Monday, December 28, 2009

Reading Season for Gardeners

Come the first of January, or even before, the flood of seed catalogs will begin arriving in gardeners' mailboxes. If you are like me, this provides a joyful ritual of sitting in a favorite chair, highlighter in hand, dreaming of the ultimate garden that will surely grow this summer.

But seed catalogs are not the only solace for the aching soul of the sunlight-deprived gardener in the depths of winter. In recent years we have been blessed with a number of terrific books that make for interesting and enjoyable reading and might fill our bookshelves with more than just gardening-reference.

Most recently I completed (courtesy of the wonderful Lincoln County library system) the current and compelling Fruitless Fall by Rowan Jacobsen. This well-paced volume will school the gardener in exacting terms on the life cycle and habits of our revered European honeybee, as well as other less known pollinators. It reads like a who-dunnit, positing various culprits as to the source of the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder that ravaged American honeybee populations in recent years. A fascinating look inside the life of our critical insect link to food, and how it relates to the general state of our food system, along with ideas for how to heal it.

Last winter my non-reference gardening read was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. As someone who has grown produce for sale, and continues to try and source my food locally when I myself cannot grow it, I found this book inspiring and enlightening, not to mention well written. Ms. Kingsolver and her adult daughter chronicle a year of eating locally for their family, both from their own produce and the little egg-factory set up by her younger daughter. I will admit a fondness for Kingsolver's fictional writing, but strangely it was this book that drew me into her vast library. Upon finishing this non-fiction book, I quickly went on to read long-neglected fiction titles, including "The Poisonwood Bible," probably her masterpiece.

Gardeners who enjoy growing edibles will especially enjoy The Fruit Hunters by Adam Leith Gollner. I heard a couple interviews with Mr. Gollner on the radio promoting this book and headed to the library as usual. I'm afraid these publishers don't make much off my buying habits. Anyway his book is something of a travelogue, fruit inventory and study of strange characters involved in the fruit trade, both growers and sellers. Although I have spent many years growing and studying fruiting plants, there were dozens he described I had never heard of, mostly due to climate and the restrictive fruit trade. How might organized crime be involved with the fruit on our tables, you ask? A question answered in this book, along with many other arcane fruit-related topics.

Enjoy the restful book-friendly months of winter! I would love to hear other gardeners' favorite non-reference books, please share in the comments below.

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