Sunday, August 14, 2011

what i'm reading: a little book on the prairie

I have one source for all of my summer reading needs: Jennsylvania. If you haven't read Bitter Is The New Black, or visited Jen Lancaster's hi-larious blog, then take a minute, right click on Linkthose links, and open up a new tab. Finish reading this and then head on over there.

Every summer, Jen Lancaster writes a post or two on the best books for summer reading. After seeing the list, I put every single book on hold at the library and read them for the rest of the summer. Jen (can I call her Jen? Are we on a first name basis?) put out two lists this year, and I'm working my way through the first. And by "working my way," I mean, "I put two of the books on hold." I read through The First Husband, although I wasn't entirely enamored with it. Then I picked up A Wilder Life by Wendy McClure.

I have been a huge Little House fan all my life. I started reading Little House in the Big Woods in kindergarten. My mom bought me all of the books from a local bookstore, and I read them all throughout elementary school (before my equal love of Anne of Green Gables won out- you can see some of my Anne books in the picture of all my well-loved Little House books).

So of course when Jen Lancaster recommended a book about a woman who had an even more obsessive love for all things Laura Ingalls, I had to check it out.

At first, I thought The Wilder Life would be truly in the vein of Julie & Julia or Eat Pray Love: a woman takes a year off to follow her passion and live as Laura Ingalls did 150 years ago (I also call these books "It must be nice" books, as in, "It must be nice to not have to work for a living" books.). The Wilder Life is not that kind of book, which kind of makes it better. Wendy McClure tries a few "prairie" type activities, like churning butter or baking vanity cakes, but she also takes several trips to visit the homesteads and towns featured in the books. She also discusses the very real differences and discrepancies in the Little House world- the Little House on the Prairie TV show, the Little House books, and real life. She's clearly searching for something, but it's fun to read about her trip to De Smet, South Dakota, without actually having to drive twelve hours to get there yourself.

There's one chapter in the book about her trip to a working Illinois homestead that has stuck with me over the past week. I won't spoil it for you, as it is pretty hilarious (I have now used that word twice in this post. I need new words), but it brings to light a worldview of the Laura books that I never even knew existed.

To sum up, if you are a Laura fan, you should go check out The Wilder Life. And if you're a fan of reading, check out Jen Lancaster's books and book lists. I'll leave you with a 100% embarassing picture of me from seventh grade, to show that I was, indeed, a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. Please note this was for a school project, although I can't exactly remember what. Probably some sort of biography demonstration? But yes, my mom made me a red prairie dress. With a sunbonnet.

Related: My previous summer reading list

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