Book Review – Eating Animals

I have decided that graduate school has ruined my love of literature. In graduate school you read what you’re told to read then compile this list of “things I’ll read when I graduate” because, frankly, you can’t read 5 assigned novels and one for pleasure on top of it. The first novel I tried to read when I graduated was A Mercy by Toni Morrison. On page 13 I realized that I was taking notes and I stopped reading it. Fast forward to November. I saw Junot Diaz speak at The National Council of Teachers of English Conference in Philadelphia. He was awesome so I decided to try again with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I read three pages then it sat in my house for four weeks before I returned it to the library.

The first book I was able to finish in its entirety was Betty Dodson’s Sex For One, which had been on my BookMooch wish list for two years.  I finally got the email that it was available New Year’s Day as I was lying on the couch at JCB’s. That was the last book I was able to finish before this one.

I picked up a copy of Eating Animals when I returned the neglected Oscar and proceeded to devour the pages of this book. (See what I did there?)  Jonathan Safran Foer’s book is very well researched and extremely well written. The book gave me LIFE with the title alone. Think of the discourse: eating animals. Not eating meat. Eating animals. That in itself is fascinating.  In some ways, it echoed what was shown in Food, Inc, but it goes into so much more detail. Safran Foer spent years researching this book and every page reflects his efforts.

In the introduction, he begins telling a story.  He masterfully intertwines story telling in with his acquired knowledge of the food we eat. This book is full of so many stories, but the most important one he is telling is that of the animals we eat, “grow”, and treat as a causal byproduct of our existence. The things you learn in this book about animal factory farming are alarming and shameful. We, as meat-eaters, have become so desensitized to what it means to eat animals so much so that we don’t know and largely don’t care where our food comes from. We don’t seem to care how much destruction eating animals has on our environment or our climate.  For a lot of us, eating animals is just what we have been doing since we were born and we find no need to change this habit.

Like any good teacher Jonathan Safran Foer gives you all the information you need to make a choice. He doesn’t shake his skinny finger at his readers and shame them for their decision to eat meat. On the contrary, he writes about his experiences with meat and with food and writes toward a choice of his own that is the best for his family. He makes an informed decision about eating animals because he has armed himself and his readers with the unbiased information they need to make a choice.  After all,  isn’t that what everyone needs to make a choice?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Eating Animals. It was painful, honest, and exactly what I needed to read exactly when I needed to eat it.  Eating Animals is deeply satisfying just like good sex.

I may have lost my ability to read literature for pleasure, but I haven’t lost my love of reading and learning. I now only seem to be able to read books about food and sex. Both are satisfying and have the ability to bring people together – so to speak.  I’d count that as a win.

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