The MOTHER EARTH NEWS Country Home Library

The staffers at MOTHER present their favorite books for a Christmas reading and giving list.

| November/December 1989

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    From our easy chairs to yours: 30 good reads for those long winter nights.

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Winter, precisely because of, rather than in spite of, its long evenings and uninspiring weather, is a rewarding time for frustrated bibliophiles, for this is the season when restless, housebound folk have the time to catch up on their reading. Reading about what? Well, perhaps about all of the other things they'd be doing were it any season but winter.

In that spirit, and with the holidays drawing nigh, the editors and staff of MOTHER EARTH NEWS have put together for your reading and gift-giving pleasure a compilation of our own personal favorite books—some useful in the pursuit of a rewarding country lifestyle, others merely exceptionally good reads. Our hope is that, from the descriptions of works that we as individuals most admire, you'll find something to brighten those gray December days and enlighten those long winter's eves—for yourself or for a loved one.

Terry Krautwurst
Senior Editor  

It seems that nearly everybody's dream these crowded and hectic days is to buy a few acres of country land and make their escape—either permanently or whenever time allows. Malcolm Margolin's Earth Manual: How to Work on Wild Land Without Taming It (revised edition, 1985, Heyday Books) tells us how to take care of our land and how to heal any sores or scars imposed by previous owners. There's good, sound, dear advice on simple, low-cost, low-impact, hand-tool-only methods for stopping and preventing erosion; treating injured trees; planting, pruning, and propagating trees and shrubs; attracting and protecting wildlife; building and maintaining trails; and a whole lot more—all illustrated with clear, interesting line drawings. The author's style is friendly and casual, and the philosophy Margolin holds to is simple: Work with your land, not against it.

In 1904, at the age of 42, a man named Horace Kephart—father of six, scholar, translator of Dante's La Vita, and for 13 years head of the prestigious Saint Louis Mercantile Library—up and shucked it all and fled to a little shack on a fork of Hazel Creek deep in the then-remote Great Smoky Mountains. Kephart spent the next couple of years nestled in his hideaway writing Camping and Woodcraft: A Handbook for Vacation Campers and for Travelers in the Wilderness (1988, Univ. of Tennessee Press, 912 pages), a book still often referred to as "the bible of outdoorsmen," and justifiably so. The book is, in fact, Bible-like: pocket-Bible-size and Bible-thick, and almost incomprehensibly comprehensive. Never mind the discussions of now-obsolete packboards and heavy canvas tents and such; Kephart's advice on pathfinding and knot tying and camp cooking and axmanship and firemaking (and, and, and) rings as true and useful as ever. Furthermore, Kephart is a joy to read. He quotes from Chaucer, Shakespeare, da Vinci. He writes with wit, pithiness, class, and great attention to detail. This book is all its title proclaims and more—fantasy and adventure, autobiography and philosophy, history and humor.

David Petersen
Western Editor

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