Obsessed with your tomatoes? Know somebody who could cuddle up with their geraniums? Even better: Want to be a part of a revolutionary garden movement?
It’s the time of the season for the leaves, vegetables, fruit and flowers to come forward. Whether you are an urban gardener with potted cucumbers, a community gardener spreading the love, or someone lucky enough to have their own plot, you can’t miss these unique options–some of the best books about people growing great abundance from the dirt.
For those who love the names of unique tomatoes like Black Krims:
Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer by Tim Stark
Here the concept of tomatoes is complicated within the lives of farmers, the history of peasants and the great complexity of growing organic. As a memoir, this one is written in an advanced tone, but with conversational moments. It brings to light the great argument over what it means to be a young farmer.
For those worried for the state of our plants in a changing world:
The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food by Janisse Ray
What does it mean to be a seed revolutionary? Where have our abundant variations of apples gone? Ray produces a fascinating book on what it means to have unique seeds, to hold on to old seed generations, and what genetic variety implies for the future of crops. Her voice is welcoming, understanding, and focused on how small producers, like the cow pea, are signifiers of gardening loss.
For those wishing they could save the world with plants, check out:
Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill
Gill’s life as a tree planter to replace clear cut areas is gritty, cold, and full of interesting characters just there to plant some trees. I’ve never read a book before that explained our ability to destroy in such a beautiful and truthful way. And this one is a winner of the BC Award for Canadian Nonfiction, too.
For those who love soul food culinary tradition and its African origins:
Hog and Hominy: Soul Food From Africa to America by Frederick Douglass Opie
This book is full of fascinating historical research, and explores the common arguments over where soul food came from. Opie handles this book with a great, academic control that still comes across as accessible. He does a particularly good job of sifting through information that could be biased from first-hand accounts and researchers alike.
For those who feel like going off the grid with their garden:
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
When Thoreau decided to live in a cabin by Walden pond outside of Concord, Massachusetts, he set out to emphasize the value of seclusion in nature. It may not have worked quite as he planned, but Thoreau’s Romantic notions of man within nature emphasizes the value of vegetarianism, seclusion and nonconformity. This is one of the inspirations for modern commune groups, which is interesting in itself.
For those looking for a powerhouse writer on gardening and gardening culture:
Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan
You can’t go wrong with Michael Pollan. Known best for writing Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, this author is one of the best known writers on gardening and gardening philosophy. I’m still working on this one and its great leaps of chapter subjects, but I really appreciate his emphasis here on man’s relationship with nature:
On Thoreau’s longing to understand nature by living in the wilderness, Pollan writes: “The premise of this book is that the place to look for some of the answers to these questions may not be in the woods, but in the garden.”
Good luck this reading, growing, harvesting season.
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