Title: State of Wonder
Author: Ann Patchett
When I reviewed novel Bel Canto of Patchett, I said something about her being an author that has a new work every 5 years or so. Lo and behold, in 2011 she published the delightful State of Wonder, her second book since that last runaway hit 10 years ago. I also said about Bel Canto that it was one of the more unique novels I've had the pleasure of reading - and let me tell you, this book was no let down.
I've read A LOT of books in my life, and somehow Patchett has managed to write two of the most unique plot lines I've come across. This book is set mostly in the jungle, with a tribe of people whose women give birth into their elderly years. A team of American doctors and drug developers (one of these being the main character) ends up there trying to study this tribe, and the potential effects of not having a reproductive expiration date. There are obviously some greedy interests in mind, with some people in power wanting their hands on a potential miracle drug.
One of the best parts (in my opinion) is that none of the characters are perfect. It's so boring when you come across a hero or heroine that does no wrong. That's not how it works in the world. People are flawed. This is a book in which every main character has some major shortcomings. The character development is all the more realistic when there are real personal issues to overcome versus just circumstantial conflicts.
Throughout the book we learn a little about science, a little about the world of drug development and a lot about human nature. Throw in missing people, mystery children and of course some romance, and you get a page turner. I loved this book. I'm always weary of "Best of..." lists (this one appeared in Amazon's "Best of 2011"), but this pick is spot on. And I am pretty sure I will want to read this book again, as I'm quite positive I would pick up even more with another reading.
The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise by Joel Salatin
If you believe in yourself, anything’s possible–even farming
If you’ve ever dreamed of living off the land producing your own food and earning a living by feeding others, then You Can Farm by Joel Salatin is a must-read. You Can Farm is all about possibilities.
Salatin’s philosophy of farming means working the land to restore fertility, duplicating nature’s rhythm, providing livestock with natural food and lifestyle, being part of a community, building relationships with customers, enjoying the seasons, working hard and relaxing. It means doing what you love and being paid well for it. But before anything else, farming is a business that requires knowledge, hard work, sacrifice, and frugality to achieve success.
The prerequisite to a successful farming enterprise is to believe it is possible. Every facet of our culture disparages the notion that farming can be enjoyable and economically viable…As long as in our heart of hearts we actually believe that it is impossible, we will never open up our spirits and our minds to ways to make it happen…It doesn’t matter what your background, your socioeconomic status, your age or your current living condition; if you have a yearning in your soul to grow things and minister healthy food to people, to live an agrarian life with your children and grandchildren playing around your feet, then an opportunity exists for you. — Joel Salatin
Salatin suggests that you find your market before you produce anything and begin by producing only that which you yourself will consume. If you don’t yet have land, grow vegetables in your yard or rent a plot of land. Study. Learn from other farmers. If you do have the land, don’t go into debt to buy fancy machinery that will force you to work off-farm to pay for it. Use your intellect instead of your wallet for problem solving. “Bigger is better” is a motto that only benefits the banks as you strap yourself into a straightjacket of spirit-crushing debt and servitude.
You Can Farm isn’t so much a step-by-step book on how to build a particular farming enterprise. It’s a book that helps you see possibilities. It’s about ideas. It’s about an entrepreneurial mindset that believes, “I can do this.”
Salatin begins by addressing attitude and common false beliefs. He gives his ideas on the best and worst agricultural opportunities, possible value-added products like cheese or lumber, starting small, working around physical limitations, how to approach other farmers, different places where you can buy equipment and livestock, where to cut corners on expenses, how to evaluate purchases, getting to know your neighbors, which organizations to join, finding information, brainstorming, building the soil, biodiversity, designing your land to provide water and wood, sanitation, using animals for chores like composting and pest management, cutting costs, good and bad buildings, hiring help, transportation, bookkeeping, creative marketing, writing newsletters, and much more.
A book of exercises
The book Capturing Soft Realism is predominantly a collection of exercises showing step-by-step how to draw background items without being a slave to photorealistic detail.
While Kullberg spends considerable time reproducing her main subject matter, she is less exacting when drawing backgrounds or physical props.
Kullberg uses Prismacolor pencils, Stonehenge paper and a warm palette to produce her drawings. Little is provided in color theory and using complementary colors. She relies heavily on grays for toning down colors and black for shading. She seldom burnishes and I don’t recall her mentioning solvents. All the pictures in the book were created by Kullberg.
Chapter 1 starts out with a few pages of tools and materials and how to lay down colors (stroke, value, order). There’s nothing new here, and this section is meager. The rest of the book is a series of exercises with a reference photo, photos of the work in progress, and explanations on which colors, strokes and pressures to use.
Chapter 2 covers interior items, such as a sofa and pillow, the arm of a chair, a wood floor, a tennis shoe, a teddy bear, a wicker basket.
Chapter 3 covers exteriors, such as an apple blossom against the sky, tulips, a hedge with greenery, a tree trunk, water and stones.
The book ends with 17 frequently asked questions with Kullberg’s answers, such as “Where is the best place to keep your pencils while you are drawing,” “Do you ever take pictures on overcast days?” and “How do you keep your work clean?”
So if you’re looking for a book of exercises to teach you how to lay down color without nitpicking over details, this would make a valuable contribution to your art library.