Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Small Farm Life Revealed: CHICKENS IN THE ROAD

I had worried when I picked up a copy of CHICKENS IN THE ROAD: An Adventure in Ordinary Splendor,  by Suzanne McMinn (2013; Harper One) that I’d be convinced again of the necessity for us to sell our semi-suburban home and buy a farm. The romantic notion of a lady’s farm (as opposed to a gentleman’s) still whirls through my head. I’d have chickens for fresh eggs, a horse or two, and goats. Several goats. All would be pets, not product (except for the eggs), and we’d live in an idyllic world of soft evenings on the porch, listening to the whispers of wildlife….
Yeah, no, that’s not really what it’s like. I guess I knew that, but reading McMinn’s account of her move to an extremely rustic farm in West Virginia, reaffirms my belief in my own inherent laziness. The physical effort that every little mundane situation encompasses made me tired just reading about it. Of course, she started this as a still young woman, but with three children, a recent divorce, and a new relationship that proved unsustainable.
Her farm, on the other hand, grew to be quite sustainable after some difficult choices. And the blog she kept that actually supported her farm, became an inspiration to many to pursue a simpler way of living. But simple does not mean easy. And the care of animals and slaughter of those who were intended for meat or who were simply too aggressive for her to handle shattered my idealistic version of farm life into smithereens. I realized I could not make the hard choices the author makes on a daily basis. Maybe I’m too old, or just too soft.
Not to say, however, that the book isn’t thoroughly enjoyable, because it is. Perhaps it wouldn’t appeal to vegetarians, but to anyone interested in sustainable living, in DIY lifestyles, and in learning what not to do when growing a farm, Chickens in the Road will delight. And the stories of country folk in West Virginia and their humor and fortitude are treasures.  
To learn more about this and other animal books, please visit us at www.booksforanimallovers.com.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

BFAL Staff Favorites from 2014

 Following are some of our favorite books at Books for Animal Lovers, as shared by Nellie the cat, and the dogs, Katrina and Sophie. And me as well.
We will start with the smallest member of our staff.
Nellie Belle:
As a cat I’m particularly interested in understanding the inner workings of my canine friends, and so I must say my dog favorite for 2014 is HOW DOGS LOVE US. I know how cats love people. That’s simple. We love our people in the same way we love our offspring. They must be taught, disciplined regularly, and comforted.
For cat books, I’m going with 67 REASONS WHY CATS ARE BETTER THAN DOGS, just because.
Definitely my favorite book published this year is RAIN REIGN, although I didn’t quite catch onto the homonym thing. But I identified with the girl’s struggle with controlling her outbursts. I have that same thing! And the dog liked to sleep snuggled up against her. I do that too!
But I also loved I LIKE STICKS by Libby. I like sticks, too!
While I too loved RAIN REIGN I’m sticking with my faves, Chet and Bernie, in PAW AND ORDER. Chet is my hero. I dream about collaring pervs and grabbing them by their pant legs. When I dream, I make whimpering sounds and wiggle my paws, so I’m told. Chet speaks my language. All of his books are fantastic.
My runner up would be OFF THE LEASH about a neat dog park that I’m hoping to visit someday. I definitely want to meet Toby and share our tales of leashlessness.
There were so many wonderful books published this year. I need to break it down more by category:
Fiction: It’s tough. I loved MOUNTAINTOP SCHOOL FOR DOGS, PAW AND ORDER, and PAINTED HORSES. I think my favorite, however, was FALLING FROM HORSES, by Molly Gloss. It is one of those special books that pulls you in until you forget where you are, and instead find yourself breathing the same air and hearing the same sounds as the narrator.
For general nonfiction and biography, it’s again really tough. LAST CHAIN ON BILLIE and ELEPHANT COMPANY are fascinating, as is CHASER, THE GREAT GRISBY, and HOW DOGS LOVE US. But the book that probably completed my requirements of being entertaining, educational, and enlightening is WAR OF THE WHALES, with ELEPHANT COMPANY as a very very very close second.
For nonfiction—memoir: I loved THE DOG LIVED (AND SO WILL I) as well as the author’s second: THE DOGS WERE RESCUED (AND SO WAS I). This latest memoir has changed the way I shop, but it was also highly entertaining (how could beagles be anything else?).  I enjoyed SAVING SIMON, about a very special donkey. And then there’s SAVING BABY, which again has enlightened me as to the vagaries of the racing industry. And RESCUE AT DEAD DOG BEACH, which was tough to read but opened my eyes to the enormity of abuse, and to the wonderful people who combat it. So which of these is a favorite? I can’t pick. Sorry. They were all fantastic.   
This list consists only of books published this year, and is not a complete list even so. As I read more and study lists from small and large publishers, I find many wonderful books that do not receive the attention they deserve. My resolution for 2015 is to seek out those lesser known titles and share them with you. So stay tuned for a new look and new outlook in the coming year!
Happy New Year!