Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I should be crocheting right now, in an attempt to finish an afghan for a friend's baby shower on Friday, but the child is sleeping and I'm feeling vaguely inspired. My reading addictions lately have been even more eclectic than usual--I'm hooked on Trollope, Barbara Kingsolver, Colin Dexter, and Joel Salatin. I don't know why I never got into Trollope before; I read one of his novels as a teenager and enjoyed it, but not enough to seek out more. Then, a couple months ago, when looking frantically for a quickly-accessible book to read while breastfeeding, I picked up Barchester Towers on a whim and found myself sucked into the Dorset life. I loved the protagonist, Mr Harding--a character who managed to be thoroughly good without being boring or unbelievable. And, when he's deep in thought, he plays an imaginary cello--one can gauge his level of emotion by how agitated or melancholy his movements are.

I've gotten through three of the Barsetshire Chronicles now, and am anxiously awaiting Odious's return tonight with the fourth (he forgot it at the library last week). It doesn't often happen, as it did with Doctor Thorne, that I look forward so eagerly to reading further in a book. Often I'm driven to finish in one reading, but that's more of a TV-like mania, not actual enjoyment of the book itself.

And I'm having that mania with Colin Dexter, both in print and on the screen. My mother introduced me to Inspector Morse, whose character and that of his sergeant, Lewis, I like much more than the actual mysteries. It's hard to pass up a policeman who drinks good beer and reads poetry and sings Mozart and listens to Wagner, especially when he's accompanied by a solidly humorous and prosaic straight man. They're a great combo.

I'm also not sure why I never got interested in Barbara Kingsolver before. I'd read her essays, and enjoyed them, but other than The Poisonwood Bible hadn't read any of her novels because of a vague idea that they weren't quite my style. Then my mother finally convinced me to read Prodigal Summer, which was one of the best books on my list last year, and I recently picked up The Bean Trees and found it nearly impossible to put down, even when the child was screaming. [Book... Baby... So hard to choose...] Now I'm scouring her shelves for the rest of Kingsolver's books.

My love affair with Joel Salatin is also thanks to my mother, who read and recommended Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (another favorite on last year's list). Salatin is a farmer in West Virginia whose farm is featured in Pollan's book; he's also written several books himself. From the first we read of him, it was clear that we thought alike on many matters, and could only admire his brilliant ideas and farming techniques. So I found You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start and Succeed in the Farming Business at the library and made my way through its 500+ pages with considerable ease. His writing has a conversational tone, though a decidedly opinionated and unflinching one, and his advice is invaluable. All farming books are inspirational, but this one is in a completely practical way--it is possible to succeed in farming as long as you stay away from the conventional model and work closely with the natural world. We're all ready to get serious about it, which is good because we have two goats due to kid next month, two new beehives buzzing busily, a greenhouse bursting with seedlings, and 55 chicks on the way as soon as the new coop is finished, not to mention a couple of half-grown lambs growing promising wool coats and beginning to eye each other amorously. Spring has sprung!