Eating Dirt and Other Good Ideas

Hello again!

As I mentioned in my last post to you all, my lovely school, Queen’s University sent me a book in the mail last month. The book is called Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe by Charlotte Gill. It came with a letter that said:

Welcome to Queen’s!

The enclosed special-edition book is your personal invitation to participate in our new Common Reading Program. This is your ticket to meeting new people, enjoying thoughtful and lively conversations about some bigger life questions, and joining a new community.

The letter proceeded to suggest we (the undergraduates of the class of 2016) read the book before September. We can talk about the book over the summer via the designated Facebook page, and during our orientation week, we’ll be able to talk about the book with new peers, enter in an essay contest, and meet the author. It’s a great idea and I hope they keep doing it.

Now, about this book. I’ll admit, when I saw the subtitle, Deep Forests, Big Timber and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe, I thought the book was going to have a “Use less toilet paper! Stop buying books! Recycle everything!” message. But this book is not the slightest bit preachy. I never felt like Charlotte Gill was trying to change any opinions I may have about the environment or that she was commanding me to change my ways in favour of the environment. She opened my mind to a more environmentally-friendly way of being just by telling me her story. And the story of her trees.

When my mum asked me what the book was about, I told her, “Dirt, bruises and trees.” And that is basically all Gill talks about. If you think that sounds at all boring…well, it should. But, somehow, Gill manages to make this book thoroughly absorbing and interesting from page 1 until the credits. I am personally not a fan of über-descriptive writing styles (think, John Steinbeck), but Gill’s descriptions of her daily routines as a tree planter brought to life the beautiful west-coast Canadian landscape, her diverse and surprising co-workers, and her passionate mission. Her writing is alternately stunningly eloquent and hilariously blunt. It makes this book incredibly readable. Here’s my favourite quote from the book:

Home. It occurs to us for the first time, haloed in warmth and cleanliness. Our own beds. The twitter of the phone when it rings. Our girlfriends and boyfriends and spouses who say the whole world should recycle paper just so that we’ll run out of work, get laid off, and be forced to come home. And the children who are sometimes so young they can’t yet say how they feel. And the parents, who also lack the words. Bend, plant, stand up, move on. Brain above the heart, brain below the heart. And so on.

I’m recommending Eating Dirt for absolutely everyone. (You’ll notice that ‘books everyone should read’ are the only ones I write reviews on.) Even if you laugh at the concepts of global warming and recycling, or the idea that we’re running out of resources, you will not be offended by this book.

I’d love to hear your own thoughts on this book if you’ve read it. Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion. And if you haven’t read this fantastic book yet, I hope I’ve encouraged you to get your own copy!



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