Here is a small space to discuss independent bookstores, Indie Next List selections, Indie bestsellers . . . and, most essentially, the stories that permeate our literary lives.

As (1) an employee of an independent bookstore,--namely Beehive Books; check out our blog here--(2) a self-proclaimed localvore, and (3) a lifelong reader, I believe that independents are vitally important to their surroundings, that their significance extends far beyond the volumes they vend.

Bookstores--especially the funky, idiosyncratic, locally supportive (indie)pendent ones--are community catalysts.

They are messy, organic, lovely homes for books, yes. But they also house, and inspire, the words we speak to one another about such books; they so naturally invite conversation, interaction, dialogue, relationship. The trenchant Elaine Showalter says that "What keeps literature alive, meaningful to read, and exciting to teach isn't unstinting approval or unanimous admiration, but rousing argument and robust dispute." Written words are beautified by the spoken words that surround them. The most beautiful library, or collection, is one that pulses with the dialogue of its readers--and independent bookstores are one of the purest examples of this truth.

And here is where I'd extoll the virtues of the independent book business itself. But as I am only a humble but fierce admirer/apprentice (and a dangerously longwinded one, at that), I'll now refer you instead to IndieBound--your online connection to independents everywhere. Read their concise answer to the question "Why Shop Indie?" and join their community, if you wish.

In my small nook of the indie world, I offer reviews of notable books in the independent community. I focus on current Next List selections and indie bestsellers, but I'm always open to books that find me in my literary life--whether a customer at Beehive recommends an obscure title; a co-worker passes me a childhood favorite, or a small press sends us a fresh gem. I'm always on the lookout for ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), and I have a penchant for children's literature, especially middle readers, so you'll see some of those here, too. That said, my readership will only grow richer through yours--all comments, debates, and reading suggestions are more than welcome. Let's create our own unique nook in the indie book community!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Irresistible Radishes: The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball

In celebration of midsummer bounty, I'm featuring Kristin Kimball's The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love. Kimball's story was an Indie Next List "Now in Paperback" selection for May 2011. The hardcover was published last October.

When I began perusing The Dirty Life, I was immediately charmed by Kimball's exquisite gift for food writing; her details are downright M.F.K. Fisher delectable. I read the prologue twice, savoring its lyric morsels. Never have I found a plump radish so irresistible.

However, my awe is twofold. From the beginning, I was lured by the book's foodie poetic, its wholistic CSA virtues, its paean to local and organic sustainability. What impressed me further was the continuance of Kimball's elegant language throughout her bald and gritty portrayal of farm life--an existence rife with struggle, sweat, and loam. Kristin Kimball is unsparing in her account of Essex Farm's incipience, and equally as candid in detailing the knobbly beginnings of her relationship with her husband, Mark. Lacking any farming experience, Kristin abandoned her cosmopolitan New York life for five hundred acres, a pioneering, irrepressible farmer, and a dream (or, simply said: food, farming, and love). Her stories of acquiring draft horses; sugaring; crafting golden butter from Jersey milk, and battling weeds and timeworn machines are striking; but it is Kimball's roughly hewn wisdom and self-discovery fostered by farming, community, and love that prove well worth the reaping in this beautifully human memoir.

Read a passage from the book on Kristin's website, and watch a short film detailing a day in the life at Essex Farm here.

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