Summer readings are different. Winter is the time for reading that requires research, note taking, and learning. By the time the gardening season kicks off you are armed with an assortment of dos and don’ts, try this, tear that up, and most importantly, the mantra of wearing your hat and using sunscreen.
Summer days are always busy. In the middle of the afternoon, it’s time to have an iced drink and read in the shade. I have a few favorites that I revisit every summer, at least for a chapter here and there.
My favorite is “The year of the gardener”, by Karel Capek. The book is a collection of ironic observations on everything that can go wrong in the garden and what mad gardeners are.
Capek (pronounced chop – uk) was 39 years old in 1929 when he published the book in Prague. He was an internationally renowned Czech writer for his play RUR, which introduced the word “robot” to the world in 1921.
Capek said prayers that didn’t include as much as a holy thank you or a grateful thank you. He was quite blunt about what he asked: “That there may be much dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant lice and snails, no mold, and that” once a week liquid manure and guano can fall from the sky. . Amen.”
The goal of Michael pollan, author of “Second nature: the education of a gardener” was not to teach gardening but to help the reader understand “the troubled boundaries between nature and culture, our attitudes towards nature and animals”. The book contains a fair amount of gardening methods, but the main emphasis is on the philosophy of gardening. His writings on “the curious politics of the American lawn and the moral dimensions of the landscape” are particularly amusing.
Pollan also wrote “Botany of desire: a view of the world at the plant”. Pollan connects four basic human desires – sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control with the plants that satisfy them: apple, tulip, marijuana and potato. Pollan illustrates how plants evolved to satisfy humanity’s most basic aspirations.
Amy stewart is one of my favorite authors. Stewart writes in its author’s note for “The Earth has moved: on the remarkable achievements of earthworms”, that she is not a scientist, but rather a gardener interested in earthworms.
Why can’t you ever find a dead earthworm in the ground or in a worm bin? Did you know that the Palouse, Washington area is home to the giant Palouse earthworm, driloleirus americanus? There have been no sightings for over 20 years. If you see a pinkish-white earthworm, two feet or more when fully extended, that smells of lilies – rush it to the nearest university for some documentation. Your fame on the evening news will be guaranteed.
In 2009, Stewart received the American Horticultural Society’s Book Award for “Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother And Other Botanical Atrocities.”
Stewart also wrote the bestseller “Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Evil Bugs.” Both are quick and interesting reads.
On my list for this summer is Stewart’s True Story series about Constance Kopp and her sister, the first women in law enforcement in 1914. Stewart’s interest in the Kopp sisters resulted in seven novels. .
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love”, has written an exciting novel of adventure and discovery called “The Signature of All Things”. It is the story of a woman born in 1800, the daughter of a botanical explorer. The story stretches from America to Tahiti. Alma’s research plunges her deeply into the mysteries of evolution. The story takes a lot of hollows and turns when she falls in love with a man who draws her into the world of spirituality and magic. I read the novel several years ago and would read it a second time.
“Flight Behavior”, by Barbara Kingsolver was written in 2012 and was a bestseller. I only read it last year and I’m glad I waited. I don’t think it would have had the same impact years ago – it seems more timely now that we recognize that there is climate change and also that we are more concerned about monarch butterflies.
Kingsolver has roots in Appalachian culture, which makes dialogue and philosophies more authentic. The main character, Dellarobia is 27 years old, is married to an unimaginative man, has 2 children and lives in a small house on the property of her in-laws. Life was rather dull and dark until hordes of monarchs were discovered which changed the life of the small town in many ways
Henry Mitchell’s name would be more familiar to you if you were from the East Coast. Mitchell wrote for the Washington Post every Thursday under his “Earthman” column for many years. He has been considered the best garden writer in America and a master essayist.
The monthly content may not be totally relevant to our climate, but its words and thoughts are inspiring. Mitchell died in 1993, when a collection of his writings appeared in “Henry Mitchell on Gardening”.
Ciscoe Morris is a well-respected Pacific Northwest garden writer and public speaker. “OH DEAR!” is a fun and humorous tale of his 45 years of gardening, part of which as head gardener at the University of Seattle. He writes on topics that are familiar to us: deer, moles, birds, rats and the secret life of insects.
So much to read, so little time. Hope you find these brief reviews engaging enough to turn off your devices and hang out with the word written in the shade of your favorite tree.