The Best Agrarian Books
ERB Playlist #2
Compiled by Ragan Sutterfield
This is the second in an on-going series of “playlists,” in which we recommend books around a particular theme.
“Making a mixtape (or playlist) is the opposite of indifferent. It’s heartfelt, purposeful — often a subtle form of flirtation. … [The playlist] is a way of making yourself known, an interpersonal form of show business, of making news, of replicating sounds and words you find important. It’s like poetry, because poetry is what you can’t say in any other way.”
– David Dark, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
(Our 2009 Book of the Year. Read our Review…)
*** Watch for more ERB playlists in the coming weeks and months, and for a forthcoming essay on playlists as a way of doing theology.
[ Previous Playlist – #1 St. Francis ]
“Agrarianism,” Wendell Berry once said, “is a habit of mind.” This habit of mind “is not so much a philosophy as a practice, an attitude, a loyalty and a passion – all based in close connection with the land. It results in a sound local economy in which producers and consumers are neighbors and in which nature herself becomes the standard for work and production.” This way of thinking, this standard of living is one I’ve been trying to understand as a lived reality for over a decade now. Through this time and work I’ve collected a large number of books that have been my guides, many on the side of theory, several on the side of practice. Here I want to offer a list, by no means comprehensive, of a few of the books I’ve found most helpful.
The One Book
Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America is perhaps the most important book of contemporary agrarianism. Without Wendell Berry agrarianism as it stands would not exist and this book set the stage for everything that came after in Berry’s work. If someone asks me for one book to read on agrarianism, this is the one I recommend not only because it covers so much ground with so much wisdom, but also because if you The Unsettling of America you will inevitably want to read more.
Contemporary agrarianism didn’t come from no-where—there are a host of writers who formed the groundwork for contemporary discussions and returning to these writers it is amazing how prescient some of their arguments are. The agrarian classics I’d put on a must read list include Tree Crops by J. Russell Smith, Farmers of Forty Centuries by F.H. King ( get a free ebook edition when you sign up for the weekly ERB email digest), The Soil and Health by Sir Albert Howard, and The Holy Earth by Liberty Hyde Bailey.
The Books I Go Back To