How many times can we read about the brave soul who packs it up, packs it in and packs a punch by checking out of city life in order to—literally—buy the farm? The number of such volumes seems to be proliferating so rapidly that soon there might be more folks reading them by the natural farm-light of the setting sun than by Starbucks’ fluorescents. How does author Jenna Woginrich rise to the top of this literary woodpile? There are three simple attributes of One-Woman Farm that give her the edge: superb writing, delightful line drawings and a palpable sense of being there on the farm as she reveals to us the details of her daily “Life Shared with Sheep, Pigs, Chicken, Goats, and a Fine Fiddle.” It is truly a sensible pleasure to discover the “wealth of ritual” at Woginrich’s farm in upstate New York, to read deeply into the “gospel of dirt, life, sex, and death.”
A BOOK FOR HOURS
You don’t have to buy a farm to find meaning and purpose in life. In All the Time in the World: A Book of Hours, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins shows us how abundant a source of wisdom the history of civilization can be for constructing our days—month by month, minute by minute—into an artful and mindful cosmos of activity and repose. How can you make every second count? In a word, be a nerd. Find out everything you can about how civilized folks in all eras have shaped the passage of time through attentive engagement and daily ritual. According to Jenkins, our time is shaped, not budgeted. She offers us a life-giving art, not a death-fearing manifesto. By various intervals—always compact, but ranging from five minutes to a little over a half-hour—the author guides us through a single day, opening windows and doors to historic tableaux (both public and private) wherein human beings have demonstrated ingenuity and grace in giving substance to the flow of time, effectively killing time’s passage by investing it with meaningful stuff. Whether it’s Matisse standing at 6:45 every morning in front of his favorite Cézanne painting, or the fourth-century poet Wang Xizhi reciting spontaneous verses at 4:30 p.m. in the Orchid Pavilion, the secret to living a full life is to embrace our capacity for loving beauty, which is ridiculously obvious, everywhere, here by definition. Just look.
TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES
Beauty. Ridiculously obvious. Everywhere. Just look. I have to repeat all that because it’s the only way to account adequately for the fantastical—but very real—glories waiting for you in Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers, which features text by Teri Dunn Chace and state-of-the-art photography by Robert Llewellyn. For those of us who love the venerable history of botanical book publishing, the following paradox has a profound import: The photos in this book are so good they look like drawings. Family by family, species by species, Chace and Llewellyn take us through and around and deep into the miraculous complexity and wondrous vitality of flowers. There is a two-page photograph of the interior of a morning glory blossom that looks no different from a Hubble-captured image of a vast nebula. When the macro and the micro collapse together like this, you know you’re brushing very close to the truth of things. All you have to do is look—and see.