all my other goals. You can also find me on Goodreads. I will detail some of the books I’ve really, really enjoyed here.

The Books


1) The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant By: Dan Savage

I really loved this book. It was my first Dan Savage book (I’ve read his column in the paper, though). His writing style is funny, gritty, sometimes offensive and vulgar, but great. The book was fast-paced. I feel very strongly about adoption, which is what attracted me to this book. He chronicles what it was like for him and his boyfriend to adopt a baby. I knew very little about open adoptions, and his book gave good insight on that.

2) Divergent  By: Veronica Roth

If you liked The Hunger Games series, you’ll really enjoy “Divergent.” It was another teen book about a dystopian society based in Chicago. There were now Factions and the factions did not get along. The book was a fast read and I loved it! It was exciting, it was fast-paced, and the characters were well-developed. I was satisfied with the ending and there wasn’t a single part of the book where I was bored. Definitely recommend it!

3) Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer  By: Novella Carpenter

This book was fascinating and bizarre at the same time. It was a memoir by a hippie living in Oakland, in the total ghetto, and having her own farm. She rose animals for their meat, grew everything she could in the garden and even had bees. The story was funny and easy to read. She was likable. I struggled with some of the animal slaughter stuff, but the book was definitely worth a read.

4) I Love Everybody: And Other Atrocious Lies By: Laurie Notaro

This memoir was written more like short stories in one book. Each chapter was another anecdote or short story that didn’t really flow with the other chapters. Despite that, the book was hilarious and I found myself cracking up at her crazy, witty writing style. She also reminded me of Michelle for some reason…

5) The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love  By: Kristin Kimball

6) Full Tilt  By: Dervla Murphy

This book was pretty incredible. It was a memoir/diary type of book. In 1963, Murphy decided she wanted to ride her bicycle from her home in Ireland to India. This was unheard of at the time and the things she goes through as a single woman in the 1960’s in the Middle East was an interesting read. I really enjoyed it!

7) Skipping a Beat  By: Sarah Pekkanen

I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast read. From the outside, Julia and Michael seemed to have it all–rich, fancy house, fancier car. The book begins with Michael dying for four minutes. He’s young, athletic and has a heart attack. He’s brought back but he’s not the same person she married. The book asks, “What would you do if your husband suddenly wanted to rewrite all of the rules of your relationship?”

8 ) The Fault in Our Stars  By: John Green

Cynthia sent this book to me as part of a care package that I won. I read it in just a few days and loved the book. It’s a heavy subject but the book is not a depressing downer (for the most part). The story is told by Hazel, a 16 year old girl with terminal cancer. She meets Augustus, a cancer survivor, in her support group. The book is about their love story. Great book!

9) The End of Food  By: Paul Roberts

Scary, sad, and disgusting. But worth a read. Very, very eye-opening. My only complaint about this book is that it doesn’t leave the reader with any hope at the end. Where was the chapter on how to FIX it?

10) Food Photography: Pro Secrets for Styling, Lighting, Shooting  By: Laura Ferroni

This book was much better than the other food photography books I’ve read because it was more about the styling and how to take the PHOTOS instead of using fake food.

11) A Perfect Blood  By: Kim Harrison

I’ve been reading the Hollows series since it first came out (and even went to a book signing for the 3rd book and met the author). I love all the characters and each book in the series has been enjoyable for me. This is the most recent book in the series and it didn’t disappoint.

12) The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn  By: Alison Weir

I’ve always been fascinated with this time period in history and Henry VIII is by far my favorite tyrant. 😉 This book was a fast read, but that could be because I already knew a lot of the information. My only disappointment with this book was that there wasn’t any new information, or new theories.

13) Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery and Murder in Medieval England  By: Alison Weir

I’m ashamed to admit that I knew nothing about Queen Isabella before reading this book! The book was long and dry in places, but worth a read. The feat that Queen Isabella manages to pull off is amazing.

14) There’s a Slight Change I Might Be Going To Hell  By: Laurie Notaro

This is her first attempt at fiction. It was a goofy story but a fun read.

15) The Female Body Breakthrough: The Revolutionary Strength-Training Plan for Losing Fat and Getting the Body You Want  By: Rachel Cosgrove

16) Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love  By: Matthew Logelin

Oh my god. Be prepared to sob from beginning to end of this book. It’s about Matthew, a young guy who is about to be a father with his wife Liz. She’s put on bed rest due to a difficult pregnancy and has the baby, Madeline, early. The next day Liz dies from an embolism. The book is about Matthew’s grief and raising his new daughter alone. The book is absolutely heartbreaking, but good.

17) Everything is Broken  By: John Shirley

The book was about a Tsunami hitting the West Coast and absolutely devastating all of it. It was slightly futuristic, but not specific in the time frame. The small California coastal town where the book takes place is in ruin and some survivors band together. It was kind of a cross between the movie Dante’s Peak and the book Lord of the Flies. The book was good enough, but I was bored by the faction group of survivors that were thugs and meth heads.

18) A Game of Thrones  By: George R. R. Martin

I loved this book! And I better have, since it was like 700 pages. I haven’t seen the TV show, but heard all the things people were raving (and complaining) about with the show. I don’t normally like sci-fi/fantasy books but this one was good. It wasn’t too “fantasy”. The entire time I read the book, I felt like it was taking place in medieval England, not in a fantasy world with dragons. There are a lot of characters and a lot of storylines, but once you get into the book it’s easy to follow.

19) A Clash of Kings  By: George R.R. Martin

Easier to read than the first book, probably because I knew who the characters were. There were still too many characters (in my opinion) but for the most part I enjoyed most of the individual story lines. As the title suggests, it’s about the war for the throne and who is truly the king.

20) Desert Solitaire  By: Edward Abbey

A fantastic book about a park ranger living in the Moab desert. I loved this book. The subtitle is “A Season in the Wilderness” and it’s aptly named. It was written in the 1960’s by Abbey, a government park ranger in Utah. It’s sort of a memoir, sort of a collection of short stories, sort of a “hippie rant” about the industrial nation destroying mother earth. The story is really about this man’s journey in the Moab desert–becoming one with the desert, the creatures that live in it. It was an eloquent, beautiful book that I’d be happy to purchase and read over and over again.

21) The World of Downton Abbey  By: Jessica Fellowes

It was a fascinating look into how the TV series came to be, complete with beautiful pictures, historical information they based everything on and behind the scenes looks. Good book.

22) Little Girl Blue  By: Randy Schmidt

The biography of Karen Carpenter–sad but very interesting read.

23) Come Home  By: Lisa Scottoline

It was a good book that sucked me in immediately. I’ve liked this author for awhile.


The Ones I Read That Were “Just Okay”

1) The Everything Guide to Writing a Book Proposal   By: Meg Schneider

2) Bossy Pants   By: Tina Fey

3) A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana  By: Haven Kimmel

4) More Food Styling For Photographers and Stylists : A Guide to Creating Your Own Appetizing Art   By: Linda Bellingham, Jean Ann Bybee, Brad G. Rogers

I got this book because I often take pictures of my food and I wanted to find ways to make my food photos more interesting, pretty, appealing, etc. This book gave me some good stylist ideas and it also talked about the settings the author used on their camera for each shot–which helped a lot. That being said, this book is all about food staging and what I learned is that professional food photos are usually fake. They use things like glue to represent milk, or egg whites as foam on drinks. That’s not what I’m interested in doing–I don’t want to waste food just to make it “pretty.”

5) The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club: True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life  By: Laurie Notaro

6) See Jane Lead: 99 Ways for Women to Take Charge at Work  By: Lois Frankel

7) Autobiography of a Fat Bride: True Tales of a Pretend Adulthood  By: Laurie Notaro

This book wasn’t great. I’ve liked some of her other books but this one really fell flat. Skip it.

8 ) The Swing! Lose the Fat and Get Fit with this Revolutionary Kettlebell Program  By: Tracy Reifkind

9)  Secret Girl  By: Molly Bruce Jacobs

A touching book about a family secret. The eldest daughter of a well-to-do family in Baltimore decides after decades to meet her younger sister who was born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and put in a home for “retarded children and infants” in the 1950’s. The book is about her soul searching and her developing relationship with the secret sister she never knew she had. It was touching and sad. It was “just ok” because I felt like the author was just as damaged by the end of the book than she was at the beginning. I guess I wanted to see some growth.


So there ya go. One goal completed. Of course I’m still going to keep reading my books because clearly I am addicted to reading. I’m usually reading at least two books at one time.

QUESTION: What have you read lately that you enjoyed? Have you read any of the above books?

The Dirty Life

(Buy Here)

I recently finished a fantastic book that I wanted to share with you guys. It was “The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love” by Kristin Kimball.

The book is a memoir by Kristin Kimball, a 30-something New Yorker reminiscent of Carrie Bradshaw–complete with shallow relationships, couture and New York life. She was a writer who was going to interview a farmer in Amish country (he was not Amish) who was running a farm the old-fashioned way. They fell in love and she left New York to follow him to a rural farm to help him build it up from the ground floor. Literally.

It was a rude awakening for her. She says, “There’s no better cure for snobbiness than a good ass-kicking.” And her ass was kicked. They buy a few cows, some chickens and horses and start building the farm up. Of course there are many set backs and she has no idea what she’s doing, but she learns it along the way.

“Food, a French man told me once, is the first wealth. Grow it right, and you feel insanely rich, no matter what you own.” 

They finally figure it out and get some rhythm to their lives. It’s in no way easy. Crops die. Animals die. They are more tired than they’ve ever been because you know what? Hard, manual labor kicks your ass no matter how young or in shape you may be. Especially when you’re doing it the old-fashioned way (plowing the fields with horses and not machines).

“‎A farm is a manipulative creature. There is no such thing as finished. Work comes in a stream and has no end. There are only the things that must be done now and things that can be done later. The threat the farm has got on you, the one that keeps you running from can until can’t, is this: do it now, or some living thing will wilt or suffer or die. Its blackmail, really.” 

The realities of farm living was sometimes difficult for me to read. I was a vegetarian for 12 years and only recently started eating meat again a few years ago. Despite the fact that I eat meat now, that doesn’t mean it’s EASY for me to know WHERE my food is coming from. And honestly? It’s important that we do know where our food is coming from. It’s so easy to disconnect and just think “food comes from the grocery store” not “this used to be a living creature.” I really struggle with that, and usually choose denial instead. I just can’t deal with the idea of it. That’s my issue. So, there were parts of the book that discussed slaughtering and I skipped those parts because they made my heart hurt.

 “Just a tick past fruition sits decay.”

Part of the book was about their crops. They were going to do a CSA-based farm. CSA is “Community Supported Agriculture” where consumers buy local produce directly from the farmer. The consumers “buy in” a share (membership) of the farm and receive weekly boxes of the produce. It could be anything, really, and from the bloggers I’ve seen that do CSA deliveries it’s often things they have no idea about! The benefits are great for both consumer and farmer: the farmer gets some income to keep the farm running and the consumer gets fresh produce.

In this book, they wanted to do something a little different. They wanted to provide a complete diet in their CSA–they included their homemade milk, butter, butchered meats and fish, in addition to the fruits and veggies, wheat and grains. I think it was a brilliant idea and I wished I could participate in something like that.

I remember the hard work my TINY vegetable garden took last summer and cannot imagine running a farm. It’s definitely a full-time job. The book was good and I enjoyed reading it. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in farming, where their food comes from, and memoirs. Read this!

QUESTION: Have you read this book? Do you participate in CSA models?