Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer

Like author Jonathan Safran Foer, I have flip-flopped for years with the idea of being vegetarian. I've always thought of myself as not committed enough to make the effort to look at the contents of all of my food to figure out whether I'm able to eat it. I am also really uncomfortable with making other people change their menu for me, so I usually just eat whatever is prepared. I've never ever thought of myself as a vegetarian, but I do go through phases where I'm disgusted with the idea of meat. When I picked up "Eating Animals" it was only because it sounded interesting, but after reading it I feel more compelled to stop eating meat than ever before.

Yes, there is much discussion of the suffering of animals in here, but Foer also talks about the environmental effects as well as the possibilities for widespread infections caused by the conditions of factory farming. These two factors are what have really compelled me to question whether eating meat is really worth the effects it is having on our world.

Foer also discusses the conscientious farmers and slaughterhouses that make eating meat seem like a viable option. Unfortunately, these "old school" farmers are being put out of business in droves by the giant factory farming operations. This alone makes this book worthwhile reading because it explains how eating locally and knowing where your food comes from can help to make informed decision about the meat we do choose to eat.

While this book gets a little tedious toward the end, I found it a good and interesting read. I was especially impressed with the first chapter of the book in which Foer explains his reasons for looking into this subject in the first place and talks about his own struggles with the decision to become a vegetarian over the years. The discussion about why we eat some animals (cows, pigs, fish, etc.) and not others (dogs, cats, etc.) was something that really stuck with me. If you've ever considered becoming a vegetarian, but weren't sure why, this book may help you with that decision or push you over the edge to finally doing it.



Monday, September 13, 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue

I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Emma Donoghue's "Room," released today from Little Brown. While I thought the book was on fast forward at some points, I never tired of the genuine voice of little 5-year-old Jack, the book's narrator and main character. We hear Jack's thoughts as he discovers the truth about his first five years of life, which have been spent locked in a room with his mother. Room and the things in it are all he has ever known.

I'd love to go on about all of the amazing details of this book, but I fear that I will give away too much if I go into the plot of the book. For me part of the joy of reading this novel was that I had no idea what it was about when I received it as my first installment from The Nervous Breakdown's book club (sign up here). Partway through the book I started to read one of the descriptions of the book online and had to stop before finishing the first sentence because it gave away one of the things that had kept me curious through the first chapter (how and when his mother got put in Room), so I want to be careful about what I say here.

All I can say is that this was one of the best books I've read in a very, very long time. The author has perfectly pictured the innocence of youth and how the world of a toddler can be shattered by the realities of the outside world. Jack's voice comes across as genuine and I was fascinated throughout by his interpretations of the world, given that I had the knowledge that the games he and his mother were playing (games like Scream and Keypad) were more than just games. I highly recommend reading this one.