Book Report: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Reviews of books relevant to the food movement.

Reading Animal Vegetable Miracle

One sentence summary of this book: A year-long journey of one family removing themselves from the industrial food chain to eat locally and seasonally on their small farm in Virginia.

Book title: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Authors: Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp & Camille Kingsolver
Publication Date: 2007
Number of Pages: 352
Keywords: family, farming, cooking, local, seasonal

Memorable quote: “This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew.”

Organic farm

In full disclosure, I first read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about five years ago. At the time, I had chosen to read it because of my love of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels. I experienced such joy following along as each month of Kingsolver’s year unfolded, that I decided to re-read this book and share it with you! Interestingly, now that I’m much more informed about our food system, I was able to appreciate the combination of narrative, issue-based sidebars, and recipes much more than my first time around.

The book follows the Kingsolver family for one full year after they move from Arizona to Virginia to farm on their own land. They commit to focusing on eating locally grown food for 12 months and growing much of their own food themselves. Barbara Kingsolver is the primary writer and storyteller. Her husband, Steven L. Hopp, writes 1-2 page summaries on a handful of current (in 2007) food-system issues, and her daughter, Camille Kingsolver includes a teenager’s perspective with essays on meal planning; recipes included!

Key points:

Growing food on an organic farm
  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables typically taste a whole lot better than their non-seasonal counterparts.
  • The general public would benefit from learning about where food comes from, how it’s grown, and what foods grow when.
  • Growing your own food requires hard work, dedication, a good sense of humor, and joy.
  • Following the spirit of eating a certain way does not mean adhering to strict rules 100% of the time.

My opinion: I really enjoyed reading (and re-reading, in this case) this book. It’s a fun, relaxing, and informative read. I have admired Barbara Kingsolver’s writing style for many years, and reading this book felt extremely comfortable. She did a wonderful job tying together her story of the year with basic food system facts (via Steven L. Hopp’s interludes) and simple, delicious recipes by Camille Kingsolver. Nine years after the book was published, it’s interesting to observe what the Kingsolvers noticed about the food movement then and what has changed. They write about the new phrase “farm-to-table,” they talk about seeing new farmers’ markets, and they find more products being grown organically. A lot has happened in the past decade and it’s interesting to see this snapshot in time on the front end of those trends which have now played out on a large scale.

Jessica Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Should you read it?: Yes, please do. It’s a pleasure to read. The writing flows nicely within the overall structure of the book and on every page, Kingsolver’s wit and humor shines; she never comes off as morally superior. The author states early on that she didn’t write this book to convince America to follow her lead in farming for themselves, but to show that this life exists. And I'm glad she's the one showing us!


Have you read this book already? What's YOUR opinion about it?