Any good books about 'stone soup' days?
February 15, 2009 3:34 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to read some good books, preferably autobiographical, about managing a household in hard times.

For purposes of 'professional development' and generally cheering myself up about being the housewife in a single-income family, I have a craving to read good books about successful living on low resources.

Please recommend some! First-hand accounts preferred - depression-era, wartime, or just circumstantial modern hard-times.
posted by Catch to Society & Culture (29 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
The Long Winter- Laura Ingalls Wilder
posted by kimdog at 3:40 PM on February 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

A Fortunate Life - A. B. Facey
posted by bigmusic at 3:46 PM on February 15, 2009

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.
posted by msali at 3:50 PM on February 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Can Any Mother Help Me?
posted by stammer at 3:57 PM on February 15, 2009

Mama's Bank Account, the inspiration for I Remember Mama (which was adapted into a stage play and movie before it became a tv show in the 50s).
posted by miss lynnster at 4:04 PM on February 15, 2009

Best answer: How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher. It's also collected in The Art of Eating, one of the best books I have ever read.
posted by melissa may at 4:12 PM on February 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

Anybody Can Do Anything, by Betty MacDonald.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:17 PM on February 15, 2009

The Provincial Lady in Wartime, by E.M. Delafield. She's wealthy, but it's definitely hard times.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:22 PM on February 15, 2009

Response by poster: These are great, everybody. Please keep 'em coming. Firing off an email to librarian-husband right now requesting the Fisher and Bailey to start with. (Best thing I ever did, marrying into 'library')
posted by Catch at 4:25 PM on February 15, 2009

Best answer: Betty MacDonald is famous for writing The Egg and I and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle but two autobiographical books deal specifically with working odd jobs during the depression era and making do: Anybody Can Do Anything and Onions in the Stew. She is a wonderful, humorous writer who should be more widely read. If you get through all of those, The Plague and I is a terrific book about her experience being treated for tuberculosis.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:39 PM on February 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Toecovers.
posted by Catch at 4:45 PM on February 15, 2009

The Endless Steppe really makes you appreciate potatoes
posted by sconbie at 4:46 PM on February 15, 2009

I just started reading We Survived - And Thrived which is a compilation of stories told by people that lived during the Great Depression - how they survived, made do with what they had, did without, and basically survived and really thrived. Also, any book in the Good Old Days line - like the Old Time Art of Thrift would be right up your alley.

And yes, Little House on The Prairie books.
posted by Sassyfras at 4:54 PM on February 15, 2009

Best answer: Possum Living is online here (legally? I don't know).
posted by zadcat at 5:34 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

and Susanna Moodie's Roughing it in the Bush is a Canadian classic.
posted by zadcat at 5:35 PM on February 15, 2009

Little heathens: hard times and high spirits on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. Full of fascinating detailed information on what life was like for her family.
posted by Ery at 5:50 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Helen Forrester's autobiography in three parts - Twopence to Cross The Mersey (1974), Liverpool Miss (originally published as Minerva's Stepchild) (1979), and By the Waters of Liverpool (1981) - about raising her younger brothers and sisters from the time she was eleven until an adult in Depression-era Liverpool are absolutely riveting.
posted by saucysault at 6:07 PM on February 15, 2009

Seconding Possum Living. To the best of my limited knowledge, its author has washed her hands of it. At any rate, judging from the book itself, I think she would take your side against whatever publisher let it go out of print.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:19 PM on February 15, 2009

Not a book, but a FANTASTIC blog about the subject, whose authori has a book deal in process -
posted by mazienh at 6:44 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I was a poor college student I would re-read The Grapes of Wrath whenever I was feeling especially impoverished. And Hard Times provides a wide range of first-person perspectives on the great depression.
posted by chez shoes at 6:48 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I loved The Orchard, a memoir by a woman who struggled to keep her family's apple orchard afloat during the Depression. It's beautifully written and just a wonderful read.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:50 PM on February 15, 2009

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio sticks in my mind as a cracking good read about Terry Ryan's tough upbringing and her mom's marvelous method of earning money for her family of 10! And then they made a movie out of it with Julianne Moore as Evelyn Ryan. Wow. Not exactly Depression-Era tough times, but tough times all the same.
posted by Lynsey at 6:50 PM on February 15, 2009

Are you looking for memoirs, or how-to/cookbooks?
posted by SaharaRose at 8:24 PM on February 15, 2009

Response by poster: I'm looking for memoirs particularly. I figure I might pick up a few specific home-making tips from these books, but it's more about getting myself in a positive frame of my mind.

(Not having to walk ten miles in the snow to do what I do).
posted by Catch at 8:55 PM on February 15, 2009

Cheaper by the Dozen isn't exactly about hard times, but it is about living frugally with tons of kids. (If you've seen the recent movies, I promise the book isn't that dumb at all). They also talk a lot about efficiency because the parents were really efficiency experts.
posted by fructose at 9:43 PM on February 15, 2009

Margaret Oliphant's autobiography.
posted by puckish at 6:45 AM on February 16, 2009

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is an absolutely harrowing read. She grew up in the 70s but her parents made their own depression because they were absolutely feckless people who could not be bothered to work at regular jobs nor stay in one place for very long. Jeanette and her siblings were forced to provide for themselves so they ate of trash bins and used markers to color their skin so the holes in their pants were not so noticeable.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:05 AM on February 16, 2009

Response by poster: Just had to log on this morning before feeding young Mortimer III to say that "How to Cook a Wolf" is fantastic - great writing and striking a chord on every paragraph. Thanks melissa may.

Thanks everyone, I am going to have a feast of reading, and will work my way through as many of these titles as I can.

Cheaper By The Dozen and Betty McDonald's books are old family favourites here, I still catch myself thinking in Therbligs from time to time.
posted by Catch at 11:37 AM on February 16, 2009

I'm so happy you like it, Catch. If you got The Art of Eating think about reading "The Gastronomical Me" next. It will read like dessert after your austere week of sludge!
posted by melissa may at 1:18 PM on February 17, 2009

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