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May 2006: Publications

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Reading Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio (Ten Speed Press; 2005; $40) is like taking a world tour to many countries, being invited into homes, introduced to families, and asked to dine. The book’s scope is huge, covering 30 families in 24 countries ranging from a refugee family in Chad to suburban families in the US. Although the emphasis is on food, the authors also manage to convey, through color photos and text, the culture that supports each family. Families are photographed with a collection of the food that each eats in a week, a graphic portrayal of the overabundance of some lives compared with the bare survival of others. These photos also provide an eye-opening look at the way in which the globalized food system has made its way into even remote parts of the world. The weekly foods purchased are listed in detail with their cost by category as well as total cost for a week’s supply. Sidebars list statistics about each country. Each chapter includes a recipe from that family. The only part of the book that doesn’t seem to fit are the 6 essays written about food and the food system. Somehow they seem intrusive and unnecessary. But overall, this is an amazing book that is also a subtle education. It is a bargain for the price.

Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets (Ten Speed Press; 2005; $35) is a remarkable book, combining visionary and spiritual concepts with scientific and practical solutions. The author has been studying, writing about, experimenting with and eating mushrooms for the last 30 years. He describes mycelium as “a fungal network of threadlike cells which courses through virtually all habitats.” But it is much more than that. The network is made up of “information-sharing membranes…[which] are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind.” Stamets suggests that people can work with mycelium to help them heal the planet through restoring habitat, filtering toxins and other contaminants, improving the health of the soil, etc. Specific types of mycelium grow in specific habitats. The author gives instructions on how they can be reproduced and then inoculated into a habitat to help it heal. The book’s first chapter is full of visions of mycelium’s potential, its intelligence and complexities. A chapter is devoted to medicinal mushrooms and a long section describes varieties, their natural habitats and cultivation methods. A glossary, resources, a long bibliography and many color photos complete this excellent book.

A Tiny Home to Call Your Own: Living Well in Just Right Houses by Patricia Foreman and Andy Lee (Good Earth Publications, 800-499-3201;; 2005; $22.95) aims to show that there are other housing options in a culture obsessed with super-sized. The authors’ definition of tiny is a full-featured home from 350 to 1,000 square feet. They also own a company that builds tiny houses and these are what are featured. The book is full of photos, floor plans and personal stories of people who own the buildings, (some of which are used as sheds, offices, etc.) There are also chapters on alternatives to wood for building, control of clutter and getting rid of “stuff,” and rainwater harvesting from a tiny home. This book should appeal to those who are trying to downsize and/or simplify their life.

Gardener’s Yoga: Bend & Stretch, Dig & Grow by Veronica D’Orazio (Sasquatch Books, 119 South Main Street, Suit 400, Seattle WA 98104) is a little book with lovely watercolor illustrations. Its author, both a dedicated gardener and yoga practitioner, probably best describes the book in her Introduction: “Instead of yoga acting mostly as a form of damage control after the aches and pains of gardening had set in, I began to see how clearly yoga could prevent further injury, bolster my flexibility and strength in the garden, and act as a gentle reminder to breathe mindfulness into the physical work a garden demands.” She describes the poses which are most helpful for various stages of gardening. Each pose is illustrated in watercolor. There is a chart at the end of the book that describes which postures are beneficial to specific parts of the body.

The Solar Food Dryer by Eben Fodor (New Society Publishers, PO Box 189, Gabriola Island BC V0R 1X0, Canada; 2005; $14.95) is an excellent guide on the subject, both detailed and clear. The author discusses solar energy, the design considerations when building a dryer and then gives detailed and well-illustrated instructions for building a SunWorks dryer. He then presents basics for drying food and includes some of his favorite recipes. Appendices include sun path charts and other useful solar data and resources.

Seeds of Diversity (PO Box 36, Station Q, Toronto, ON Canada, M4T 2L7;; is the Canadian equivalent of Seed Savers Exchange. Its mission is “to promote the conservation and the use of heritage and unique plant varieties. We are a living gene bank.” Its annual catalog offers seeds each year but cautions: “This is not a seed catalog—it is a preservation tool.” People who receive seed grow it out and return part of it the following year.

The Sense of Place Course Development Guide gives tools to help “design, organize and produce a Sense of Place course specific to your bioregion. This book will be available in Summer 2006. To receive notification of when the book is available, write to Exploring a Sense of Place, c/o Foundation for global Community, 222 High Street, Palo Alto CA 94301.

Green Living (100 Gilead Brook Road, Randolph VT 05060; a small quarterly journal distributed free of charge in parts of New England. The Winter 2005 issue has some very interesting articles: 10 Steps to Better Elections, Hiding Behind Hurricanes, Painting with the Windows Closed, and How To Tame the Corporation.

The American Community Garden Association (c/o Council on the Environment of New York City; 51 Chambers Street, Suite 228, New York NY 10007; has put out a double issue, Community Greening Review to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. The publication reprints articles the have appeared in its magazine over the last 25 years.

Books Received but not Reviewed
Cultivating Havana: Urban Agriculture and Food Security in the Years of Crisis by Catherine Murphy (Food First, 398 60th Street, Oakland CA 94618; 1999; $6.00 plus $3.00 S&H)
Medicinal Plants of the World by Ben-Erik van Wyk and Michael Wink; Timber Press; 2004



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