It’s only the third of the month and I have this post ready for you!! I love looking back at the books I’ve read each month as it always surprises me how many I read when it feels like I don’t have enough time to dedicate to reading. I’ve split this post into two parts as I realized I had a lot to say about one book in particular. You can read my views on Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco here.
Let’s get right to it, shall we?
The Tao of Cob: How a Kansas Grandmother Built Her Own Natural Home in the Woods by Dorethy Hancock This was a lovely book not so much for the details on how Hancock built her cob home, although I found that interesting, but for the beliefs she shares on nature.
Hancock purchased land on the Reservation and true to traditional ways showed reverence for the land and animals she shared the property with. Naming her trees Grandmother, Mother etc and caring for them with the respect one would give another human, maybe more so in this day and age.
After completing her cob home she began an addition of straw which she never finished. She felt overwhelmed by the task and moved on. The property and home is for sale still today. You can view pictures of the home and details on purchasing on her website.
I went to the library specifically to find two books, I found one, but as normal I came home with a few others. Marie Kondo’s latest book, Spark Joy, was sitting on the shelf with new arrivals. While I wasn’t overly impressed with her first book (The Life Changing-Magic of Tidying Up) I grabbed this one purely out of curiousity.
I was much more impressed with this book, although having read the first I skimmed a bit of it. Unlike the first book, there were detailed illustrations on the specific folding method for all kinds of clothes, which was nice to see. And quotes worth holding on to.
Only when we accept unconditionally people whose values differ from our own can we really say that we have finished tidying. Marie Kondo
One section was titled Tidying is the act of confronting yourself; cleaning is the act of confronting nature. The title and her explanation stuck with me and made a lot of sense. I hate cleaning indoors and I have to admit there might be some truth to this. I love nature but unless I intentionally bring it indoors (such as cut flowers) I want it to stay outside, and that includes dirt and bugs alike. My chair brings nature inside and I am forever sweeping and mopping to clear away the dirt, leaves and other bits the wheels bring in. I’m trying to look at indoor cleaning in a different way, as the reminder of how much nature gives me to be thankful for and not to get so frustrated with the debris I track in.
When you have truly finished tidying, you’ll see what you want or absolutely what you must do next, so you really don’t have time to waste on complaining about others. Marie Kondo
The other main point I took away from the book is Kondo’s admission that when she goes into a house she looks at the built in storage and plans to have all items fill those areas and only those areas rather than purchase dressers and such to take up floor space, she even puts bookcases and dressers inside closets. This would lend itself to a minimalist look in the home and free up the amount of square footage needed in our homes, plus make cleaning faster, if we didn’t have to have room for shelves and other cabinetry in the way needing to be moved to clean around.
You don’t have to make yourself like someone else’s things. It’s enough just to be able to accept them. Marie Kondo
Finally, she addresses relationships, something she says isn’t in her realm. She stresses that after a home has been cleared of clutter and everything has a home people report less friction in their relationships, or are closer to their loved ones. It’s an interesting concept I can imagine a cluttered, messy home could cause friction. If we surround ourselves with too much stuff we are doing so to fill a void. When that void is exposed by eliminating the unnecessary we have no choice but to address the void or the stress that led to the behavior that led to the clutter.
Moving on, another book I picked up that day was 2nd Serving of Busy People’s Low-Fat Recipes by Dawn Hall. I’m not sure what drew me to this particular book other than I thought it might have wholesome recipes I could whip up for the grandchildren who don’t eat as I do. It wasn’t long before I set it aside to return.
There were a couple of recipes I could easily adapt and make better for the children but the entire focus of this book was on low-fat ingredients; low-fat sour cream, low-fat cheese, low-fat cool whip, etc. which we all know means they’ve replaced the fat with sugar, and the microwave- which I don’t own.
The recipes are not vegetarian or whole food. That said, if you have been cooking for any length of time you are probably comfortable, like I am, modifying a recipe to be prepared on the stove top. For instance there was an appetizer that looked like a nice sandwich spread for the children it contained chicken and pineapple this I could modify. If you eat meat, cheeses etc and want simple meals you may want to check this out and simply substitute the low-fat ingredients for healthier ones. There is a section on the slow cooker which was nice to see but I wasn’t interested in any of those recipes either..
I then moved on to one of the books that took me to the library in the first place. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. I began reading this on my tablet when it decided to quit working. While there are parts of history not covered, such as the influence of the Iroquois Nation’s Constitutionon our Constitution, I learned quite a bit about the history of my country that has me less than proud of its past.
There were parts of the book in which I felt angry that I’d been lied to through 12 years of parochial and public education, not to mention four years of university. Zinn presents a completely different view of the thinking of our founding fathers. He contends they wanted a government that would appease the poorer classes, keeping them in their place without revolt, while protecting the rights of the wealthy. As I continued to read this, in this our election year circus, I began to realize the oligarchy we now live with was always a part of our country’s history, it didn’t end with the breaking up of the steel or railroad monopolies, and the circus we are experiencing today isn’t the first. On the subject of wars Zinn’s retelling of soldier’s accounts of the various wars from the Mexican-American to the Civil War show a manipulation by our government to instigate situations so the citizens would accept a war.
It’s my understanding that some teachers have ditched the typical textbook to teach history from Zinn’s book. I only hope it forms a better educated generation as a result.
With the demise of my tablet I downloaded the Kindle app onto my phone and read 30 Pieces of Silver which I downloaded for free months ago.
This is written in much of the same flavor as Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. This story centers on the relationship of Judas and Jesus and the modern day search for the remains of Jesus’ brother. In some ways I would say this was better than the Da Vinci Code but it didn’t grab me and hold me as I expected it to.
In the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, in my opinion likes to show off how smart he is by using words no longer popular and throwing in foreign dialogue without the English translation. Those frustrating things were missing in 30 Pieces of Silver which made the reading of the story a smoother process. This was an easy read that lacked the suspense I’d hoped for.
Lastly, I finished How to Be Alive by Colin Beaven, which I purchased on Earth Day on special for $1.99. Beaven wrote this in the self-help style for individuals and individuals wanting to connect with their communities. I was intrigued by the book as I become more involved in my community. The book promises to show ways we can help ourselves by helping others through the use of first-person stories. I have to admit I thought this meant the book would be made up of chapters of individual’s stories of how they managed to make changes in their communities. Sadly, the stories were only short paragraphs inserted to emphasize the points Beaven was making in that section. Don’t get me wrong, this might very well be of use to many but for me I felt the subjects covered I’ve already tackled. I would compare it to an introduction of downsizing or simple living being read by one already having downsized or already living a simple life. You can shake your head in agreement with the arguments but it holds little value for making further improvements in your life.
I do have to admit one section reminded me of a situation that happened when I was a teenager, and it was nice to enjoy that walk down memory lane. In a section on Owning Things, Beaven points out that our obsession with shopping is not a hereditary thing, as some would argue, but rather a behavior we’ve adopted because it fits with the accepted values of our time and we want to fit in. He shares the examples of how up until roughly 1950 people weren’t consumers because thriftiness was acceptable and you were looked down upon if you were causal with your money and belongings. It was while reading this section that I recalled the horror I felt when my grandfather was pulled over by the police.
My grandfather was driving on a very seldom used street that had a stop sign. there was a dead end street to the left of us that had the right of way. My grandfather looked to his left and saw a police car (with officer inside) parked a bit back from the intersection but no other cars so he continued through the intersection without yielding to the stop sign. The officer immediately threw on his lights and pulled us over. My grandfather admitted he did in fact see both the stop sign and the officer (as he made eye contact with him at the time) but since asbestos was removed from brake pads which now caused them to wear down more quickly he wasn’t going to put more wear and tear on his current brakes to stop when there was no traffic to yield to. After some back and forth the officer caved and let us go with a warning that next time a ticket would be issued. I thought the only reason the officer caved to my grandfather’s argument was because he had to have a relative as stubborn and thrifty as my grandfather and realized he was fighting a losing battle.
Beaven’s point hit home for me when I reflected on that afternoon in the car with my grandfather. He had the money to replace his brakes when they became worn, he just hated to throw any thing away and believed in taking care of what he owned so they would last as long as possible. In just a few short generations we went from saving our rags for the rag collector to becoming the world’s leader in amount of stuff we throw away.
Those are the books I read during April. What have you been reading?