This Organic Life by Joan Dye Gussow

OK, this one’s a repeat of an earlier entry – it was blogged back in May by a coworker, who highly recommended it to me, and I’m glad she did. After finishing it, I felt strongly enough to re-blog it, as the book covers environmental issues that affect anyone who enters a grocery store regularly.

There are a ton of books out there about organic farming, living simply, etc., but this one has to be one of most thoroughly researched, AND readable, of any I’ve glanced through yet.  Gussow is an This_organic_life_1 academic with a long teaching career in nutrition, but this is no dry tome with statistics and data to put you to sleep; rather, in her narrative, she sounds like a neighbor one might have down the road that grows a killer garden, and she very much practices the lifestyle she espouses.  In the long narrow town lot where Gussow lives in Piermont, NY, she grows nearly all of the vegetables and fruits she eats, and conforms her eating habits to seasonal offerings and local produce. 

Along the way, you follow Gussow and her artist husband as they begin their organic journey from a Victorian house where they started their first garden to their riverside (and sometimes submerged) lot in Piermont, where they learn the joys of renovation, house building, and gardening in a serious flood zone, all in one year.  Gussow keeps plugging away even after the death of her husband, not just in her own gardening space, but also with a community garden next door.

Each chapter includes recipes and extensive information about the immense infrastructure that makes up our agriculture industry, and helpful ideas about how to approach eating locally.  This book enlightens the reader to the excesses of the produce industry in a similar manner to which Fast Food Nation blew the whistle on the fast food mega-giants.  After reading it, the local produce stands and farmer’s markets will likely look even more appealing.  If you are committed to eating locally and/or growing organically, you will definitely empathize with the author.  Also, here are a few other books in the library’s collection that might pique your interest after this one:

How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible… by John Jeavons (we have a 1991 edition and a 2002 revised edition with a slightly different title)

Harvest for Hope:  A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall and Gary McAvoy

Harvest:  A Year in the Life of an Organic Farm by Nicola Smith

     The author also begins several chapters with quotes from Wendell Berry’s The Gift of Good Land.  If you’re interested, we don’t have this exact book in the Greensboro Public Library collection (yet) but we have several other collections of his essays, many of which deal with environmental issues.  Try this website as well, which includes quotes, links to some of Berry’s essays and interviews, biographical information, etc. (

(William Hicks, Information Services)


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