Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)
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Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they'd only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.

Customer Reviews:

  • some things to think about
    I like Barbara Kingsolver as a novel writer so I knew I would enjoy reading this. The concept was intriguing and I found it full of great information about the food we eat. I now shop with an eye for where thigs come from and plan to shop more at the local farmers markets. I love the book and she even inclues recipes....more info
  • Yummy!
    If you love food, love reading about food, and enjoy a wonderful writer, you will enjoy this book. Caution: While reading you will feel compelled to don a pair of bib overalls and dig in the dirt! We envy your life, BK! Thanks for sharing....more info
  • A total slog to get through
    My bookgroup appreciated that this book informs readers about important issues around food and the environment, but most of us couldn't finish it because it was mind-numbingly boring. There was almost no storyline to hold our interest through the endless preaching about the environment and descriptions of growing/harvesting. One member of our group (an MIT-educated PhD) thought the author should have cited sources for all the facts she threw around about environmental impacts, and the rest of us just wish it had been waaaaay shorter. The editor must have been out to lunch on this one. ...more info
  • add to your library, but consider the hardcover version instead
    Every good review comment made about this book, I ditto. This book is excellent and compelling on every level. Well written, timely, and will contribute to being a pivotal point. I first borrowed the book from our library, then listened to it on audio book and knew we wanted a personal copy. I bought the paperback version, and now wished I'd purchased the hardcover instead. I'm a graphic designer by trade and specialize in book cover/interior design. My first impression upon opening the book was that the type size was too small and the outside margins too thin (especially the bottom margin). Fortunately, the inside gutter margins are healthy so you don't have to pry the book apart to read the entire column. You know how that goes with a thick book. It would have been better for the reader if the publisher had increased the book up to the next trade size and bumped up the text size too. Buy the paperback version to be economical like I did, but just know that the type size may feel too small for us "over 40s" to read comfortably for extended periods of time....more info
  • Comforting and Inspiring
    Good arguments and an interesting point of view from someone who knows how to make their own food from the earth, to the kitchen, to the plate. ...more info
  • This Book Just Might Change Your Life!
    Barbara Kingsolver is a beautiful writer, whether she is penning one of her memorable novels or writing about the finer points of biology. In this nonfiction memoir of her family's year of eating locally, she blends both genres together for a don't miss manifesto on eating sustainably.

    She traces a year on her family's farm in Appalachia, from the first tender spears of asparagus in April through the growing season and the bleak months of winter to the hatching of a new flock of turkey chicks the following spring. Along the way, she peppers her descriptions with journalistic information and narrative on organic farming, the food economy, eating locally, and more. Also included are essays by her husband, Steven Hopp, and recipes and nutritional information from her daughter Camille.

    Whether you're interested in gardening, farming, organic foods, or eating locally, you'll find something to love in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle....more info
  • Preachy
    I expected something like "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and got a lot of the liberal rant from the 60's and 70's. Heard all that, many times. The author's husband, Steven Hopp, added blurbs, which branded him same old hate-life-the-way-it-is. He is a professor of some sort. He changes his lectern for a pulpit. I sold the book after reading only the first half....more info
  • Good story, real life
    Although I was questioning nearly every food choice while reading this book, it is fascinating! Not everyone will feel this way: a friend said she could not get into it because she doesn't like asparagus, and that is what the book was about (!?). Now that I have had time to fully digest the book (pun intended), I am able to be more mindful of my food choices without being completely overwhelmed. I enjoyed the recipes, and the notes on where to find more information on several of the issues presented. Read this book during the spring and summer -- then you can savor the best while reading up on it!...more info
  • animal, vegetable, miracle
    I had heard a review of this book on NPR and then a freind said she was reading it, so I decided to pick it up and give it a go. i thought it was really informative and a fun read....more info
  • Don't miss this life-changing book
    How can a memoir about food possibly be so enthralling, so inspiring? This is a book for every American. It is a key component to a more sustainable and responsible future, to living more in sync with our planet. I have made subtle changes in my diet over the years, trying to "eat right," but this book was the nudge I needed to go all the way. You will laugh about turkey sex and cry over poor farm children (and swear at the agribusiness conglomerates). Don't miss this life-changing book co-written by Barbara Kingsolver (my favorite author), her husband Steven Hopp (who adds thought-provoking inserts), and her daughter Camille Kingsolver (whose brief narratives and recipes left me begging for more)....more info
  • Guided my thinking about what/how to eat
    I've struggled with my weight for years which tells you that I've also struggled with food for the same time. I've recently let my underlying distaste (pun intended) for factory-farmed animals rise to the surface and am exploring other ways to eat that don't involve inhumane treatment for animals and the world we're putting at risk. Kinsolver's book was one I started, put aside as "too hard", picked up, put aside, and picked up again as I really got serious. I doubt I can ever emulate her experience, but I can certainly do better than I have done and, with the information in her book, I know I will be able to do better with practice and support. If you want to change your ways -- and defend the change to those who may question or even mock you -- this book will become a new pantry staple. ...more info
  • mostly incredible
    I usually read nonfiction written by journalists or academics, so maybe I'd just gotten accustomed to the oft-dry prose of the books I normally read, but Kingsolver's words leap off the page and come to life in ways I'd forgotten they can do. There were times when I couldn't put this book down.

    As a person who was raised completely divorced from any kind of sense of place, I've recently been trying to cultivate a close connection to the land I'm on. Last year I started figuring out how to grow my own food, and there were sections of this book that were a million times more inspirational than any information I could have gleaned from the inside of a seed packet. The description of asparagus, for example, made me want to dig up a plot in the yard at that very moment -- despite the fact that it was the middle of the night and probably the wrong time of year.

    Ironically, my newfound sense of place did not arise in me until I moved to Tucson, the city from which the Kingsolver-Hopp family fled at the outset of this tale. The Tucson she speaks of (hydrophobic and ignorant) is nothing like the Tucson with which I am acquainted. I was surprised by her less-than-generous depiction of the city when further into the book she mentioned the Tucson-based Native Seeds, an organization that provides drought-adapted, climate-appropriate seeds in the Southwestern region of the United States.

    Her straw-man argument against vegetarianism/veganism was a bit annoying to me as well. "Argument" might be too strong a word -- but, being as she lays her facts out right before launching into a moderately graphic description of chicken and turkey slaughter, it comes off as rather defensive. And needlessly so. I climbed on board this narrative so that I could read about how a family was able to provide itself with the bulk of its own food, all while making as small a carbon footprint as possible. No one can deny that free-range, grass-fed beef has far less of an environmental impact than the mass-produced feedlot operations from which most Americans get their beef. And even the staunchest vegan, myself included, has to have at least a grudging respect for a person who refuses to insert any middlemen between himself and his meat. At least the person whose meat does not come shrink-wrapped and bloodless can't be in any kind of denial about its origin.

    But she says some truly baffling things about veganism in Chapter 14. Such as, "To envision a vegan version of civilization, start by erasing from all time the Three Little Pigs, the boy who cried wolf, [...]. Next, erase civilization, brought to you by the people who learned to domesticate animals. Finally, rewrite our evolutionary history, since Homo sapiens became the species we are by means of regular binges of carnivory" (pg. 222). Huh? I've come across a lot of vegans in my life, and not a single one of them ever expressed a desire to travel back in time and stop all humans from eating meat. She acts as if vegans don't know that the ability to eat a wide variety of food was integral to our survival as a species; or that even vegetable farming directly causes the deaths of ground-dwelling mammals and other animals; or that the production of soybeans and their transportation is resource intensive. Duh. These in and of themselves, however, are not arguments against veganism. I'm vegan because I'm not a caveman (or even a modern-day human) on the edge of survival and I have complete freedom to eat lower on the food chain. The positive effect this has on the environment is nothing to sneeze at. I don't deny that her method of ethical eating, while different from mine, is also having a positive environmental effect. I'm glad she's doing it, I just wish she wouldn't build a straw man of naive vegans in order to justify a practice that she shouldn't feel the need to justify in the first place.

    But that was only one chapter that irritated me. The rest was pure gold. I didn't find it to be especially preachy or elitist, even though this is apparently a common complaint from negative reviewers. Instead I found it to be a very loving retelling of a life-changing project that brought a family closer to their food sources -- and each other....more info
  • Great Read
    I seriously loved this book. Yes, she was kind of preachy, and yes, not all of us can live on a farm in the Appalachians, but the premise is good. If you're liking what she preaches (sustainable, organic, family-produced food) then you'll love this book like I did. ...more info
  • Home grown is best
    While I was occasionally turned off by a preachiness that caused me to feel a tad guilty about eating fresh fruit from Chile during my Cleveland winter, I found myself fascinated to learn about how our food is grown and what it goes thru to get on our grocery shelves. I'm a vegetarian for over 15 years, but I don't grow any of my own food, so I have to confess I'm a bit disconnected from the source.

    This lively tale, told in three voices (Barbara, her eldest daughter Camille, and her husband Steven), tells their personal story, explores the reality of food production in the world today, and shares recipes that the family uncovered or created during their year of being locavores....more info
  • Fascinating and informative
    Barbara Kingsolver brings her fantastic writing style to non-fiction as she dives into the subject of local eating. Her family decides to relocate from Arizona to the lush farming region of Virginia and tackles a personal goal - could they eat nothing but locally produced foods for a whole year. No bananas, no kiwi, no processed frozen dinners, just fresh, local food. With a distinct advantage over some other local eaters, the family was able to plant an extraordinary amount of produce on their own farm as well as raise chickens and turkeys. This, coupled with food from adjacent farms and neighborhood farmers markets sustained the family of four throughout the year without a single Twinkie derailment.

    This book brings so much more than Kingsolver's farming diary to the table. Her husband, Steven Hopp, has small essays througout on various farming and food related topics with statistics, references, and helpful website recommendations. Her daughter, Camille, adds short anecdotes from the "childs" perspective (she's 19) while also contributing delicious recipes that the family enjoys themselves.

    The family makes no secret of how to do it - they share their tips and tricks which makes for motivating reading. Certainly not every reader will be able to run out and buy a farm, but what this book does is open your eyes to the cost of food as it is transported throughout the world and the effect that large corporations have on small local farmers. While you may not be able to pass up a juicy orange in December, this book will make you look at food buying and eating in an entirely different way....more info
  • Wonderful book!
    I listened to the audio version of this book--read by the author. It is wonderful. Barbara Kingsolver has a lovely voice and a charming sense of humor, and...her book is very well-written. She and her husband and daughter give a very intelligent, impactful rendering of the subject of growing one's own food, eating locally, sustainable farming...and the "negatives" of the con-agricultural biz. You will learn a lot and enjoy doing it because despite the fact that certain portions of the book are of necessity serious in nature, the book was also an entertaining and fun read!...more info
  • Year of food intimacy
    So many in depth facts on the benefits of local eating. I'm a slow food junkie, and expected a rehash of what I already know. But the author has many fresh perspectives on eating local produce and meat and creating your own meals. I love her writing style. It's as your intently listening to a friend, then say "no...really?"
    Also, ever thought of vegetable growing as sensual? You will after reading this. Take the year long journey of eating and growing local foods with Barbara Kingsolver. ...more info
  • Who are these people?
    Are these corporate book producers demented fanatic "Christians" from my George Orwell "1984" nightmare? Miracle? Their "miracle" has nothing to do with mine!...more info
  • some things to think about
    I like Barbara Kingsolver as a novel writer so I knew I would enjoy reading this. The concept was intriguing and I found it full of great information about the food we eat. I now shop with an eye for where thigs come from and plan to shop more at the local farmers markets. I love the book and she even inclues recipes....more info
  • Motivating
    This popular author has written a book which has motivated me to eat local foods and appreciate the farmer....more info
  • Hand to mind to mouth
    The less you know about the food you eat, the more urgent your need to read this book. Organized around Kingsolver's family decision to eat-local for a year, the tale she tells is much larger--encompassing as it does the entire relationship between food, energy, nutrition, corporate agriculture, marketing, global climate change and the sexual habits of turkeys. The novelist brings all of her writerly experience to the task and she is at her best in barbed asides about the forces that force feed Americans with the manufactured crap that is now reducing our children's life expectancy.

    On the other hand, if you are an organic grower, a slow-foodist, a farmer's market afficianado, a nutrition activist or a deep ecologist (a multiply redundant description, I'm sure), you will find less to learn here. Still, Kingsolver is fun. Add to that the instructive asides by her husband, environmentalist and naturalist Steven L. Hopp, and the observations and recipes from daughter Camille Kingsolver, and you are treated with a volume that wholly embodies the story it tells--a family writing about a family passion, learning together and living what they learn.

    As I wrote in my book,Garden My Heart: Organic strategies for backyard sustainability "I have directed or redirected this sprawling patch, this tiny fragment of the vast network of living systems on our planet, eaten a little of the bounty and been intimately rejoined to life's miracle and power--all without toxics, without poisoning the plants and the creatures and the air and the soil.

    "I have struck a bargain with life and tried to keep my side of the deal, at least here, in my backyard, on a little patch of dirt."

    You can strike that bargain too....more info
  • Surprisingly Inspirational!
    A friend in my book club recommended this and so I decided to read it not knowing too much about it. But as a mom of two young children, I had been feeling like I should focus on feeding them better. I thought this was just going to be a book about how living on vegetables for a year made them so healthy. But it was a fascinating and capitivating story because of not only what they went through during that year, but also because of her revealing insights into the food industry - how meat is produced for mass market, how hens are treated, how much energy is wasted by transporting produce across the country (and world), how large corporate farming is affecting local farming communities and the national economy. I closed the book feeling like I had been empowered with so much more knowledge about the food I have been putting into my body and was inspired to frequent my local farmer's market, grow my own summer garden, and be much more choosy about my meat and dairy products....more info
  • not so sure
    I have read all of Kingsolver's books, and greatly enjoyed them. This one was not so easy. My real problem with it was the assumption that we all have "family" to have meals with, cook with, and hang out in the kitchen or garden with. I would love that, but it just isn't the case, and I'm sure that is so for many others. So many are single person households now, with no family, or no family close by. So I guess I would have to say it brought into full focus how alone I feel. I agree with another reviewer that the slant is elitist. I agree with her eating recommendations for the most part, being vegetarian, organic, eating in season, local etc. I would give 5 stars to all her other books....more info
  • Me, me, me
    One thing other reviewers here haven't commented on is Kingsolver's assumption that she and her family deserve the best food they can get. Not only are many of her recommendations impractical--does she expect everyone in Tucson to move to a farm?--she seems to feel that because she can grow them, she has a right to the best-tasting vegetables, the best heirloom turkey breeds, the freshest asparagus...Like Alice Waters, Kingsolver ignores the fact that the BEST food is can't currently be produced in large enough quantities to feed the world. Only rich citizens of the first world--and not many of them--can eat this way. Let's figure out how to feed starving nations before we start congratulating ourselves on how well we eat.

    Like many locavores, Kingsolver ignores the economies of scale that often result in fuel economy as well. She doesn't talk much about the fact that small-scale farming involves a LOT of driving for both the farmers and the customers. In fact, refrigerated trucks may well use less
    fuel to transport food than hundreds of thousands of small-farm shoppers would use. Not that small farms aren't valuable--but they're not morally superior to large farms.

    When Kingsolver turns 50, she invites friends from around the country to a party at her farm, ignoring the fact that they must have consumed a lot of fossil fuels to get there. As long as it's HER birthday, the same rules don't apply. Marie Antoinette is having a great time pretending to be a farmer. She doesn't seem to notice how lucky she is to be able to live this way.

    ...more info
  • Changed our families life!!!
    I had to read a portion of it in college, but I ended up buying it, because it was so intriguing. The author draws you in and it is hard to put down. It is a very interesting testimony of a family who ate local for a year and how it changed their outlook on life. A must read for Americans!!!...more info
  • enlightening and alarming
    We would all do well to take in Barbara Kingsolver's message. She elucidates clearly and effectively what profound and far-reaching effects our food choices have. As usual, her writing is engrossing and moving....more info
  • makes you want to garden
    A well written story. It brings to light the need for change in our view of food. The value of community and agriculture. Are you buying local?...more info
  • Kingsolver's food adventure
    About half way read; her personal style of wit makes a lot of detail more enjoyable. Looks like I'd recommend it....more info
  • Warning: Do Not Read This Book While Hungry
    Why isn't there a yellow sticker on this book? You know, the one where it says, proceed with caution. After all, the descriptions of the food and food preparation in this book alone has gained me five pounds just from reading this book, not eating! And who knew all these vegetables have such a variety of names? I never did.

    This book is an eye-opener in many ways. Some of the facts I've read before (like about raising cattle to be taken to the slaughterhouses and stuff like that), but the majority of this book was just delightful and I must say, inspirational. First, I have to clean out my pantry and start all over again with different items that I need to include in my family's diet, things like unbleached flour, canned (home-made canned) goods, and a new spirit towards eating. I love to cook and to bake as it is one of my favorite things to do. And the recipes in this book are must-tries.

    Some of the things I didn't know: how turkeys mate (Kingsolver did a great job of writing about that and it was funny and neat to read); different varieties of potatoes, tomatoes, and more as I thought there was only just Beefsteak tomato, Yukon gold potatoes (my favorite) ... you get the picture. I didn't know about making home-made cheese or drying tomatoes. Kingsolver takes you down a culinary path just by describing her garden and her riches. I knew how vegetables are grown, but since I don't have a vegetable garden and nor do I have the time to maintain one right now ... I have farming in my ancestry and hope to have a garden someday.

    This is a very educational book, written thoughtfully by Kingsolver, her daughter, Camille and her husband, Steven, who all shared their insights on growing food and buying food locally. There are helpful tips, hints and ideas on every topic related to food, such as food preparation, recipes, canning tips and more. I have already started canning goods such as chili sauce, jams and apple butter. I have already been inspired to hit the Farmer's Market before I picked up this book and have already started to freeze my vegetables during the summer. There is nothing like eating corn on the cob in the middle of winter ... still tasting as fresh as the day it was picked. Kingsolver waxes on that same vein too ...

    It is just a simply delightful book, well-written, informative and definitely a keeper in every serious cook's kitchen. Even if you live in the middle of the city, you can still grow your own tomatoes and other veggies ... we humans are straying too far from our agricultural roots over the years, which is a shame since we still need food to live on. If you need inspiration, definitely pick this book up.

    5/4/09...more info
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
    How often do people today stop to think about the food they are eating? How many people even know when a particular type of food is in season? I certainly don't. I bought chives at the farmers' market the other day and probably caused the farmer some heartache when I remarked that I didn't know chives had flowers. They do. Did you know that?

    Kingsolver, her husband and her daughter wrote the book and it is full of disturbing facts about how much fuel it takes to bring a banana to Chicago in the winter, and how many pesticides are in our grain, and how almost all the diverse and fabulous native plant varieties of the United States are going extinct (that's right- *extinct*) because large farming corporations control our seed supplies.

    Kingsolver is pretty left-wing and she clearly has serious issues with the World Bank and other organizations, but her points are valid. It is more than a little frightening to be bludgeoned over the head with the statistic that most food in the United States travels about 1,500 miles to get to your plate. That means fruit in this country has more passport stamps than I ever will.

    The book's writing is very dense- in general, I feel that memoirs are fast reads, but this is almost more a treatise and a plea than a memoir. It is jammed with recipes and short essays and lots of information on the mating rituals of turkeys. In my opinion, all three authors can be a bit sanctimonious and overzealous in their writing. Barbara Kingsolver spends about ten pages ogling over asparagus. Her husband seems to have visited every possible organic food website on the Internet and urges us to do so as well. And Camille... well, her parts of the story just seemed a bit stiff and forced to me.

    But the family clearly has a passion for what they do. After reading this book, I have visions of myself with a victory garden-esque vegetable patch growing in my parents' backyard. There are decisions we make in life, and the passive ones are often just as important and impactful as the active ones. Just because you don't think much about what you're doing doesn't mean it's not making an impact in a profound way.

    This is one of those books that makes you consider those decisions. It might not change your life, but I guarantee that it will make you pause next time you're in the grocery store. And, just maybe, to pass over purchasing bananas....more info