A lovely cautionary tale filled with pride, hope, and respect for the land and its history.

PASTORAL SONG

A FARMER'S JOURNEY

A beautifully written elegy to traditional farmers and farming methods.

In his second book, named by the Sunday Times as the best nature book of 2020 in the U.K., Rebanks begins by recounting his youth on his grandparents’ farm in the Lake District of England, tagging along with his grandfather as he did his work, teaching him the “old ways.” He compassionately describes riding along in the tractor as “black-headed gulls follow in our wake as if we are a little fishing boat out at sea.” He also shares fond memories of picking blackberries and making jam with his grandmother. “My grandmother was an expert at turning the things the farm grew, harvested and reared into meals,” writes the author. “Almost everything she cooked was home-grown, seasonal and local.” Over the years, however, Rebanks witnessed the lamentable transformation of the land as corporations began buying local farms and introducing “modern” technologies. By the time he inherited the family farm, most of the local farmers and workers were gone, there were no worms in the fields, and the stone barns, walls, and hedges had been ploughed in the name of progress. The tools and practices introduced decades earlier had taken their toll, and much of the damage was irreversible. Even as people became more obsessed with food, they remained disconnected from the land. People worried about what they should eat and wanted options, but they had little knowledge regarding how to sustainably produce food. “I had inherited a complex bundle of economic and ecological challenges—and that, perhaps, was what it really meant to be a farmer,” writes Rebanks in this eloquent tribute to a vanishing way of life. Guided by the knowledge passed down by his family and recent advances in sustainable technology, the author continues his journey, slowly salvaging his tiny corner of the world to create a legacy for his children and the future.

A lovely cautionary tale filled with pride, hope, and respect for the land and its history.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-307327-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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