Books That Inspired Me In 2016

After what I could only describe as a severe “reading drought” during my twenties, in the last year or two I’ve rekindled my love for a good book. I’ve realised that I have a thirst for knowledge on certain topics and love learning more. Fiction and novels aren’t quite hitting the spot for me right now (although I did race through The Hunger Games series in record time), but I’m sure I’ll rediscover them again in the future. For the time being, topics around food, the environment, waste and a little self help thrown in for good measure is where I’m at.

Whilst downloading the books on to a kindle, iPad or phone would be the most zero waste way to go, I find I engage in books much more if I have a physical copy. Something about reading from a lit up screen that doesn’t work for me. Instead,  I try to buy either second hand where possible or support a local, independent book shop close by. I also sometimes use Waterstones, as you can order your books to your nearest store and pick it up without any packaging. Or just wander in and buy it off the shelf. I don’t use the library as I find I often like to refer back to the pages of the books, or read three at once, switching between them every few days. I think the pressure of having to return it would stress me out a little and I’d start to feel like reading was becoming a chore. But I totally agree, borrowing from a library would be a great option if you don’t mind a time limit.

So here are some of the books I really enjoyed reading in 2016 (affiliate links marked with *).

Cooked by Michael Pollan *

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After watching the four part Netflix series of the same name, inspired by this book, Cooked, I felt inspired to pick up a copy and find out more about the four processes (earth, air, fire, water) humans have used throughout history to make foods more nutritious and digestible. He spends time with experts in sourdough bread baking, a cheese making nun/biologist (!!), a southern pit master, master fermentor… I found the information about bacteria and what an intricate part it plays in our lives incredibly interesting. For me, this is a must read!

The One Straw Revolution *

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This book found me. I was in my local book shop ordering a book for my husband and spent five mins browsing the food section. The One Straw Revolution caught my eye and I’m so pleased it did. Even in translation, it beautifully explains how we should approach farming, food, soil, way of life. Many of the notions in this book are things I have often thought myself – how facts are only facts until someone else proves them not to be, and how they are simply an interpretation by a handful of people who have focussed not on the whole picture, but a tiny element. We cannot know everything. Author, Masanobu Fukuoka, ex scientist-turned-farmer explains everything in very comprehensive terms and I feel everyone should read this. It’s a big favourite of mine!

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan *

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Can you tell I have a thing for Michael Pollan? This was the first book of his I read and I throughly enjoyed learning about how our simple relationship with corn has resulted in a very different commodity crop that feeds the industrial farming industry. I had never thought about many of the points Michael Pollan makes and I genuinely felt enlightened after reading this. Full of interesting info and I enjoy his curious approach.

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson *

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I first read a Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson in 2013 after finding it in a charity shop. I often find myself referring back to chapters here and there but earlier this year I decided to start reading it from start to finish again. It contains so many useful ideas that reading it more than once is necessary. The book was a life changer for me. Inspiring stuff that will make ya think about the amount of packaging we throw away.

Unprocessed by Megan Kimble *

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I found this book after I stumbled upon a YouTube video of Megan Kimble doing a talk about her year living “unprocessed” – in which she learns to make most things from scratch, understand where her food comes from and learns just how much processed foods have become the norm for most people. A very enjoyable read!

Swallow This by Joanna Blythman *

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Joanna Blythman is a no non sense author who investigates what really goes into the food we eat. How manufacturers use clean labelling techniques to cover up questionable ingredients. She looks into subjects such as “what is modified starch?”, “why does bagged salad go limp within two days of opening?”. I found this book an intense read as reveals what’s really in our foods in great detail. I found it reassuring that by buying mostly unpackaged and unprocessed foods, I was indirectly avoiding all the synthetic chemicals, gases and toxic plastic packaging that is in so many modern food products.

The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up *

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I’m really messy. But I also enjoy a good purge. It’s like I wait for things to get a little crazy before I finally spend a solid day clearing through items and have a good “clear out”. But this book aims to help prevent that from happening. Whilst not necessarily eco conscious in that Marie Kondo doesn’t address what to do with the items you throw “away”, it is good in that it encourages people to place value you items and how that a chosen few can spark joy. Less is more in other words. I definitely picked up some useful tips and ended up selling a few more pieces via a local dress agency/consignment store. Some of the method didn’t work for me, such as folding items instead of hanging them, but overall, I found this book to be an eye opener.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin *

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When I first started working for myself and working full time on both this blog and my YouTube channel, I struggled. I was trying to fit into a “normal working day schedule” and for some reason, found I wasn’t very productive. Then I stumbled upon this book. It changed my approach to work and helped me understand that it’s ok to not be a morning person. Gretchen uses herself , friends and family members to test various habit forming theories and looks at why some people respond well to structure and others rebel. Turns out, I’m a night owl who needs to work under pressure (basically, I leave everything to the last minute!). I like that she’s not about changing us to fit a social norm, but about finding what works for the type of person you are and how to harness that to be more productive, stick to good habits and feel more fulfilled. As a result, I am writing this blog post at 1am, a time when my mind is very awake!

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson *

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I am only a few chapters into this book but enjoying it so far. Said to be one of the most influential books of the twentieth century and kick started the environmental revolution. It changed government policy and despite chemical companies trying to the book banned, instead resulted in the toxic chemical DDT, often used as a pesticide in farming, being banned. Written in the 1960s but just as relevant today. Glyphosate, anyone?

Gut: The Inside Story Of Our Body’s Most Under-Rated Organ by Giulia Enders *

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Fun yet informative book that has some incredibly interesting points about how crucial our gut is towhees it comes to our health. I am only half way through this at the moment but have already learned so much.  It makes so much sense to me that what we eat affects our bodies, but it’s something that scientists are only just starting to research. Very enjoyable!

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz *

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Another book that I’m only part way through – I did say I often read several at once depending on my mood. I’m fascinated by fermentation, especially after reading about it in Michael Pollan’s book Cooked. And that is how I discovered Sandor Katz! After watching a video featuring him on YouTube I felt inspired to buy this book and jump into the world of sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, sourdough, yoghurt…. etc.

The Organically Clean Home byBecky Rapinchuk *

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Perhaps an odd one to have on a reading list, but I often find myself referring to this really useful book for organic cleaning recipes. I do also have a an organic cleaner who works her magic on our flat every fortnight but it’s good to maintain her incredible work in between.

The Meat Fix by John Nicholson *

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I couldn’t help but read this to myself in a northern accent. John Nicholson is very funny and actually refreshing. After 20+ years of eating a vegan/vegetarian diet and feeling like his body was falling apart, he decides to start eating meat again. With amazing results. An experience very similar to my own, although I think his symptoms were a lot worse than mine in places. Nice to know it wasn’t just me whose body didn’t agree with a veggie diet.

And here are some of the books I’ve already purchased and I’m hoping to delve into during 2017 (affiliate links marked with *):

Cradle To Cradle by  *

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Slow Death By Rubber Duck by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie *

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The Third Plate by Dan Barber *

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The Story Of Stuff by Anne Leonard *

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Toxin Toxout by Bruce Louire and Rick Smith *

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In Defence Of Food by Michael Pollan *

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What To Eat by Joanna Blythman *

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Hopefully these will see me through most of 2017 yet even whilst writing this, I’ve found a few other books that I’ll be adding to my list. Oh what a joy it is to discover the pleasure of reading again and to stimulate the little grey cells once more!

Time now to make a pot of loose leaf (organic, of course) tea and hunker down under a blanket for a chapter or two.

 

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