Dylan’s Book Club – April 2014

Hello dear readers,

This is the inaugural month of my book club. I’m going to be focusing on nonfiction books about health, wellness, New York City, gardening, living green, eating well and other topics adjacent to those listed. I hope you’ll read along with me. Please feel free to leave comments below to let us all know what you thought of the book.

All the best,


April 2014 – This Organic Life: Confessions of Suburban Homesteader by Joan Dye Gussow
This Organic Life: Confessions of Suburban Homesteader is an old favorite of mine. I am rereading it for the sake of DBC (that’s Dylan’s Book Club to the uninitiated), and I’m so glad to have another chance with this book. Gussow writes passionately, candidly, and with no nonsense.

Michael Pollan’s review says This Organic Life is “one part memoir, one part manual, one part manifesto.” He’s spot on.

The memoir portions are deeply moving and honest to a fault (sometimes her honest makes her seem curmudgeonly, but rightly so). One part in particular moved me to tears. This same part – recounting the response, following a death in her family, of the community that formed around a public garden Gussow helped found – also illustrates the power of people coming together around green, growing spaces and how the spirit is moved by this act of bringing forth food from the earth with their one’s own hands. This chapter is a treasure to me.

The growing instructions are practical, and those pages have been dog-eared for future reference. (My apologies to the librarians reading this. I know you’re not pleased to hear I’ve vandalized a book this way.)

The manifesto portion also hits home. We’ve become so reliant on produce flown to us from all over the world. We love the shiny waxed apples and shrink wrapped food in the local supermarket. We want our choices year-round. Gussow shows us what it means to grow your own produce, to remember the farmers and the land, to eat seasonally and in harmony with the rhythms of nature, and that it’s possible to do this even on the banks of the Hudson River in New York while contending with floods and storms. Gussow also captures the vibrancy of the flavors that we’ve lost in our industrialized agricultural system. Food tastes better when it hasn’t been shipped across the world to you.

In particular, tomatoes don’t like to be refrigerated, but they have to be if they’re going to flown to you from thousands of miles away. The same tomato grown within a couple of hundred miles of where you live would knock your socks off. Same goes for strawberries and a handful of other fruits.

You won’t be surprise given the rest of what I’ve written on this blog to hear that I’d rather a couple of months of summer tomatoes than tomatoes 12 months a year (preserved tomatoes aside). But don’t take my word for it. Let your tongue do the talking. Pardon the dad humor. Give it a try this summer by finding a farm, farmer’s market or CSA near you.

Enjoy your local produce while reading This Organic Life. You’ll be glad you did.

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