Sunday, February 28, 2010

They Made Me Think

In the winter when "spare" time is easier to come by than in the spring or summer, reading and knitting are always battling each other in my mind for this rare commodity. But in the last few months, I've read a few books that have really caused me to think ... hard.
I gave Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford to my sweetie for Christmas after reading a blurb about it in an airline magazine. It sounded right up his alley. After he devoured it in less than two days, I took it on so we could discuss it. The author is a PhD from the University of Chicago who, after doing a brief stint as a "knowledge worker" in a cubicle, went back to doing the kind of work that really satisfied him: running a motorcycle repair shop and working as a mechanic. The book explores the value of actually knowing how to do things in a day and age where skilled hands are becoming less and less important--and hard to come by.  This book is quite heady, but I found myself nodding in understanding, alternating with looking up words in the dictionary!

My sister, Jennifer, sent me Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert for my birthday with a post-it note attached saying  "I haven't read this yet, so don't think I'm trying to send you some kind of message." Ha! Well, I skeptically began reading it because quite frankly it pertains to the near future, and I finished it in three days. The author and I had way too many similarities to count and I found her research and findings on the institution of marriage to be refreshing--and just what I needed. Marriage, in the old days, was a somewhat casual agreement between couples until the church hijacked it in the Middle Ages and made it an iron-clad contract that there was no getting out of. Through her cultural and historical anecdotes, Gilbert shows how marriage means different things in different cultures and how it has transformed through time. What it boils down to is that while marriage is good for a society (stabilizes people, procreation, families), government has always tried to interfere and prevent people from marrying because the bedroom--and what married couples do and say behind closed doors--is one bastion that cannot be controlled. The mister read it on one snowy Sunday and of course, we laid in bed--behind closed doors!--and analyzed its arguments.
Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes has really got my head spinning (in a good way). Detailing the history of the homemaker, going back hundreds of years, she makes the case that the homemaker is making a comeback--to the way it was way back when households were units of production, rather than simply units of consumption. You see, homemakers used to produce things in their kitchens and on their land--growing food and preserving it, mostly. But around the 1950s and 60s when all the labor-saving devices and convenience foods and products began freeing homemakers from the "drudgery of the kitchen", Betty Friedan coincidentally documented the "bored housewife syndrome." Homemakers lost their purpose in life and became chauffeurs and shoppers, consumers rather than producers. Hayes' argument is extremely well thought out and laid and I encourage anyone interested in sustainable, low-impact and simple living, to rush out and get it. Get the book directly from Hayes on her website  
Food for thought and thought for food!


  1. Karen, your blog is fantastic! Glad to see you are a resident of Osage County...I grew up there and my father and brother live and farm in the southern part of the county.

    Would love to share farm life stories.


  2. Karen,
    It's Heather in Baldwin City. Remember? Hay, beads, and Sandra :O) So glad to hear you are crazy in love and looking forward to the "domestic life". It doesn't get any better than that. Check out my blog. I have some frugel tips that I think you'll like.


  3. Yes! I do remember from last summer. I have been wondering about you all and whether you moved to Louisiana or not. I have been meaning to have lunch with Sandra--would you like to meet up? I'm heading to your blog now!

  4. I think we get to stay in Kansas :O)

    Meeting up would be fun. Any good spots you know about?

  5. My older daughter, Allie, has a blog. She is approaching 13, so it is from a young girls perspective, but it's cute. She is the *big* Jane Austen fan in our house...possibly obsessed.