20 June 2009

Some of the books that have inspired us

Some of the books that have inspired us

Both of us (Sophie and Axel) are avid readers of books - both fiction and non fiction. This is the first in an ad hoc series of books that have made us sit up and think. We would be interested in hearing books that have influenced you and also your views on the books chosen here.

1) "Not on the Label": what really goes into the food on your plate by Felicity Lawrence.

This was an interesting book not least because of the different things we both got out of it. There was one particular chapter on salads which equally appalled us both but for different reasons - Axel, because of the complete lack of nutrition from the pre washed via chlorine salads, and Sophie because of the complete lack of hygiene and sanitation and living habitats of the workers.  After reading this book, I tried an experiment at home; I took a packed of prepared vacuum-packed washed salad from Morrisons and Sainsburys (I rarely, if ever, go to Asda, Tesco or Waitrose because they are not near us) and the same salad ingredients from our local grocer, The Fruit Basket, and put then on a plate in the kitchen and waited to see how long they took to go off.  The leaves from the supermarkets started turning brown on the first day and were rotten within 3 days whereas the leaves from the local grocer lasted a full 10 days.  What this tells me is that much of the food that is chilled and/or packed with inert gases is simply controlling or delaying the rot of the physical structure of the food, while the goodness is probably just decaying inside the cells.  Perhaps we are kidding ourselves about the nutritional value of the chilled and gas-packed foods.

2)  "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson.

Sophie quite by chance discovered this book when visiting a friend who is a keen fundraiser for a school in Namibia.  Sophie happened to see it and picked it up intrigued by the title which relates to one of the customs of the Balti people, then bought it for Axel as a birthday present.  The book is a celebration of what can be achieved through pioneering grit and sheer determination, particularly when you realise that Greg Mortensen is an American and Baltistan is in Northern Pakistan just beside the Afghanistan Border.  He was even kidnapped for a time.  It is incredibly humbling and has taught us more about the political and social issues of the Middle East, inspiring us to direct our personal charity towards education in the developing world.  Find out more at http://www.threecupsoftea.com/ or buy the book.

3) "Imperfectly Natural Women" by Janey Lee Grace. 

 A few years ago a friend of ours came to lunch and mentioned this book which had been given to her by her sister.  We were intrigued and bought a copy soon after as it appeared to be very in line with our own personal aims - and so it is. Janey Lee Grace appears on many TV and radio items including Steve Wright in the afternoon (Radio 2) and is great at pointing the way and the pitfalls of living a greener (but fairly normal) life.  Since we first read this book we've met Janey Lee Grace and have often been interested and inspired by our research.  She's since then written two other books - Imperfectly Natural Baby and Imperfectly Natural Home. www.imperfectlynatural.com.