In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
As a reader, I’m something of a voyeur. I’m a sucker for just about any book that covers a year in someone’s life and recounts their joys, sorrows or simple day-to-day living. Whether it’s a year someone dedicated themselves to personal change, or choosing to live life by a particular set of rules, or just an ordinary (to the author) period in time, I’ll read them all. Much as I enjoy reading about other’s people’s travels and adventures, in my heart I’m a stay-at-home kind of person, so reading about what other people do while they’re also at home is a natural extension for me.
No list of year-in-the-life titles would be complete mentioning without A.J. Jacobs. He has dedicated an entire years of his life to such varied goals as reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, living according to Biblical tenets, and achieving perfect health. I can only sit back and admire his tenacity, and be grateful that he writes such hilarious books.
Adventures in Yarn Farming by Barbara Parry is an absolutely lovely book that shows what life on a working sheep farm is like. It combines two things I like to read about – people doing things I can only daydream of, and yarn. Barbara’s vivid descriptions about raising sheep in Massachusetts, combined with knitting patterns and dazzling photographs of how she creates her yarn makes me almost want to move to a sheep farm myself. Almost.
66 Square Feet is not only the title of the book, it’s the size of Marie Viljoen’s garden, on a rooftop in New York City. It’s also the title of her delightful book, which appeals to my inner gardener, wanna-be chef, and lover of peeking in at other people’s lives. Marie recounts a year in her life, her garden and her kitchen, talking about the changes the seasons bring, and the eternal delights of playing with dirt, good food and good friends.
The Diary of a Nose by Jean-Claude Ellena satisfies my curiosity about other people’s lives, and qualifies as a travel book. Jean-Claude travels the world in search of scents to bring back to his studio in France. Ellena views perfume not simply as something that smells good, but as something to be experienced with all five senses, and the vivid word pictures he paints offers a window into his fascinating life.
And, of course, there’s A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. I’m not sure if anyone ever figured out how many people bought property in Provence after reading this book, but I know that I was seriously tempted. I find myself inspired to move to France, renovate a farmhouse and drink good French wine whenever I pick up this book. To date, I’ve only ever followed up on that last part, but you never know.
On my list of future reads, there is The Sugar Season: A Year in the Life of Maple Syrup, and An Amish Garden: A Year in the Life of an Amish Garden…you get the idea. As you can guess, my passion in life is reading about other people’s lives – what’s yours?