People who’ve liked my newest book, The Bucolic Plague, often write to ask what other books about farms or farming I recommend. Recently, the fabulous CNN’s Eatocracy Blog asked me for my Top 5 Books about Farming, so I thought I’d share here as well. (While I heartily recommend Barbara Kingsolver and Micheal Pollan, I tried to spotlight some books people may not have heard of or had forgotten about.)

(But I’m going to add one bonus book at the end because, well, it’s my blog, and I can.)

1. My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned His Big-City Backyard into a Farm, by Manny Howard
“Howard set out to see if he could feed his family using only his 800 square foot Brooklyn backyard. But more than crops crop up as he learns as much about life as he does about farming.”

2. The Egg and I, by Betty MacDonald
“Published in 1945, Betty MacDonald just might be the foremother of the modern fish-out-of-water, urbanite-turned-agrarian genre. Hilariously recounting her adventure as a novice chicken farmer in Washington state, the book also introduced the world to Ma & Pa Kettle – her real life neighbors who served as inspiration for eight hit feature films.”

3. All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot
“Herriot’s bestselling series and television adaptations paint an almost unbelievably pastoral portrait of rural, agricultural England. As a veterinary surgeon, Herriot makes the rounds of small farms, patiently healing animals and their owners alike.”

4. Farm, by David Larkin
“Most people don’t use the words ‘farm’ and ‘architecturally significant vernacular buildings’ in the same sentence. Larkin does. With hundreds of exquisite photos, Farm blends high design, history, and horticulture in a way that surprisingly feels less highbrow than homespun.”

5. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck.
“We’d all do well to reread this classic about Depression-era, dustbowl farmers. In an age of factory farming, irresponsible land stewardship, and disappearing family farms, Steinbeck’s masterpiece now seems eerily cautionary.”

And here’s my bonus book:

6. At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream, by Wade Rouse.

“This one isn’t about farming so much as country living. But it’s hilarious. And it’s another gay-fishes-out-of-Evian story like Brent’s and mine.”

by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

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Serena Robison

Just got your book yesterday from Amazon and read it non stop until I finished. I loved it and couldn't put it down. How honest and true and simple you are in your writing. Way to go.. I am inspired because now I am not afraid of imperfection – which has always been my stumbling block. I will now keep on my track of enjoying every moment and will tell my architect husband to just give me a 30 minute notice before Architectural Digests comes to film our house. I'm really good at hiding things in drawers and drawing their attention with wonderful food items in the kitchen. Besides it's so cool to be so imperfect. Don't you think??


We love all of these books. I'd love to find a first edition for my library some day, of Grapes of Wrath.