What I Am Reading June 2008.


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I am going to attempt to start a new roundup of the books I am reading each month, to both steer you guys away from the bad ones and let you in on any good ones I come across. Granted, these posts will not cover each and every book I read (I will leave out the non goodhuman-ish ones), but I will try to put a few up each month. This month I have somehow managed to read both of these books, even in the middle of trying to pack up the house for the move!

In what could possibly be the funniest book I have read in a very long time, Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living by Doug Fine (NPR) kept me rolling page after page…and before I even knew it I had finished it. My wife is now reading it, and I hear her chuckle aloud all the time as she hits those same places that made me crack up as well. Thoroughly enjoyable and a great story of one guys determination to live more green on a ranch in New Mexico with goats, solar power and a veggie-oil fueled pickup truck, I cannot recommend this book enough to everyone. Excerpt – “Because as I saw things, global climate change, pollution, world wars, and human rights aside, the Oil Age has had a great run: fossil fuels turned the United States, for example, from a nation of farmers into the Jetsons. I largely welcome this. I know I sure dig my laptop. When else in history could I have listened to Malian drumming or Beatles outtakes (or some DJ mixing the two) all within three clicks? When else could I be that DJ? This really is the best time ever to be alive, if you’re fortunate enough to live in the West and not be in the armed forces. In short, I wanted to prove that green Digital Age living was possible, and I was psyched to get cracking. Coincidentally, society seemed to be ready, too, or at least to have transformed from considering such an experiment radically subversive to simply radically unfeasible. By 2005, when I moved to New Mexico, even a marginally coherent man deemed president of the United States was struggling to pronounce biofuelsat the State of the Union Address. Citigroup, the world’s largest company, announced in 2007 that it was investing $50 billion in green projects. Companies were marketing everything from sustainable mascara to green SUVs. What was next? Environmentally friendly gunpowder? Organic Raid roach spray? Nothing would surprise me at this point.

And on the other end of the spectrum completely is World Made by Hand: A Novel by James Howard Kunstler, he of “The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century” fame (which I read as well, and was very good). Unlike Mr. Kunstler’s previous books, this is a work of “fiction” but I use the term loosely – while it is a fictional story, it tells of a time when the oil has run out and people in this community have gone back to the “way it was” in the old days before the oil age. So in reality, it is just a novel of the future without a lifestyle like the Jetsons had, as the future was always expected to be. Kunstler is a good storyteller, as we really get to know these characters and how they are coping in this new world full of manual labor, decaying water pipes, crumbling buildings and self-made, localized government. The story centers on a Robert Earle (he used to be a computer guy) who gets elected as Mayor of this community and tries to keep the peace between other towns that have survived the crash. While the topic of “the end of oil” is often a depressing one, this story shows how resilient people can make the best of any situation, and gives a small glimpse into how life might be once the oil runs out. Great book, check it out if you have a chance and you enjoy “fiction”! Excerpt – “. . .As the modern world came apart, and the local economy with it, Bullock took the opportunity to acquire at least eight other properties adjacent to the original family farm. They were not all in agriculture. One was an auction yard for second hand farm equipment and trucks. Another was a marina for pleasure boats on the river, which now served as Bullock’s landing (and was called Bullock’s Landing by everybody else, if not Bullock himself). Several others were derelict dairy operations with ruined barns, pastures gone to poplar, and houses that let the rain in. Some of the owners had died off. Others sold out only to end up working for him. It was clear to me from the conversations we had in the days when I was building his tea house – and they were many, often over a glass – that Stephen Bullock had a comprehensive vision of what was going on in our society and what would be necessary to survive in comfort, and I don’t think he ever deviated from that vision for a moment.

Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think of them?

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  1. I read Farewell, My Subaru, and had some mixed feeling about it. I wanted to like Doug Fine, but I kind of felt like he was trying to hard in his writing. And I felt like he had a lot of excellent points that he didn’t delve into as much as I would have liked.

    I read it for Erikka’s book club last month. If you’re interested in getting in on the discussion, the posts are here — http://theextraordinaryeir.blogspot.com/search/label/lit%20talk%20-%20May

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