Rating: 3 out of 5.

Warning: this post may contain spoilers for Shreve Stockton’s novel Meditations with Cows: What I’ve Learned from Daisy, the Dairy Cow Who Changed My Life

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that this might be the most out-of-place books that I’ve reviewed here on IGC Publishing. We’ve posted plenty of reviews of genres besides science fiction and fantasy, like historical fiction, philosophy, non-fiction, and biographies, but as far as books that are completely outside of anything I would normally choose to read, I think that Everything That Remains is the only book review so-far published that even comes close to this pick. Much like that “memoir,” Meditations with Cows ended up in my reading list because of my shadow-book-club-membership (which is not nearly as exciting and mysterious as it sounds). Anyway, the book club of which I am a shadow-member decided to read this book, and I decided to read along, as I often do.

If I had to describe this book in a single sentence, it would be this: it’s A Little House on the Prairie, if Laura Ingalls Wilder had been a 21st century hippie. That might sound like an odd combination, and…it was. In fact, I’m fairly certain that the main reason this book exists is because the author got started in the early days of blogging with a semi-unique story and pictures of cute baby cows and coyotes, gathered a lot of followers, and then wrote a book based on that following. Not unlike The Elephant Whisperer, the author makes some peculiar claims about her ability to commune with animals that I find somewhat doubtful in an objective sense, however much the author may subjectively experience and believe it (I’m sorry, but I don’t think cows can communicate with each other, or anyone else, via telepathy).

Throughout my reading, I kept expecting the book to come to some kind of point or conclusion, but it never did; perhaps that was a foolish expectation for a book called Meditating With Cows, as it really was primarily a random collection of reflections and musing upon cows and the food system in general. Most of this was reasonably well written, and I didn’t have a problem with it, but I did find the parts where the author decided that her experience meditating with cows gave her special insight into world peace a bit of a stretch. In other words, I’ll take my grass-fed beef without the side order of political commentary, especially since the author decides that the solution to misdirected government intervention in agriculture is…more government intervention in agriculture. At one point, she spends a chapter complaining about laws and regulations and paperwork and bureaucracy that makes her life so much harder and her business so much more challenging, and in the next she…asks for more. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to me to quite add up appropriately.

Perhaps the most interesting insight of the book was a comment that Stockton made about grass-fed beef having flavors and complexities akin to something like wine, cheese, or chocolate. I must say that particular insight had never occurred to me, despite being able to taste the difference in cheeses, and it is almost enough for me to consider trying some grass-fed beef and making some comparisons. Certainly the author’s enthusiasm and passion for her subject are clear, and I cannot fault her motivations and insights on cows and beef, whatever she might be lacking in a solid grasp of economic philosophy. To have persuaded me, someone who generally dismisses the hullabaloo around “organic” and “non-GMO” labels, to consider a real superiority to grass-fed beef is probably the book’s strongest recommendation.

From the beginning, I expected that this would be a strange read, and it did not disappoint; there were definitely a few moments when I questioned why I was taking the time to read it, and had it not been such a quick read I probably would have put it down. However, for what it is, it’s not a bad book, and I would not recommend against it. Take that as you will. Now, I think I’d like to go have a hamburger.

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