January and February are the last big reading months on the farm. Other than daily clean-up and keeping the fireplace stoked, there aren’t a lot of chores. Soon, though, baby goats will arrive, the garden will thaw, and something will no doubt need to be painted. Until then, however, I’m going to curl up and enjoy some of the books that have stacked up on the night table. Let me know if you’ve read any of these, and if you liked them as much as I do.

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love, Kristin Kimball. No, seriously. How did I miss this one when it first came out? Journalist interviews farmer, falls in love, gets married, starts dream farm in upstate. They should have their own TV show. Terrific reviews.

Heirloom Bulbs, Chris Wiesinger and Cherie Foster Colburn. Someone recommended this to us by email, and it’s an amazing find. While the world is slowly becoming aware of heirloom vegetables and heritage breeds, there hasn’t been many (any?) publications talking about beautiful heirloom flower bulbs. An incredible gift for a flower gardener. Beautiful back-stories, artwork, and information.

Up From the Blue, Susan Henderson. Lest you think that all we read are gardening books, I wanted to include one of my favorite books from last year. It’s a darker story, told through a child’s eyes, about a family battling with a mother’s depression. But it also has surprising moments of brightness. A real page-turner. A great book club selection for February.

We Took to the Woods, Louise D. Rich. Originally published in 1942, this is a great book for those who loved The Egg and I. It’s one of the earliest modern memoirs about leaving it all behind for rural living – something that just wasn’t done in the 1940’s. Plainspoken and lightly humorous. A true treat.

Fannie’s Last Supper: Recreating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Cookbook, Christopher Kimball. Josh’s mom discovered this one. Fans of the PBS series America’s Test Kitchen know Mr. Kimball as its exacting host. Fans of cooking know Fannie Farmer as one of the pioneers of modern recipe writing – she was one of the first to insist upon precise measurements. In this fun and informative book, Kimball delves into history in preparation for hosting an authentic dinner party based on Fannie Farmer’s recipes. A fun documentary by the same name has aired on PBS stations.

Dining by Rail: The History and Recipes of America’s Golden Age of Railroad Cuisine , James D. Porterfield. One of our neighbors shared this with us. Since we’re (too) intimately familiar with Amtrak, it was great to peruse through the history of these “rolling restaurants.” Equal parts history and recipes, this book details an almost forgotten era of culinary and travel luxury.

by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

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Thanks for these book suggestions, Josh. It’s nice to be able to peek into your bookcase. If you haven’t read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion yet, I highly recommend it. It’s adorable and very funny.

Dorothy Day

Truly enjoyed The Dirty Life, although I don’t think I could have lived like the authors husband demanded. Your version of country living appeals to me much more, especially if it includes a place like Sharon Springs.


Really enjoyed reading Up From the Blue. Thanks for the recommendation. I find Susan Henderson has perfectly captured a damaged child’s perspective with Tillie’s character. A swirling mixture of emotion: hope, sadness, empathy, love with a dose of mistrust and anger that comes from being exposed to the mental illness of someone who is supposed to love and care for you, It certainly can haunt you for a lifetime.


Josh, downloaded "Up from the Blue" and read it one sitting (six hour car ride). Beautifully written, powerful, completely engrossing despite the darkness of the book, indeed a page turner. Thanks for recommending it. 5 stars!

Susan Wadlow

Just finished your book, bucolic plague. Loved it! The rural life has always had a "hold" on me. I live in a city, Kansas City, Mo. and grew up in a small town, Dodge City, Kansas. And I have always adored the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.

Gray Mason

I borrowed "We Took to the Woods" from the library – it was a first edition! Signed out 12 times in the 1940's and twice in each succeeding decade. Original card still in book. Delightful, and still pertinent! I'm amazed that it was still in the library collection.


Just wanted to say that the heirloom bulb book is awesome. I work at one of the places listed in the book, the Eudora Welty House museum in Jackson, MS. Our house museum has a wonderful garden. Josh, you should do some research and learn more about this great artist, Eudora Welty. I think you might enjoy her collection of short stories, very southern, very wonderful! Check her out and if ever in Mississippi, please stop by the Welty House and visit our gardens. We might even be able to sit on the side porch and have some lemonade..I promise!

Elaine Herring

A few years ago I found a book (IT TAKES A VILLAGE IDIOT by Jim Mullen) about moving from the city to the country. It's a wonderful read with a laugh on every page. Wife stops smoking and wants to something to occupy her hands. She buys a farm in the Catskills. The story follows the lives of a Manhattan couple as they adjust to a rural life style.

I also agree with April regarding Barbara Kingsolver's ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE.


I loved "The Dirty Life." I just finished "The Bucolic Plague" today, and loved it, too. If you haven't read it, you might try Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", or "Prodigal Summer."


I have a secret crush on mr. Kimball. I love his editorials in cooks illustrated. He is a good story teller. After I finish Bucolic Plague I believe I will hunt this one down. I only wish I had seen this list months ago.


I have a secret crush on mr. Kimball. I live his editorials in cooks illustrated. He is a good story teller. After I finish Bucolic Plague I believe I will hunt this one down. I only wish I had seen this list months ago.