What I’m Reading

I read a fair amount. I read every night before I go to sleep, whether that’s at midnight or 2 a.m., I’ll still read. I don’t know if I could actually fall asleep without reading, because I’ve done it since I was a child. Lately I’ve been having trouble finding books that I can finish. I’ll get half way through, or even 3/4 of the way through a book and just lose interest and put it aside. So, if it’s made it here to the “finished” list, something about it must have been good to me.

People often seem to ask me for recommendations on books, so while I don’t delude myself to be a book reviewer, I thought it might be helpful if instead of just listing the books I’m reading I’d also add a little comment or two on what I thought of the book while I’m at it. You can always email me with further questions about a specific book if you want.

My taste in books won’t be appealing to everyone, and lately that’s become even more so with my fascination of farming and animals. I rarely read lighthearted trashy chick books (not the egg-laying chick) and love a good gory mystery. Dysfunctional family books are probably my favorite. Maybe you’ll see something below that looks interesting.

What I’m Reading Right Now

Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land by Kurt Timmermeister

A true story written by Kurt Timmermeister, a chef in Seatlle who bought a ramshackle bit of land on Vacheron Island, off the coast of Seattle. His home had literally been a chicken house. Over time he clears the land, acquires a beehive, gets a young cow, restores the orchards and all other farm related things. I’m not that far into it yet, but it’s been good so far.

What I’ve Read Lately

 How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O’Neal

I read this book while on Christmas vacation. I’d read a lot of serious farming books recently, and this was the perfect vacation book. A family story running through 4 generations, it was based around Ramona Gallagher, who owned a bakery. The book was dotted with a few baking recipes, and the story was easy to read and quite enjoyable.


A Red Herring Without Mustard: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley

The third book in the Flavia de Luce mystery series, I really enjoyed being back in this quirky 11-year old girls world for another enjoyable story. It’s strange that a book for adults (although my 13-year old enjoys them as well) is based on a 11-year old, but she’s such an interesting character and her family are all a little odd. They are quite fun.

Room by Emma Donoghue

I just finished this book and really loved it. About a 5-year old boy Jack and his mother. Held prisoner in a single room Jack’s entire life, he knows nothing of the real world outside. His mother tries to make as normal a life as she can for Jack (given the circumstances) in ‘Room’. When they escaped my heart was literally racing. Their adjustment back into the world outside of ‘Room’ is difficult and heartbreaking at times. I had a hard time putting this book down at night, and thought it was well written.

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

This book is about a late 40’s woman who wakes every morning with absolutely no memory of the past 20+ years of her life from a brain injury. She doesn’t remember her husband, where she lives, anything. She has started seeing a doctor specializing in traumatic brain disorders without her husband’s knowledge, and inconsistencies in her memories start to pop up. I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I didn’t really find it that believable. That said, it was an enjoyable book and I actually finished it, which is becoming unusual these days.

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter

This was a great book. A farmer and foodie book all rolled into one, but not everybody would enjoy it. If you just like petting animals and don’t want to think about the reality of how you kill them and get them on the table then this book will be a little too gory for you. She’s the real deal: gardener and farmer. She lives in Oakland, California in a really bad neighborhood (think crackheads and homeless people living on the curb.) She becomes a garden squatter by planting an enormous garden on a vacant lot out her back door where she not only grows heirloom vegetables, but raises chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits and pigs! The book shares in the heartbreak and triumphs of being an urban farmer, and I found myself relating all through the book. If you’re serious about taking up urban farming, then this is a must-read.

The Faraway Horses by Buck Brannamam

This is the book that the movie Buck was based upon about the life of Buck Brannaman. He is also the man that the movie The Horse Whisperer was based upon and the person that trained Robert Redford for the movie. With all my back-and-forth to Wyoming this summer I somehow missed it in theaters, so will have to wait for it to come out on DVD. The book was enjoyable reading. He had a terrible childhood with a mother that had severe diabetes that she eventually died from, and a father that beat he and his older brother senseless daily. His father trained the boys in trick roping and would travel around to rodeos where they would perform. They were finally taken away from him by social services and placed in foster care where he started learning horsemanship. It wasn’t a gripping book, but I learned things and I enjoyed the personal stories he taught about his experiences. I’m looking forward to seeing it on DVD.

Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo

This is the third book in a series featuring Kate Burkholder as the Chief of Police in Amish community where she grew up Amish herself . I’ve loved all three of these books and they fulfill my odd fascination with the Amish way of life. This book dealt with a series of hate crimes against the Amish and a gruesome accident of methane gas asphyxiation. Sometimes I felt like the story was predictable, and then a completely unexpected twist would come on the next page. I highly recommend this book .

Every Last One: A Novel by Anna Quindlen

I’m not too far into this book yet but I’ve enjoyed it so far. BThe main character is a married mother of 3 teenagers who deals with depression in one of her younger sons and a ‘shocking act of violence’ that I have yet to discover. So far so good.

Wench: A Novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

This was a riveting novel about a resort in southern Ohio where slave owners would take their slave “wenches”, or their “other ” lovers there on their summer holidays. The book focuses on a group of four slave women and their journeys through life as a slave. The main character of the book is Lizzie, who is a slave from a plantation in Tennessee. This is a historical fiction book that deals with a part of slavery that you won’t learn in the history books. I found it hard to put down every night and learned a lot.

The DirtyLife: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristen Kimball

I have been on a reading hiatus for a few months. I don’t think I’ve done that ever before in my life. I was just getting to bed so late I was too tired to read. I’m trying to get back on track, and as a result, books have come back into my life!

I’ve had this waiting for me by the side of my bed for my hiatus to end, and have been devouring it from the moment I picked it up. It’s a true story about a woman journalist  in her 30’s  living in Manhattan. She goes on a story to interview a guy who is running a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture program where people buy “shares” in a farm and pick up their “dividends” every week) and they fall in love. They end up moving to a farm way in upstate New York in the middle of nowhere and are trying to start, from scratch virtually, a farm in a climate that only has 100 growing days a year. It’s extremely well-written and I’m having a hard time putting it down.

Baby & Other Stories by Paula Bomer

When I read the review of this claiming that it was the ultimate dysfunctional family book of short stories I practically ran to the computer to order it. However, the truth was I found the stories so disturbing that I only got about half way through it before I put it down permanently. Normally I love a good dysfunctional family tale, but these were too nuts for me.

This is Where I Leave Youby Jonathan Tropper

A hysterical book about a family who’s father dies. His dying wish was that, although not particular faithful to their jewish religion growing up, the family sit shiva for 7 days. Trapped in a house with his mother and 3 siblings, the hysterical and sometimes sad story reminds me that we are all human and no matter how hard we try, we all have screwed up families.

I am NotMyself These Days, a memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Thesame author as The Bucolic Plague (see below), this book takes you back to Josh’s life before he met Brent and bought the Beekman Farm when he works at an ad agency by day and is “Aqua”, astunning drag queen by night. Both laugh-out-loud funny and extremely sad. A highly entertaining read. His writing style reminds me a bit of David Sedaris.


Death Takes a Buggy Ride by by John Lappe/Sallie Stolzfus Mystery

I’ve got an odd fascination with the Amish. Oddly enough, there is a surprising quantity of Amish murder mysteries out there and I’ve read quite a few of them. This was a first in what I believe will be a series and I thought it was an enjoyable, well-written novel. The author grew up in the Amish area of Pennsylvania and speaks the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect so he knows from whence he writes. If you’re looking for some other really good Amish murder mysteries you should get Sworn to Silence and Pray for Silence both by Linda Castillo; those were really good too.

Hay Fever: How Chasing a Dream on a Vermont Farm Charged My Life by Angelia Miller

This was a fascinating book for me to read, but it’s not going to be for a lot of people that aren’t interested in goats and goat farming. A true story about a New York publicist and her husband buy a farm in Vermont and start a goat cheese operation. It’s a very realistic look into her complicated life of commuting to New York and working a “real” job 4 days a week and the harsh realities of trying to run a successful goat cheese operation.

Rough Country by John Sandford

I’d recently read John Sandford’s Bad Blood and really enjoyed it. Rough Country I did not find to be as good as Bad Blood was. The story just wasn’t that interesting to me, I felt like there were some loose ends at the end of the book and while I finished it, I was kind of glad it was over.


The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer Purcell

If you are a follower of the delightful TV show on Planet Green called The Fabulous Beekman Boys (and if you aren’t, you should be), then this is the book that goes into detail on how Josh and Brent found the Beekman Mansion and got started in their farming adventures. I liked it because you get to know Josh a lot better than I felt you did in the show, and he has a wonderful, funny writing style. The show can sometimes be a little too filled with gay bickering, but the reality of what they are trying to do is heartwarming and lovely.

Where the Blind Horse Sings by Kathy Stevens

This is the first book of two by the woman that started the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. While some of the stories were really amazing, I did not find this as entertaining or fascinating as the two books below by Bradford Brown. Her second book, which just recently came out, remains in the stack by the side of my bed being surpassed by others on the priority list.

I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

I found this book so disturbing I had to stop reading it. About a woman who was abducted at the age of 15 and kept hostage for weeks, is contacted by her kidnapper; now on death row in jail, and they begin a communication that I just couldn’t understand. It seemed that he was trying to reach out and make amends to her, but yet there were indications that he was manipulating her for other purposes. I had to put it down. Creepy.

While You’re Here, Doc by Bradford B. Brown, DVM

This was one of the most entertaining books that I have read in a long time. This and the book below are true-life stories of a rural maine vet and some of the things that he has encountered over his career. Now, having spent a bit of time in Maine in the area where he’s from may have made this a little more entertaining for me, and if you don’t have a love and interest in animals you may not enjoy it either, but both I and my 12-year old daughter read them both and loved them. He runs a full-time small animal practice (dogs and cats) during normal business hours and in the wee hours of the morning and at night tends to his local farmer’s large animal needs. The farmer’s often don’t have enough money to pay him for his services, which is why he needs to keep his “day” job, but his big heart cannot keep him from helping each and every one of them.

Just One More Thing, Doc by Bradford B. Brown, DVM

See review of his first book, above.