(Host) Whether or not you believe in global warming, it’s a safe bet that Vermont has some cold days ahead. Commentator Jules Older suggests some books to help keep out the cold.
(Older) What do you want? What do you want in winter reading in the frozen North? You want a book that will engross you and/or gross you out. Either one will make our long nights and short days pass swiftly. Here are some of my favorite day-passers. Let’s start with a gross-out:
If you want to stop your loved one from pigging out at McDonalds or Burger King, slip a copy of “Fast Food Nation” in his stocking. In some ways it’s “The Jungle” of our times, and its author, Eric Schlosser, is the Upton Sinclair. Wanna know why those fries taste so good? Mmm. They’re enhanced with meat flavor. So’s the chicken. But, hey, McDonald’s used to cook those fries in 93% beef tallow, making them not only beef-a-licious but with more saturated beef fat per ounce than a hamburger. Yum.
As a diversionary tactic second only to horror, try humor. I recommend “You Gotta Play Hurt” by Dan Jenkins. It’s a year in the life of a jaded sports writer, covering everything from the Winter Olympics to the college football playoffs. As an editor, my favorite part was his take on editors. Here’s a sample:
[The editor would] “read it haphazardly, scratch out the most entertaining sentence in the lead, change every other comma to a period, kill the third paragraph, insert the word ‘happily’ somewhere, replace the most crucial paragraph with something off the AP wire, kill the kicker line, and be rid of it.”
The ski writers I edit will love that. Because I’m a ski writer, when the snow flies, so do I.
And as I’m driving to and from airports, I listen to recorded books. The best I’ve heard for awhile is “Stones for Ibarra,” a 1978 novel by Harriet Doerr. The book is the kind they invariably describe as beautifully crafted, which means a bit too coolly detached for my taste. But the tapes are so brilliantly narrated by Barbara Rosenblat that I was won over from the start.
Another winner is “Vermont Farm Women,” a new book of photo essays by Waterbury photographer, Peter Miller. I’ve always liked Miller’s work, images and words, but I think this one is his best. The photos are strikingly original, and Peter Miller is one of those rare switch-hitters who writes as well as he shoots.
For a different mix of words and images, treat yourself, or a dog-loving friend, to “The Dog Chapel,” by St. Johnsbury artist, Stephen Huneck. It’s an incredible blend of dog-art, dog-humor and personal revelation by this extremely talented artist.
Finally, let me recommend a hard-to-find Vermont book. It’s called, “You Can’t Name a Woodchuck in a Hurry and Other Stories,” by James Howland. It’s a sweet collection of Vermont tales, most of ’em real and not made up. And it’s the closest you’ll come these days to sittin’ around the cracker barrel in an old-time Vermont country store.
This is Jules Older in old-time Albany, Vermont, the Soul of the Kingdom.
Jules Older is the author of more than 20 books for children and adults, and is a passionate outdoors enthusiast. For information on “You Can’t Name a Woodchuck in a Hurry,” contact the Windsor Rotary Club: PO Box 296, Windsor, VT 05089-0296