Garden of Readin'

Shemesh Farms is built upon a foundation of sustainability, inclusion, and interconnectedness. In our quest to cultivate deeper understanding and best practices, we are committed to life-long learning. 

Our Garden of Readin’ is fertile ground for sowing seeds where we can all reap the benefits of its yield. We welcome all of you to pick and choose which books and films resonate with you and if you have any suggestions we welcome you to send them our way. Email, put “Garden of Readin’” in the subject line and drop some knowledge in the body of the email with your name. Feel free to share any thoughts and/or reviews.

In 2025 we will kick-start our seasonal book club. We will announce the four books for our inaugural year in January, along with discussion dates for the year. Please check back in January, 2025 for book titles and gathering dates.


A Wild Faith: Jewish Ways into Wilderness, Wilderness Ways into Judaism

By Rabbi Mike Comins

Explore the connections between God, wilderness and Judaism. This comprehensive how-to guide unravels the mystery of Judaism's connection to the natural world and offers ways for you to enliven and deepen your spiritual life through wilderness experience. Over forty practical exercises provide detailed instruction on spiritual practice in the natural world, including: Mindfulness exercises for the trail • Meditative walking • Four-Winds wisdom from Jewish tradition • Wilderness blessings • Soul-O Site solitude practice in wilderness • Wilderness retreat For wilderness lovers and nature novices alike, this inspiring and insightful book will lead you through experiences of awe and wonder in the natural world. It will show you the depth and relevance of Judaism to your spiritual awareness in wilderness and teach you new ways to energize your relationship with God and prayer.

Connected Wisdom: Living Stories About Living Systems

By Linda Booth Sweeney

Connected Wisdom gathers twelve stories from different cultures that each reveal a unique example of a "living system." Through them, Linda Booth Sweeney shows that what we now call systems thinking has been around for a very long time.

Clear and simple notes accompany [each of the] stories in Connected Wisdom.

Says Sweeney, "If kids understand living systems, they're more likely to think and act in informed ways and less likely to jump to blame a single cause for the challenges they encounter. As kids appreciate and learn about living systems, they see that connections in nature, people, problems and events bind us all."

Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally

By Emily Ladau

People with disabilities are the world’s largest minority, an estimated 15 percent of the global population. But many of us—disabled and nondisabled alike—don’t know how to act, what to say, or how to be an ally to the disability community. Demystifying Disability is a friendly handbook on the important disability issues you need to know about, including: 

• How to appropriately think, talk, and ask about disability

• Recognizing and avoiding ableism (discrimination toward disabled people)

• Practicing good disability etiquette

• Ensuring accessibility becomes your standard practice, from everyday communication to planning special events

• Appreciating disability history and identity

• Identifying and speaking up about disability stereotypes in media


In a Different Key: The Story of Autism

By John Donvan and Caren Zucker

By turns intimate and panoramic, In a Different Key takes us on a journey from an era when families were shamed and children were condemned to institutions to one in which a cadre of people with autism push not simply for inclusion, but for a new understanding of autism: as difference rather than disability. “Sweeping in scope but with intimate personal stories, this is a deeply moving book about the history, science, and human drama of autism.”—Walter Isaacson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Code Breaker

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

By Naoki Higashida

You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

In his introduction, bestselling novelist David Mitchell writes that Naoki’s words allowed him to feel, for the first time, as if his own autistic child was explaining what was happening in his mind. “It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship.” This translation was a labor of love by David and his wife, KA Yoshida, so they’d be able to share that feeling with friends, the wider autism community, and beyond. Naoki’s book, in its beauty, truthfulness, and simplicity, is a gift to be shared.


Autism: The Musical

“There’s obvious myths about what a child with autism can do,” says Elaine Hall. “I plan to shatter those myths.” Her route to such shattering is a musical she calls “The Miracle Project.” Conceived, written, and performed by a group of autistic children, the project takes some six months from start to a one-time-only presentation. "Autism: The Musical" is a 2007 documentary that follows the lives of five autistic children who took part in the first The Miracle Project production. The film also follows the parents of the five (including Hall), and reveals the intense personal struggles and challenges of raising children with autism.

Autism: The Sequel

“Autism: The Sequel” revisits the stars of this musical 12 years later as the original subjects, now in their early 20s, navigate what independence means to them as they manage both challenges and triumphs as adults living on the autism spectrum. *Fun fact: Shemesh Farms is featured. Elaine Hall’s son, Neal, worked as a Farm Fellow.

The Biggest Little Farm (2018)

The Biggest Little Farm chronicles the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature. Through dogged perseverance and embracing the opportunity provided by nature’s conflicts, the Chesters unlock and uncover a biodiverse design for living that exists far beyond their farm, its seasons, and our wildest imaginations. Featuring breathtaking cinematography, captivating animals, and an urgent message to heed Mother Nature’s call, the film provides us all a vital blueprint for better living and a healthier planet.

Crip Camp (2020)

A groundbreaking summer camp for teens with disabilities proves so inspiring that a group of its alumni join the radical disability rights movement to advocate for historic legislation changes. “Crip Camp is refreshingly honest about the social change it chronicles, noting that laws are frequently undercut and only remain effective as long as the populace is vigilant, “ writes critic Joshua Riviera. “But a vital reason why any of Crip Camp’s big-picture scope works at all is because it is so warm and ebullient in its first half, letting the young men and women who found their way to the now-closed Camp Jened…speak for themselves. It lets them talk about being somewhere they were expected to play ball instead of sitting the game out, where they were able to talk about normal teen things… It shows what can happen when you finally are in a room of people like yourself who share your struggles and are given the room to tell each other the truth and the freedom to dream of doing something about it.”

In a Different Key (2022)

Based on the 2016 book by John Donovan and Caren Zucker, In a Different Key centers on co-director and journalist Zucker’s search for the first-ever child diagnosed with autism, Donald Triplett. The film will trace the growing friendship between the Mississippi-based Triplett and Zucker, who has an autistic son, as she grapples with the future for her child once she is gone.

The Reason I Jump (2020)

Based on the best-selling book by Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump is an immersive cinematic exploration of neuro-diversity through the experiences of non-speaking autistic people from around the world. The film blends Higashida's revelatory insights into autism, written when he was just 13, with intimate portraits of five remarkable young people. It opens a window into an intense and overwhelming, but often joyful, sensory universe.