Holiday Giving 2012: Books I Love

Books are  a welcome token of love for any occasion. They truly are the “gift that keeps on giving” as they get passed from friend to friend and share their goodness along the way. I am an avid reader and sharer. Since I don’t keep books, one of my few regrets in life is not making a list of everything I’ve read – mostly because I sometimes buy something and start reading to realize I’d been there before. Oh that makes me mad! But I digress…

I’ve read each of these books in the past year… some inspired me for the work we do with Peterson Garden Project. Some have made me feel that the writer was a friend of mine and we were having a talk about a topic we both love. All of them touched me deeply. And, for someone who reads as much as I do, this is a beautiful thing.

Part 1: Garden Biographies and History (with a tasty distraction)

If you’ve heard the expression “standing on the shoulders of giants” it aptly applies to Diane Ott Whealy and Seed Saver’s Exchange. The explosion of popularity for heirloom seeds and, more importantly, the awareness of their critical value can be credited to 30+ years of hard work and dedication of this great lady. Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver chronicles the birth of a movement from humble beginnings. I won’t gush too much about how I admire Diane (you can read more here) but reading this book about how SSE was founded and evolved to the important role it plays today in the world of genetic diversity was awe inspiring.


Will Allen and Growing Power have become household names – at least in the households I am invited to. The Good Food Revolution should be required reading for those invoking Will’s name and work. Like Diane Wheley’s book, The Good Food Revolution explains how passion can fuel years of hard, hard work and that faith in an idea can change the world.

I got first hand exposure to the power of the revolution Will has been nurturing at the 2012 International Growing Power Conference in Milwaukee. The energy and hope this movement has inspired are non-stoppable. Read the book now so you’re in the know – this is good stuff.


Back to the heirloom seed theme… Jere Gettle from Baker Creek has turned a childhood obsession into a thriving business and furthered the mission of seed diversity in the process. The Heirloom Life Gardener is another epic tale of love woven into a life’s mission to create something we’re all benefitting from now.

This past November, I got a chance to visit the Petaluma Seed Bank in Northern California and see this work up close (and walk out with a staggering credit card total – how could I resist?)


And now a little palette cleanser:

Don’t hate me but I don’t watch food shows because I think they are cruel. You can’t smell or taste the food – torture! Until reading this book, I had similarly avoided prose books about cooking. A decision that I now very much regret.

Once in awhile you pick up a book and feel the author had read your mind.  In The Everlasting MealTamar Adler captures the passion of loving food not as a hobby (she’s not a “foodie”) but as a daily companion. The story is an endless thread of how one ingredient or meal becomes the basis for the next one in a lovely string of days and life. Her cooking isn’t fancy, nor is her equipment, but the way she humanizes home cooking is remarkable.

As soon as I read this book I started reading it again and recommended it to my friend Susan from Cardamom Kitchen. She suggested that I read Laurie Colwin’s A Writer in the Kitchen which I loved. MK Fisher is up for 2013! I have learned my lesson…

And now back to gardening topics…

Rebecca Rupp’s How Carrots Won The Trojan War is FUN. I read it twice. Then I bought several copies to send to my garden geeky friends (Seasonal Wisdom – yours is in the mail!).

This book is a 1-2 punch for those who love gardening AND history – and who doesn’t?! With chapter titles like “An Eggplant Causes a Holy Man To Faint” this charming book is full of surprises and joy. After reading it, you’ll think differently about your garden next season – or at least have some good dinner table conversation topics. Throw down “Corn Creates Vampires” next time someone is ready to bore you on a monologue about the Twilight Saga and see where that gets you…


On the history topic, I read Andrea Wulf’s Founding Gardeners just after this year’s unpleasant election. Aside from appreciating how gardens and agriculture deeply influenced the birth and early years of our country, I was also reminded that politics are ugly and always have been… after the Geo Washington’s first presidential term the country split into (roughly) what we understand as red states and blue states now. And the founding fathers found solace from the pitfalls of politics in their obsession with gardening and agriculture.

This book is well researched (that means lots of footnotes).

I also loved this book because I’m a big Thomas Jefferson fan. His “although I am an old man, I am but a young gardener” quote has become a mantra for me. I have yet to make the pilgrimage to Monticello but another TJ geek I know, P. Allen Smith, was there earlier this year and shared this great video to make us all jealous…

Up next – Part 2: How-To Books Written by the Obsessed Passionate










LaManda JoyHoliday Giving 2012: Books I Love

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