The farmer reviews three business books

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When I first met the farmer, I knew he was not a normal farmer because normal farmers don't email bloggers for a date. But also, he gave himself away because he quoted Garrison Keillor to me. Then, when I thought I could not put up with him dumping me anymore, and this time would be the last time, just as I thought that, he started reading Moby Dick, and he got so excited about certain chapters that he'd read them out loud to me on his porch in the bright sun of long summer nights.

When I first started forwarding my mail to the farmer's address, he had to buy a larger mailbox. “Why do people send you so many books?” he asked. “Don't they read your blog? You never review books you like.” [This is largely true.]

During the tumult of our move to the farm I stopped opening the packages. But the farmer got curious, and he started reading the books. It turns out that he doesn't like them any more than I do. Here are my summaries of his summaries:

168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think, by Laura Vanderkam

“Do you know you received three copies of this book?”

“Yeah. She's a friend. I wanted to make sure I got the book and I thought it may have gone to the wrong address.”

“What do you mean she's a friend? I've never heard you talk about her.”

“Well, I met her once for coffee. And she was nice. And our first books came out at the same time.”

“Oh. Wow. She does sound like a really good friend.”

“What did you think of the book?”

“I think it's really easy to have one kid.”


“You know how when one of the kids is with their dad, and it's just you and me and one kid, and it is so much easier to have one kid than two kids that it feels like we have no kids?”

“Yeah. Isn't that weird?”

“Yeah. But it's weird that she wrote a book about how to be productive when she had one kid and was pregnant with the second. The book should be titled “?You Can Do Anything if You Have One Kid.'”

I smile. I love the farmer—how he understands how hard it is to have kids. He understands that having two kids is two hundred times harder than having one kid.

This is a good time to link to the Time magazine article about having one kid. It's a trend. And it's good for your career — way easier to manage one kid and a career than two kids and a career.

Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, by Pamela Meyer

I would not have read this book because the bible on the topic is The Definitive Book of Body Language, by Barbara and Allan Pease. And I love that book. Also, Pamela Meyer’s author photo in the back of the book is a glamour shot, and I know what it's like to build a career on being good-looking. It's exhausting, and I'm sick of it, and I am obsessed with the idea of plastic surgery which is maybe messed up (I'm still trying to decide.)

I would never have written that, though. Because that would be a totally vacuous book review and you would all say that my blog is going downhill and you used to come here for career advice blah blah.

The farmer, however, has a more astute review of the book. He says, “I know this book is terrible just from the introduction. Look. Read this part of the introduction:”

My first job out of school was in the international department of a feature film company… I was shocked to discover that the industry was riddled with dodgy yet extremely common accounting practices… Fradulent behavior was so comon that most people seemed almost inured to it… I decided to accept a job at National Geographic Television and I had the good fortune to work in an extrmely honest environment. My collegues’ behavior was unimpeachable, and I had nothing but trust and respect for the people with whom I worked.

“See? She's a liar. And she thinks we are so stupid that we don't know. So if the book assumes I'm this bad at seeing peoples' lies, then I don't need to read the book.”

The Myth of Stress: Where Stress Really Comes from and How to Live a Happier and Healthier Life, by Andrew Bernstein

This book arrived in the mail during the time that the farmer was having to adjust very fast from his bachelor life to toys underfoot, arguments over food at dinner, and a bedtime that always takes too long.

The farmer says the book says that these moments do not need to cause stress because he can tell himself that this is what should be happening. There should be toys, because there are kids. There should be arguments at dinner because normal kids prefer processed disgustingness over wholesome vegetables.

“So we don't need to be stressed because this is what should happen,” he says.

I think it's a crock. I think stress is what intelligent people do when they cannot control the world.

The Myth of Stress leads to the farmer reading zen stuff about peacefulness. He is the rock and we are the water. This is what he says. And I think of the story of Passover, when God turned water into blood; I want the farmer to be as stressed about stuff we cannot control as I am. This is what a team is.

So I don't like the book. But I have to admit that the farmer has adjusted very well to our being in his house.

This is not to say life has been perfect. Do you see this table?

The first month of the remodel, all our stuff was in the garage. And then we sort of got used to it being there and we sort of started living out of the garage. And then the remodel got expensive and the garage got claustrophobic and during a fight the farmer threw the table higher than a pop-fly in kick ball and it shattered all over the yard.

No one is perfect. And the farmer hasn’t thrown anything after that. Which makes me like the book.

Epilogue: I also tried to throw something. I said, “What do I have to do to make you listen to me? Do I need to throw chairs?” And I meant to be as dramatic as he is, but I couldn't really get the chairs off the ground. And I hurt my thumb. So we are both focusing on things that will help remedy our problems: He is reading about stress management and I am lifting weights.

64 replies
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  1. Tzipporah
    Tzipporah says:

    Hey Marte, I’m an only child and I FREAKING LOVE IT. And I have an only child myself.

    Get over yourself. Find some good friends; they’re much better than siblings.

  2. chris Keller
    chris Keller says:

    Annabel, I think it matters if you can tolerate chaos.
    If you can rush to get everyone out the door in the a.m.; if you can tolerate sending them (or yourself) out with mis-matched socks; if you can continually shift to address everyone’s developmental needs; if you can do the corrections in a kindly way, and keep on encouraging; if you can tolerate messiness, including the kitchen and piles in the laundry room.

    Most of us want to be organized and admire organization. But it is just not (always) possible with multiple-kid families. More importantly, it is important NOT to act like a banshee when disorganization and messiness happens.

  3. Kay Lorraine
    Kay Lorraine says:

    I, to, am an only child. It worked out great. Only children are resourceful, confident, and self starters. Marte, you better start taking notes so that you can remember stuff with yourself correctly.

    Penelope, the last line about stress management and lifting weights is priceless!!!!!

    I continue to love your work……

  4. Gretchen Seefried
    Gretchen Seefried says:

    Reading your blog ALWAYS makes me feel better. It is so genuine. What if everyone had Asperger’s for a day and we could hear the real thing from all?

    Maybe we’re the ones with the syndrome, not you?

  5. Vinaigrette Girl
    Vinaigrette Girl says:

    There is nothing “scary” about having one child. There are problems with every state of having or not having offspring in any number from none to $more. Those of us with one work harder to help them be social beings, not relying on the insular little family milieu to make or break personalities. We find it easier to care mindfully. We don’t expect other people to make up for the fact that having three or four kids means one of the group may have developmental needs catastrophically ignored because the parents are too busy to see or do anything about what’s going on. (I run a Beaver Scouts group and there’s always one of these every year). Having one child means we DO have time for community as well as for our own nuclear family. We are more carbon-neutral as families (the latest ‘guesstimate’ I’ve read was 38,000 tons of carbon over a 70 year lifetime).

    Sorry, but I don’t tell other people how to raise their kids and being slagged off on one of my favourite blogs for having one pushes my buttons.

    Your farmer guy’s views of those books is very sensible. He seems a decent chap.

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