Tag Archives: Sustainability

The Lists: Sustainability and Community

Today’s list offers recommended reading on the topics of sustainability and community. Those terms mean different things for different people, so let’s just call this my personal list. I’ve either read these or had them recommended by people I know share the same aspirations in these fields as I do. Collectively, they provide a pretty good template for making a start on building a community that’s less wasteful and more attuned to community building and responsibility to our descendants.

All That We Share


I do not rank them in any order and I’m sure to have left some great books out because I’ve limited it to books I have on the shelves this very minute. For example, if on Saturday I sold my last copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, et al., and it won’t be back in stock until Tuesday, then it won’t be on this list.

The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget
Leda Meredith (Lyons Press) 9780762755486 – $16.95

Saving the Seasons: How to Can, Freeze, or Dry Almost Anything
Mary Clemens Meyer & Susanna Meyer (Herald Press) 9780836195125 – $24.99

American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)
Jonathan Bloom (Da Capo Press) 9780738213644 – $26

Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live off the Land
Kurt Timmermeister (W.W. Norton) 9780393070859 – $24.95

Real Food: What to Eat and Why
Nina Planck (Bloomsbury) 9781596913424 – $15.99

The Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food
Amy Cotler (Storey) 9781603424530 – $12.95

Growing Roots: The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks, and Food Activists
Katherine Leiner (Sunrise Lane) 9781603582889 – $35

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture
Ellen Ruppel Shell (Penguin) 9780143117636 – $16

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
Barbara Ehrenreich (Henry Holt) 9780805088380 – $14

The Case Against Wal-Mart
Al Norman (Raphel Press) 9780971154230 – $19.95

The Community Building Companion: 50 Ways to Make Connections and Create Change in Your Own Backyard
Peter D. Rogers, Lisa Frankfort, and Matthew McKay (New Harbinger) 9781572242883 – $10.95

Common Ground in a Liquid City: Essays in Defense of an Urban Future
Matt Hern (AK Press) 9781849350105 – $17.95

Beginner’s Guide to Community-Based Arts: Ten Graphic Stories About Artists, Educators & Activists Across the U.S.
Keith Knight, Mat Schwarzman, and many others (New Village Press) 9780976605430 – $19.95

Growing Local Value: How to Build Business Partnerships That Strengthen Your Community
Laury Hammel and Gun Denhart (Berrett-Koehler) 9781576753712 – $16.95

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things
Randy O. Frost and Gaile Steketee (Mariner Books) 9780547422558 – $14.95

Be the Change: How to Get What You Want in Your Community
Thomas Linzey with Anneke Campbell (Gibbs Smith) 9781423605614 – $12.99

Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
Bill McKibben (Henry Holt) 9780805087222 – $14

All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons
Jay Walljasper (The New Press) 9781595584991 – $18.95

All of these books are in stock and can be researched further at our online store here. In honor of all the great news this week about the move toward a more sustainable future, these titles will be on sale for the remainder of February at a 20 percent discount from the list price, while supplies last. Think of it as your reward for reading these weekend blog postings.

And if you know my wife, Ann, join me in wishing her a happy 50th birthday (no, she doesn’t look it, does she?) on Tuesday. Were it not for her, there would not be a Destinations Booksellers.

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Recommended: The Death of the Liberal Class

Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges offers up a “stunning” (my new favorite word – it’s an inside joke) diagnosis of the state of America today in his book, Death of the Liberal Class, a recent release from Nation Books.

Death of the Liberal ClassHedges defines “liberal class” as the press, universities, labor movement, culture, Democratic Party, and liberal religious institutions. I would posit that one remaining bulwark of the liberal class is the independent bookstore, but that’s for another day. I’ll just say that we, as an industry sub-group, are by definition liberal in the very best sense of that word.

The death he describes was not sudden – it was lingering – and its absence as an institutional check on the rapaciousness of a corporate capital regime dismantles the last protections for the weakest among us.

Publishers Weekly, in a review, said “his most interesting theses include the parallel between the current domestic climate and the fall of Weimar Germany and the conclusion that ‘Everything formed by violence is senseless and useless. It exists without a future. It leaves behind nothing but death, grief, and destruction.'”

Without a living liberal class, Hedges reports, there remains no “mechanism to make incremental reform possible. Its absence results in anger being channeled into anti-democratic ideologies that “detest … the civilities of a liberal democracy.”

With power grabs flying at us daily, now might be a good time to explore how America allowed itself to become so vulnerable to those ideologies.

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All That We Share

As promised, I’m always searching for guest reviewers and I’m very pleased to present this review by Andy Terrell, late of Destinations Booksellers and a prime mover in the local movement to educate consumers about why maintaining a vibrant, independent business community is in everyone’s self-interest.

All That We Share


All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons by Jay Walljasper

  • Commons – What we share.  Creations of both nature and society that belong to all of us equally and should be preserved and maintained for future generations.

Jay Walljasper’s book, All That We Share, is a look at the possibilities of a commons-based society whereby the economy, political culture and community life revolves around the idea that so much of what we have can be shared by all instead of being privatized for profit or other types of gain.  That we can shift away from the market-based system domination of today and, instead, allowing for the same type of emphasis on social justice, environmental issues and citizen participation in our democratic process.  Walljasper makes the point that “Market-based solutions would be valuable tools in a commons-based society, as long as they do not undermine the workings of the commons itself.”

Through profiles, articles and opinion, Walljasper has brought together some of the best commons thinkers from around the world to explain what the commons mean, how a true commons-based society can be achieved and how to make the commons mean something to everyone no matter their ideology.  We hear from intellects such as Robert Reich, Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom and Robert Kennedy, Jr, activists like Kim Klein and Julie Ristau and ordinary people working every day to make a difference in their communities.

What are the commons?  You might be surprised at what that term encompasses.  Parks, streets, air and water, museums, social security, hunting and fishing, the Internet, public education, police protection and dancing.  These are just a few of the things that we share, yet we sometimes forget the importance of them.

Walljasper shows that there are so many ways that everyone can pitch in to help jump start a commons-based society.  It doesn’t have to be over-the-top, like setting furniture in a street to slow down speeding cars as was done in one city in the Netherlands.  It can be very simple…pick up trash in your neighborhood.  Organize a block party, get to know your neighbors, smile or greet people you pass on the street, spend some time on the front porch instead of on the deck in the back.  These are just a few of the very simple ways to start a commons-based society according to Walljasper.

From a history of the commons, how it has evolved and what’s being done today, Walljasper’s point seems to be this – focus on what we own, advocate to take back those commons that have been privatized and understand that not every problem in society has a market solution.  Many problems can be solved with a people solution.

Certain colleges and universities are adopting this book for introductory classes. I see that as a good sign and a portent that coming generations will demonstrate greater responsibility for their own futures. Since I intend to live in that future, this pleases me very much.

Give me your thoughts on the topic in the comments section below and have a great weekend.




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Friday Fun Links: Comics Code is No More; Indie Vitality, and more

Link to Archie Comics

The Comics Code, which had been in existence since the 1950s, has dissolved. Out of fear of government regulation prompted by hysterical claims that the violence in comics was creating a generation of juvenile delinquents, the major publishers pledged to follow a self-censoring code of publication.

As one of those exposed to comic books post-code, all I can say is “no, thank you.” I do not believe in censorship and particularly when it is irrational. Next Wednesday, we have an expert in the field of censorship and First Amendment law coming to speak at Destinations Booksellers. Please join us and the Society of Professional Journalists as we host a Media Law Resources Center Institute presentation by attorney Jon Fleischaker on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. The event is, of course, free.

We had an MLRC program last year that was one of our best ever. I expect this one will surpass that one.


The American Booksellers Association commissioned Civic Economics, an economic analysis and consultancy firm, to examine the health of American metro areas when it comes to independent businesses. The Louisville SMSA, in which New Albany and Floyd County are included, ranked 79th among 363 metropolitan statistical areas, with a measure of 109.6. The number represents the inverse of an area’s saturation with national chains, with 100 being a perfect approximation of chain sales as a norm. Cities with numbers above 100 tend to have more retail sales through independent, non-chain businesses than do cities with numbers above 100. You can read the entire study at www.IndieCityIndex.com.


If the largest democracy in the world, with over 1 billion people, is any guide, the future of the book is assured. John Makinson, world head of the Penguin Group, attending the Jaipur Literary Festival, says the book matters more in India than anywhere else they publish them.

“In India books define and create the social conversation,” Makinson said. “In China, the books that sell well are self-improvement titles. Popular books in India are of explanations, explaining the world. The inquisitive nature of India is unique.” — Reuters


If, on the other hand, you’re crestfallen at the end of the physical book, Flavorwire offers some clever recycled uses for books. Oh, and please let me know if you see a Cyberdyne Systems Series 800 Model 101 Terminator heading our way, would you?


Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator

They're coming for you!


Emma Watson (Hermione in the Harry Potter films) and Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) are in talks to co-star in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, based on Stephen Chbosky’s novel. Chbosky will direct his own script, with Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, and Russell Smith producing, Variety reports.

And one more movie tidbit … the first movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is slated for release in March of … 2012.


Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Ohio's Daughters of King Lear?

I can’t read ’em all, but that won’t stop you from finding out about The Weird Sisters, a quirky new novel from Eleanor Brown, via Putnam. I was impressed. Here’s a review from Shelf Awareness.


Have you run across a Web link that ought to be shared with others? Drop us a line by e-mail or in the comments below and we’ll consider it for our Friday Fun Links feature.

Coming tomorrow: A brief discussion and then a link to the Website of an author we’d love to have come for a visit. If you have the chance, leave a comment there and tell them you found it via NewAlbanyBooks.

Sunday, it’s “The Lists,” and Monday I’ll reveal my Best of 2010 lists for fiction and nonfiction just before I head over to the studios of WFPL to discuss Books That Changed Our Lives. Join me, Robin Fisher, and host Julie Kredens live at 1 p.m. for State of Affairs and weigh in with your own choices. Or, listen to the show in rebroadcast at 9 p.m. Monday or later as a podcast.


You probably know by now that we’ve posted every day in 2011. One of the archived posts you would have missed is a write-up of Three Seconds, a Swedish novel that’s a cleverly written noir that compares well with anything you’ve read in the thriller/mystery genre. Read the post from early January here.

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Just In: Growing A Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land

Tuesdays are major release days, so we’ll be posting about significant releases we’re putting out on the shelves those days.

Growing a Farmer

How I Learned to Live Off the Land

With the new year just starting, shipments are delayed, so we’re rather pleased to be able to present Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land, a memoir by Kurt Timmermeister. None other than locavore champion Alice Waters blurbs the book, calling it “honest” and “eloquent.”

Now, it may seem strange to bring out a book on sustainable farming in January, but then our many patrons who aspire to even an urban garden will be using these frosty months to seek inspiration from those who have gone before.  I brought it in not because I had read it, but because among the books of its type  it is drawing unmitigated praise. I’ll share a bit of that with you and then and excerpt, if you don’t mind.

“Anyone interested in where real food comes from will love this book. I was charmed by Kurt Timmermeister’s story of becoming a farmer and found myself fascinated as he describes how he learned to install bees in a hive, establish an orchard, milk cows, and make cheese, and that slaughtering chickens is no party.” – Jerry Traunfeld, chef/owner of Poppy and author of The Herbfarm Cookbook.

“All farmers will nod knowingly at Timmermeister’s exploits, and soon-to-be farmers should take notes as they read this satisfying memoir.” – Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer.

“Kurt Timmermeister created his life as a farmer from scratch – a grand improvisation. Growing a Farmer journals his struggles with the uncertain forces of nature, his happy discoveries in food production, and his quest to improve the land to which he has committed himself.” – Paul Bertolli, founder of Fra’ Mani Handcrafted Salumi.

If you’ve sampled our books on craft cheeses, urban farming, American craft beer, or even memoirs like Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I think you’re going to like this one. Here’s a random excerpt:

“Growing vegetables has taught me a lot about farming. And a lot about myself. When I brought Matt on, the farm was a simple hobby farm, though I was loath to admit it. I grew some tasty food, but it wasn’t a business. With Matt’s help I pushed this farm from a hobby to a business. A failing business, but a business nonetheless. That first season quickly turned me against growing vegetables under plastic. I didn’t want to join the race to grow the earliest tomato for the farmers’ market. In my view, rushing to market came at a great expense, both financially and also to my sense of what was right. I just didn’t like all the plastic.

“I enjoyed the simple act of putting a seed in the ground and watching it germinate and grow until it could be harvested. It was pure and good, and the end result was an exceptional vegetable. I couldn’t give that up.

” As I had boxes of seeds left over from the vegetable enterprise, and had gained a decent amount of knowledge, plus the fields were set up – tilled, amended and fenced – I continued to grow vegetables, but on a smaller scale. I wish that I could say that this was a sudden epiphany, that one day I woke up and reduced the scale of this vegetable farm. Rather, I slowly came to my senses. The year after Matt left, I still grew vegetables for the farmers’ market, but stopped running a CSA. I still grew tomato starts, more than I needed for my farm, but…”

All I can say is if you want to read Growing a Farmer this weekend, you may have to fight with me and my wife over it.

Growing a Farmer
Kurt Timmermeister
W.W. Norton & Company
9780393070859 (Hardcover)

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