Seeing Further – ed. Bill Bryson

306401bf972265959697a596a51434f414f4141This is a book of essays written for the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society (back in 2010 – there are some political leaning statements in certain areas that are depressingly dated).

There is a real mix of topics – some are very science oriented, some more concerned with the history of the Society and its fellows, and some that are more critiques (of a variety of things). It’s definitely got variety – I think most people could find something to enjoy and something to hate in this book.


Flowers and Herbs in Early America – Lawrence D. Griffith


This is an interesting book, based on the author’s trials at Colonial Williamsburg of various plants that were thought to be available for Colonial era gardeners. He talks about where they were found in sources, reasons that they might have been brought over, and even why some of those plants are probably problematic if you’re trying for absolute authenticity. He also includes tips from his trials and what he grew them with.

I did really enjoy the book, but if you want to put it into practical application, you definitely want to live closer to the Mason-Dixon line – there are some lovely plants in here that my zone 5 garden would eat for dinner over the winter.

Weeds – Richard Mabey

f08457ac84d6b1b597a596f6141434f414f4141This is a book about weeds, but if you’ve studied plants at all, you know that weeds are far more than just those plants that invade our gardens. If they’re not natives, there’s probably a reason they’re there, and those stories can be quite interesting.

The author is English, so this is very much about the weeds of England – there’s plenty there that I’m familiar with, but it is a different landscape than my own. I did find it a bit dry at times – not sure if that was influenced by that lack of complete connection.

The Shakespearean Botanical – Margaret Willes

1851244379-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_I picked this up for myself as a souvenir from the Bodleian Library. I don’t normally buy books in England (it’s one thing where the prices are usually far better in the US), but this was unique, and actually published by the Bodleian Library press, so I jumped on it.

It’s a cool little book, using illustrations from John Gerard’s Herball of 1597, which Shakespeare would probably have known, and tying them in with passages from his plays and the longer narrative poems. It’s a nice addition to my gardening book collection.


The Species Seekers – Richard Conniff

0393068544-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_This book chronicles the natural history movements in the era leading up to Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle, and how the advances in technology of that time created a craze for finding new species, and what that meant for science. Darwin certainly wasn’t the only game in town – you meet a number of other naturalists – either in the field, or those gentlemen that funded or ordered species for their homes. It’s a fascinating mix, and after reading this book, I’m frankly amazed that there are any exotic species left after this era – I’m glad we can record things thoroughly with cameras these days.

It was also interesting to see how much dissent existed in these groups, and the various discoveries that built into Darwin’s theory of evolution of are fascinating. I think we’ve forgotten how completely revolutionary (and dangerous, from a religious sense), that idea was when Darwin published – it’s an interesting exercise to see what was happening in the lead up to his publication.

The Trees in My Forest – Bernd Heinrich

a7cfde7a4e1b0b4593049785851434f414f4141I have to admit, half the reason I probably liked this book so much is that it’s talking about the forests of Maine, admittedly a little further from the coast from my usual haunts, but close to where my mother grew up, so I’m very familiar.

This book is basically a love story to a patch of land in the mountains near Rumford, Maine, that the author owns, and has watched change over the years. He’s wandered around the property extensively, and the book has detailed observations of the plants and animals he’s seen. If you want a good flavor for the Maine forest – this book will give you that, with a real sense of love throughout the pages.