Monday, January 18, 2010

Vegan Freak by Bob and Jenna Torres

This book is a must have for any vegans, vegetarians, or people somewhere in between. It's kind of a how-to guide to surviving in a very non-vegan world, where you will probably be looked at as a freak.

It deals with the obvious question of "why vegan?" and also the less obvious question of "why vegan and NOT vegetarian?" It also deals with the parts of veganism that involve non-food items. I especially like the chapters about how to handle non-vegans, specifically family and friends.

I really identify with and needed something like this book. It explains the importance of having vegans friends and a vegan community. I live in a small town and I'm lucky to know even one other vegan. I spend a lot of time reading vegan blogs and I communicate with my vegan friends in NY whenever I feel like I need a vegan ally. Part of the reason I have this blog is for and outlet for my life and my veganism is part of that. It's frustrating to feel like you're the only person around who sees the very serious cruelty involved in the non-vegan ways of the people around us, especially the people we love.

The only major criticism I have about this book is the editing. In this case, it seems like the major part of the editing process was done by a spell checker and not much more. I found so many major grammatical errors in this book it drove me mad. Simply sending the book to anyone else and having them read it cover to cover would have solved so many of the editing issues. Oh my god I have never read a book with so many typos. Even my college papers had less problems than this book. Bob and Jenna, if you're reading this, I adore you guys, but please fix this stuff before the next printing. (For all you people out there who would argue that my own blog is full of errors, I'll remind you that I openly admit to not proofreading mot of this, it's not a published book, and I make absolutely no money from it. It's a hobby, not a job and is in no way professional.)

I don't want to make the book sound amateur, it's not. It's so clear that a lot of thought and research went into it. They include many other books to refer to for more information and help on any of the many topics they touch on in the book. It's a starting point, and an important one. So, if you're vegan, or thinking about it: go buy this book! Or borrow it, whatever.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sleeping Naked is Green by Vanessa Farquharson

Vanessa Farquharson is a movie critic for the Canadian newspaper National Post and doesn't care too much about the environment, until she sees "An Inconvenient Truth," and finally feels that she needs to do something. But what? She decides to take on a challenge of making one green change in her life every day for a year.

The book is divided into chapters by month and each month starts with a list of the changes she made each day. It starts out simply: Changing to recycled paper towels. But she soon starts to become desperate and shuts off her freezer, then her fridge. The order in which she makes her changes is... well, odd to say the least. For example, she turns off her fridge before putting a brick into her toilet tank. She gives up toilet paper before she gives up her vacuum. She also waits until day 198 to sign up for CSA.

She soon finds that being just a little green suddenly makes her want to be as green as possible. She wants to be the greenest in the green movement and often finds herself jealous and competitive of other environmentalists. At the same time she struggles with frustration over making certain changes and exhaustion from having to think new ones up. Some might be seen as a cop-out (writing only haiku poetry, signing up and then promptly taking down her profile on but you have to give her credit and cut her some slack, she's making 366 (leap year) changes.

She whines endlessly about how hard it is to be an environmentalist, but when it comes time for her challenge to end, she keeps almost all of her green changes. This book is just further proof that anyone who is educated about the changes they can make and why they should make them (not to mention how easy it can often be), will make them. And they will start to care about it too. It's easy to claim ignorance about the environment and do nothing, but once you do know, it's harder to forget. She even manages to green her family a little, even though they were adamantly against environmentalism at the start.

This book is inspiring. And funny. And down to earth. Plus it's a great read. It's good information for environmentalists or just people curious at where to start. The green movement is often seen as either too extreme or just not enough, but Farquharson struggles to find a middle ground. Reading this book made it more apparent to me just how easy it could be to step up my own greening. It's nice to see all of her changes in a list in each chapter, because although she doesn't talk about each one, you still know what kinds of changes she is making.

Because Farquharson is a journalist, her writing is interesting and engaging. She talks about the changes and why she made them, but also what the result is on her life as a a whole. Not to mention she's hilarious. The book isn't just a list of changes that you can make, it's a story about making a difference. At the end Farquharson isn't a preachy environmentalist. She sticks with her own changes, because she sees no point in going back. But there's no denying that the story is an inspiration to those who read it. It's a story about how little changes can make a big difference, not just to the Earth, but to your entire life.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

I can't review this book. How could I review this book? I feel like a fraud. What right do I have to write anything about this amazing story? It's a classic for a reason! It's so perfect and meticulous. Dumas created the most amazing and perfect characters and had no trouble whatsoever bringing them to life. There's not a speck of laziness in his writing. He takes no shortcuts, creates no miracles without explanation, and he runs the reader through every possible emotion throughout the story.

Edmond Dantes is wonderful. He's an honest and good person and he's perfect in so many ways. If he's slightly conceited, it is only because he is too young to know any better. When he becomes the Count of Monte Cristo he is conceited because he has learned to know better. He is the ultimate instrument of revenge and wrath. He is so perfect and adept at his revenge that at times it gets away from him, it takes on it's own life. He forgets that he is human and I found myself forgetting as well. However, Dumas reminds his readers before he reminds The Count. We see what is about to unfold just before Dantes and just after it is too late to stop any of it. The revenge is so perfectly plotted, no detail is left out. However, it is impossible to know the full extent of it, only because it impossible to know any person to the fullest extent. Who knows just how far any one character will go? No one but Dumas it seems.

The ending. Oh the ending. Of course I would never reveal the ending. But, oh is it perfect. Amazing. A believable fantasy, just like the rest of the book, but somehow even more so. And just like the rest of the book it is impossible to say just what happens after the last page. The story will never rest, because, like life, there are no tidy endings. Like life, you can never really know what path people will choose, or what tomorrow will bring.