Books and films to spark fresh thinking and inspire new habits
a book by Eric Brende
It was a contrarian quest for an MIT student: to see how little technology is needed to get the most out of life. In search of an answer, Eric Brende and his new wife moved to an Amish-like community in rural Pennsylvania, where they traded electric lights for kerosene lamps, tap water for a pump and cistern, and desk jobs for sorghum farming. Somehow, more physical labor allowed for more leisure and, for the Brendes, a more satisfying lifestyle. At the experiment's end, they embarked on the biggest challenge of all: rejoining the modern world without abandoning their minimalist ideals.
Let's Talk: Discuss this selection with your friends and neighbors.
HOW TO BE A (BAD) BIRDWATCHER
a book by Simon Barnes
For British sportswriter Simon Barnes, birdwatching is "a state of being, not an activity": You don't need to go anyplace special to do it, and you don't need fancy equipment or exhaustive lists. All you have to do is look. After all, as Barnes writes, "the great thing about being a beginner is that it doesn't take much to please you."
THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN
a film by Taggart Siegel
This is the true story of a misfit Midwesterner whose artistic spirit and associations with outsiders provoked his neighbors' suspicions—and then helped him save his family farm. Taggart Siegel's documentary begins as an elegy for a dying way of life, but it ends with hope as Farmer John revitalizes the community by bringing in urban dwellers hungry for a connection to their food and the land.
THE STREET-SMART NATURALIST
a book by David B. Williams
Former park ranger David B. Williams discovers a salmon sanctuary in the shadow of a shopping mall, watches a pair of bald eagles build a nest in a well-trafficked Seattle park, and traces his drinking water "from forest to faucet." Just as nature has created unlikely urban niches, Williams's keen observations allow him to make a place in city life for his wild heart.
365 WAYS TO SAVE THE EARTH
a book by Philippe Bourseiller
This coffee-table take on the "50 Simple Things You Can Do" concept does more than multiply the tasks: It accompanies each suggestion with striking nature photographs. Though there may be no direct connection between compact fluorescents and Bolivian cacti, such idiosyncratic pairings remind readers that how they go about their daily lives has far-reaching—and not always obvious—effects.
(Farmer John photo: Taggart Siegel; Naturalist photo: Joel Rogers)