Friday, October 06, 2006

Whatcha read'n?

I'm having a bit of brain lock on the old blog here. I have several half-written things that just aren't quite working for me.

But I'm reading a lot. We (and by we, I mean Lori and our son) hit the library almost weekly. Libraries are great anyway, and the city of Columbus has one of the top library systems in the country.

[Can you imagine the uproar from publishers if somebody proposed a new concept called a "public library" where people could borrow books, for free, as much as they want? If libraries didn't exist already, they sure wouldn't come into existance today.]

Since it doesn't cost anything, I usually give Lori a list of books each week, and she picks up any she can find, along with others that look interesting. Since they're free, I like to read a few pages here, a few pages there, and figure out what grabs me. Then I go back and delve deeper into the ones that look really good. Sometimes I never get around to some of the books at all.

I used to read one book, start to finish, and then move on to another book. But between the library, my new interests, my ignorance in many of the things we're trying to do, and my disjointed free time, I'm usually into quite a few books at a time any more.

So here's what I've delved into lately:

Small Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon.
The book is out of print, but you can download it for free [voluntary donation] here. Some of the information is slightly dated, but most of it is timeless. It's all about how to raise things like wheat, barley, sorghum, oats, and soybeans as garden crops. He starts the book by bragging about his "pancake patch" to a neighbor. Grains always seemed a bit mysterious to me, but now I want to grow some next year. He's even got recipes...

Building Your Own Greenhouse by Mark Freeman
This one has a lot of good examples and variations, from cold frames all the way up to sunrooms. After reading this, I'm tempted to build a small greenhouse with bent cattle panels, dry-stacked cinder blocks. (Cattle panels are so freaking versatile! We saw them used to make pretty good portable chicken pens too!) I'm a little worried about any structure that has thin plastic film as a major component though, since it's so windy here, but it might be worth trying. I hope someday to have a small greenhouse that's a little more durable, but the simple one would at least let me get my feet wet.

Plan B 2.0 by Lester Brown
This one looks really good, but for some unknown reason, a momma earwig decided to raise her brood inside this book. I'm interested in getting back to it, but it's not very good bedtime reading when tiny, creepy bugs are dropping from between the pages.

The Permaculture Way by Graham Bell
Pretty good so far, though I always cringe a little at gardening books that start talking about the gravitational effects of the moon on things like harvest size and seed germination. But hey, what do I know? Permaculture has so many great ideas that one kooky-sounding one isn't enough to ruin it for me.

The Ionian Mission by Patrick O'Brian (audio book, narrated by Patrick Tull)
One in a series of historical fiction known as the Aubrey/Maturin Series. One of the books (not the first in the series) was made into a movie - Master and Commander with Russell Crowe. I listen to this in the car, and narrator Patrick Tull is one of the best narrators I've heard. Set in the early 1800's, the series follows the lives of Captain Jack Aubrey of the British Navy, and his friend Stephen Maturin, the ship's surgeon. Dr. Maturin is also a famed naturalist, an intelligence agent, and a comically un-seamanlike person, even after a decade at sea. If you can get used to the nautical lingo (don't worry about what a "mizzen t'gallant stays'l" is), it's really fascinating. I've learned more history from this series than I did in all of high school. How can you go wrong with a book that ranges from officers trying to learn the music of "young Bach" to ship's boys attempting a mangled version of Hamlet, to the ward room singing, "Bugger old Hart! Bugger old Hart! The red-faced son of a blue French fart!"

Good Spirits - A New Look at Ol' Demon Alcohol by Gene Logsdon
I wondered how hard (and how legal) it would be to brew my own ethanol for use in the family tractor. While looking for information, I came across this book, which happens to be by one of my favorite authors. It seems that in the US, you can make your own beer and wine, but it's quite illegal to distill your own spirits. Luckily, it's not illegal to read about it. It's also not illegal to make your own ethanol for fuel purposes (with a permit). I'm not a big fan of ethanol as a replacement for gasoline on a large scale, but a little homebrew for the tractor might be just the thing. Besides, I'm getting an extensive and fascinating education on the history behind prohibition and moonshine, as well as recipes for making beer, bourbon, cider, apple jack, and both wine and vinegar from grapes, apples, peaches, elderberries, raspberries, etc. And if distilling beverages ever becomes legal, I'll know just what to do (which is weird, because if I have one alcoholic beverage a week, it's unusual).

There are a few others that are calling my name, but those are all the ones that I've answered.

So what about you? Read any good books lately?



At 10/07/2006 9:05 PM, Blogger network weasel said...

hmmm, reading? like for fun? Not nearly as much as I would prefer.

Kids books like "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" and "Good Night Fred" figure promminently in my reading list these days.

Work and school cover my non-fiction reading bug for the most part. That said, I have a chapter or two left in "The Puzzle Palace: Inside America's Most Secret Intelligence Organization" by James Bamford. It a history of the first thirty years or so of the NSA. Excellent history of intelligence efforts by the US. Good for putting some of our current media topics in perspective. Does tend to make one slightly more paranoid. Also interesting for the understated effect it has had on the development of computing hardware. A bit dry to read. I have heard the more recent book is a little easier to read and includes updates to what was published in '84.

Fiction reading for me is more a matter of controlling an addiction it seems. Luckily I almost never get rid of any book I have bought, and I enjoy re-reading books. It is the only thing that keeps me going. Libraries are great for research but they never seem to have the authors I am looking to read.

"Rainbows End" by Vernor Vinge was the last good scifi book I read. Interesting mix of the impact of medicine on aging, social networks, virtual reality and wearable computers. The story wasn't bad either.

"The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Fforde was the last vaguely literary book I read. More a literary spoof than anything else, but hat else would I be reading? I am convinced I only got half of the jokes or references.

At 10/08/2006 12:48 PM, Blogger Madcap said...

I've been reading chicken books lately. Really liked "Living With Chickens" by Jay Rossier. We've also got a crazy book of photographs called "Extraordinary Chickens". Poppy particularly likes looking at the freaky birds. (It's part of my insidious campaign to steer them away from wanting pet lizards.)

I read a Cadfael novel by Ellis Peters last week, a Chrestomanci novel by Diana Wynne Jones a couple days ago. Somehow it seems my life doesn't allow for so much reading time as it used to. I'm wondering if that will change midwinter?

I love that whole series of "Eyre Affair" books.

At 10/09/2006 12:16 AM, Blogger Beo said...

Pending a new nomination to another village committee I have 3 seperate books on sustainable growth for municipalities on the bed side.

I am also currently in one of 3 village study groups going on right now covering The Natural Step for Communities by Sarah James. Basically the textbook for our Ecomunicipality status.

Let me know how Plan b 2.0 turns out-I have heard good things!


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