"The novelist David Rhodes once told me to always keep Wisconsin in my back yard. While my job in New York City and my young family have led me far from my home state, I'm following David’s advice by raising chickens behind our house in Staten Island. I’ve noted the relatively recent crop of memoirs about urban farming experiments with some amusement, but I haven’t found one compelling enough to read. Several years ago I was talking on the phone to our contributing editor Frank Bures when the conversation turned to authors from Wisconsin. Frank was living in Madison at the time (he has since moved to Minneapolis) and he told me about Michael Perry and suggested I read Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at Time (HarperCollins, 2002), a book about Perry's return to his childhood town of New Auburn, where he joined the volunteer fire and rescue department. I promptly bought it and had every intention of reading it, but it sat on my bedside table for two years—never read but never forgotten, either. Eventually it was the chickens that drove me to read Perry’s work—not Population 485, but his more recent book Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg (HarperCollins, 2009). Perry still lives in rural Wisconsin, and Coop is about his experience moving, along with his pregnant wife and their six-year-old daughter, into a ramshackle farmhouse on thirty-seven acres, where they intend to keep chickens. The chronicle of his humorous attempts to tame the land and raise chickens as well as pigs would be enough to recommend the book, but what makes Coop one of the best books I’ve read this past year is the author’s moving and insightful recollections of a childhood spent on a sheep and dairy farm. His familiar description of chopping wood in the snow, hauling it into the farmhouse, and stacking it in the basement to ensure that the house stays warm on a cold winter night was enough to bring a tear to my eye. Michael Perry is the real deal, and there’s a lot to love in Coop."