If you're one of those attention-deficit elves who craves that incomparable adrenalin rush from shopping on Christmas Eve, don't waste your time reading this. Just kick back and let the shelves at Wal-Mart empty.
On the other hand, if you're agonizing over what to give loved ones whose lips get tired reading the back of cereal boxes, please feel free to move on.
But for those of you who love to shop early and consider (as I do) that a good book is a gift that keeps on giving, allow me to drop three excellent Christmas hints for the serious ag reader.
1) "The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet," by Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu (PublicAffairs, 2012). While the title spoofs Michael Pollan's 2006 indictment of commercial food production in the modern era, this book is a serious and well-reasoned assessment of the dubious model of locavorism. The authors raise critical questions regarding the true merits of locally based food production. In the end, it may be neither greener, healthier, nor more economic.
2) "Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds," by Jim Sterba (Crown Publishers, 2012). All school children know about the buffalo massacre of the 19th century. But how many educated adults recognize the explosion in wildlife population since WWII? Given so much blather and glib talk about "getting back to nature," Sterba invites his readers to rethink the complicated past, present, and future relationship between man and the wild.
3) "The Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History," by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns (Chronicle Books, 2012). If you haven't seen the documentary on PBS, by all means see it. And if you've seen it but haven't experienced the supplementary articles and amazing pictures in this big book, prepare to be blown away once again. This story of the awesome revenge of nature in the face of mindless agrarian practices should continue to haunt us all. Indeed, we forget it at the world's peril.
To all the Scrooges out there, no, I haven't received a dime to promote these worthwhile volumes. Nor will any fat commission checks resulting from DTN-based sales be wired from Amazon (not that I didn't ask).
Just consider this a little Christmas cheer from my house to yours. And if you see my clueless family of shoppers, please point them in the right direct.
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