A Gardener’s Reading: 30 Days of Pretty Good Garden Books

A few things I’ve noticed about gardeners over the years: They can be opinionated, they love to learn, and many of them spend winter curled up with a book.

garden books on shelfI’m among the winter readers – and garden books, with their mix of science, art and the occasional oddball fact are my favorite kind of books to cozy up with on a winter evening. Over the years, I’ve gathered a pretty good collection of garden books (some of which I keep in my local library and take out when needed). So, for the next month – right up until New Year’s Eve, with a couple of days off here and there – I’ll be reviewing about a book a day – often with a few related titles thrown in for the fun of it. This seems like a good way to start this winter’s read-a-thon and, at the same time, give other gardeners a sense of what kinds of books might be helpful or inspiring to them.

My list is in no way meant to be prescriptive – readers and gardeners alike are too independent-minded and varied in interests to need or want a required reading list. Rather, it’s one gardener’s search for insight into not only how-to garden but why we garden.  (Three out of four Americans keep some kind of garden, according to the National Gardening Association.) For some gardening is purely practical – a way to make the yard look acceptable to the neighbors or to put some cheap, delicious food on the table. For others, it’s a spiritual practice – they see God in every tomato.  I connect with both points of view.

My booklist reflects the quirks of my situation and interests: You’ll find lots of books about northern gardens, some about writing gardeners and gardens in literature, but no fiction and no single-plant guidebooks (Best Hostas Ever, for instance).  You will find cookbooks, but nothing specifically about building the soil. (Two words: Add compost.) Some of the books are new this year, but many are older. I’ve learned from all of them – and a few are good friends that I return to again and again. I hope you’ll offer reading suggestions in the comments.

After all, it’s a long winter here.