Vicki Robin lives on South Whidbey Island, where she’s been eating close to home for her new book “Blessing the Hands that Feed Us.” As co-author of the perennial best seller “Your Money or Your Life,” Robin was an early prophet of downsizing. She’s an amateur stand up comic and a world traveler, with a popular TED talk on “Rational Eating.”
Val Easton: What books are lying open on your nightstand right now?
Vicki Robin: It’s an eclectic assortment for sure. I’m in the midst of reading “Rebuilding Regional Foodsheds,” by Phillip Ackerman-Leist, because that’s the layer of social change I’m most interested in now.
“Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, which combines personal narrative, natural history and indigenous wisdom; the plant world is fascinating.
I always say I want to be Barbara Kingsolver when I grow up. I’m reading “Flight Behavior,” and am in awe of her use of language, how she can take me from tenderness to absurdity in one sentence. We share a love of the natural world. I’m not sure which Dave Barry book I have open at the moment, but I’m a big fan. He cracks me up. If it can’t be Barbara Kingsolver, I’d choose Dave Barry.
What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
“A Tale for a Time Being,” by Ruth Ozeki. She’s such a fine writer; it’s a layered story that reads like a mystery.
Any well-reviewed or popular books lately that you don’t think lived up to the hype?
I hate to say this, given my focus on local food and my near deification of Michael Pollan, but I couldn’t get past the first section in “Cooked.” I seemed to be reading the same scene of a pig roast over and over without much new or fascinating.
When did you and your co-author Joe Dominguez publish “Your Money or Your Life, and why do you think it’s still selling?
“Your Money or Your Life,” came out in 1992. I can’t tell you why it is a classic. We did give a voice to the absurdity of the money culture without making working stiffs wrong or bosses wrong or even bankers wrong. We just said, “Hey everyone, this is nuts. It’s a trap for everyone. Smart people (maybe you), here’s a way out.” We pointed to the obvious — we sell our lives for money, but money isn’t buying us a life we love.
Do you buy books? What does your personal book collection look like?
I buy books when I’m working on a project; books on sustainable economics, happiness, food, spiritual evolution. I have books I’ve collected over sixty years that hold memories, but should be sent to thrift stores because I’ll never read them again. And all the mysteries and novels I get from thrift stores to read on airplanes. I mostly get books from the library now, and download onto my Kindle.
What kinds of books do you seek out?
I love good narrative writing, be it fiction or non-fiction. I love writing that is lush with similes and metaphors in just the right measure to be almost a sensual experience, without getting in the way. I love language that wakes me up to see in a new way. I love elegant turns of phrase that the writer gives you — not to impress you with how great they are, but more like a taste treat…. Savor this…
Does living in a small community like Langley (South Whidbey Island) affect your reading and writing life?
I moved here to recover body and soul from cancer. My new book is all about living in the nourishment of this community. An island itself is a boundary that holds energy, lets it build. Be it friendships or shared experiences or collective work. My writing is all about this place, the island quality.
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