Books for an Intentional Life
We all have them, books that have changed us forever. Books that have inspired something in us that before lay dormant. Books that affirm us and confirm that we are indeed on our path. I certainly have my collection of them. And the collection is quite vast... There are the ones that spoke to me as I came of age. The ones that speak to the experience of being a woman. The ones that act as a compass as I search my soul and search for meaning. That have healed me when I was wounded. That tenderized me in places I before was calloused. That have held my heart as I have navigated my identity. That have helped define my values and strengthen my convictions. The ones that expanded my understanding. The ones that have broken me open and filled the space with something more. The ones that have inspired me how to be. The ones that have taught me how to do.
I could ramble on about books ad nauseum, so picking just a few to share for now was quite difficult. I will call this “installment #1”, because I plan to share more in time. But here are a few staying on par with what this blog is about.
These books have influenced me in one way or another on my journey to where I find myself. They have influenced and validated my desire to slow down, act with intention, and in congruence with the value of creating more while consuming and destroying less.
I thought they were a great place to start for their easy to read, charismatic context.
The Political Palate
The Political Palate: A Feminist Vegetarian Cookbook was originally published in 1980 by Betsey Beaven, Noel Furie, and Selma Miriam, who owned and operated The Bloodroot Restaurant Collective in Bridgeport, CT, which is still going strong today, 41 years later!
This book is composed largely of recipes, which I find fascinating because cookbooks are historical documents, telling a clear story of their time.. And The Political Palate intelligently presents the notion that food can heal, not just our physical bodies, but when our hearts are wounded and souls weary.
It also succinctly brings forth the topic of ethical vegetarianism. How being a feminist requires the critical component of intersectionality extending consideration of the ethical treatment of and reverence for animals.
I was about 19 years old and this was the very first time I discovered something that addressed the necessity of examining our food choices as a political act. It was just a single short chapter in this cookbook dated older than myself, but it changed me. It opened up the door I had been knocking on with my questions and unease about food consumption.
Since then I have greatly expanded my search on this subject. Some of my views have changed drastically, some have remained steadfast. I have broadened to understand there is not just one right way to eat mindfully. Yet I have confidence that there are indeed wrong ways to eat, mainly if they require cruelty and exploitation (of anything living, animal or earth). As with anything, this issue is one of complexity and evolution. However, I still believe as wholeheartedly as I did back when I first read this book that the planet and your life will be better off if you bring mindfulness and discernment to your food choices.
We are a vegetarian family, but I do not have judgements or think it is the only way. My intentions are not to convert. I simply think being intentional with the way we choose to eat is powerful and necessary.
Some other books I have read that broach this topic in an intelligent and enlightening way are;
- Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth
- The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory - by Carol J. Adams
- Veganism in an Oppressive World: A Vegans-of-Color Community Project - by Julia Feliz Brueck
- Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism - by Melanie Joy PHD
- Eating Animals - by Jonathan Safran Foer
Ditch the City and Go Country
Ditch the City and Go Country, by Alissa Hessler, is a book that I eagerly awaited to hit the shelves. I had followed along with Alissa’s blog, Urban Exodus, for a couple years at that point. With beautiful photography and thoughtful questions, Urban Exodus features the stories “creative urbanites” who have left behind their city lives for a more rural way of life.
As we were making the leap of faith to our homestead - moving from California to Pennsylvania to New Jersey to New York, having a baby, changing jobs 3x’s, driving our car into the ground, dropping every single penny we had ever saved, and stressed to the max acting as our own general contractor of our house build - all in a two year span.. It was so uplifting to read these stories of folks much like us. It was such a sweet reminder of why we were doing this. And a much needed glimpse of others who were struggling and succeeding in many of the same ways, for similar things, because they saw the value and beauty in much of what we did. So I was beyond myself when she announced her book. And it did not disappoint.
Ditch the City and Go Country is such a thoughtful piece addressing the awkwardness of finding yourself in the small town homesteading/farming life when you’re accustomed to making your way in the edgy bustle of a metropolis. It speaks to when you want so badly to find your groove but you stick out like a sore thumb, and you keep stubbing your toe as you clumsily fumble your way into this new lifestyle. It made me laugh at our mistakes that I didn’t realize were so common. It made me wish I’d heard the good advice sooner. And grateful for the bits I found with enough time to benefit from. It makes you feel like you have a little community in the pages, just as the blog does.
I highly recommend it as a guidebook of sorts for those new to small town life. I recommend it to native small town folks as a glimpse into the determination us newbies have had to muster, and our need for your grace as we acclimate. I recommend it to urbanites who are curious for a slower, sweet life. Or anyone who just enjoys a good read of new experience, with the bonus of lovely photography.
The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living
The Good Life was published in 1970, written by Helen and Scott Nearing. It is the single edition of two of their books; Living the good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World and Continuing the Good Life. The Nearings are the original souls of the back-to-the-land movement. In 1932 they left behind NYC for a rural life in VT (then ME) with faith rooted in the philosophy of self-reliance, good health, and self-sufficiency for less necessity for money.
This book is born of brilliant, determined minds. Heretics of their time, and ours just the same. Many things in the book are of days well past, but more of it stands the test of time and remains true. I devoured every word of it about a decade ago while we were spending a summer backpacking cross-country. I knew then that I wanted a piece of the earth to steward and nurture and care for a family with. I knew then that I wanted to dream it into existence with my now wife. And what a beautiful journey it has been since I first finished their inspiring tale of a long life well lived.
It is a beautiful memoir with how-to knowledge and some really thought provoking, mind opening topics. I’d venture to say it is a classic of the American experience.
I hope your life has been as enriched with great writing as mine has been! I would love to hear some of the books that have changed your life and inspired you to be who you are and act as you do. I hope that perhaps one of the books I have mentioned may be of value to you.
Until the next installment - Happy reading!