Home is where the heart is, the old saying goes, so in this month of hearts and flowers and Valentine's Day, it's a good time to think about what makes a home. The books I've been reading have challenged me to think about home in a different light. They go beyond the usual subjects of maintenance and design, organization and cleaning. Their authors think about the very definition of home. They meditate on family life, and they think about the future in the broadest terms.
Some of you may know author Gretchen Rubin from her bestselling book "The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun." In it, she read philosophers, scientists and self-help gurus, pursued their advice on how to achieve happiness, and kept track of which ideas worked, and which didn't. Her latest book, "Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and my Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life," is in a similar vein. Her goal is to make her home a happier place.
She discovers that home is more than a space; it is the place you make for your family. Her thoughts on possessions, marriage, time and parenthood will have you looking at your home life with a fresh perspective.
Author Sharon Astyk takes a much broader — and perhaps less optimistic — view in her book "Making Home: Adapting Our Homes and Our Lives to Settle in Place." Astyk thinks about big issues — energy depletion, economic insecurity, climate change — and looks at how families can make fundamental changes in how they live to meet such challenges. Even if you're not up to the challenge of cutting your energy consumption in half, Astyk's book is valuable because she questions assumptions about individual choice. A case in point: Although she's a farmer and could make good use of a truck, she questioned how much she actually had to have one. The result: When her goats need to go to the vet, they travel in her car.
Jenny Rosenstrach's book "Dinner, A Love Story" looks at just one aspect of home life: dinnertime. She makes the case for having a family dinner every single night, even when the parents have worked a long day, even when the children's schedules have them going in many different directions. Beyond making the case for dinner, she shares her strategies and recipes for meals that provide good food and good times together. Finally, there's the book "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch," by Jennifer Reese. It's part cookbook, part memoir, part do-it-yourself manual. Reese experiments with everything from raising chickens and goats to making her own ketchup and yogurt. Each of the 120 recipes in the book analyzes whether it's cheaper to buy or to make the product, how hard it is to make, and whether it's worth the effort. And as the title indicates, homemade bread is worth the effort — but homemade butter is not.
All of these books — and many like them — are available at Seymour Library.