Books to Read
closed book “The true University of these days is a Collection of Books.”
— Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), The Hero as a Man of Letters
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Nature Books: opening our eyes to nature's wonder & mysteries...
Alice Thoms Vitale, Leaves Alice Thoms Vitale, Leaves in Myth, Magic & Medicine (1997), Stewart Tabori & Chang, ISBN: 1556705549— The author is 89 years old and this is her first book— a real beautiful and useful guide for nature lovers. Truly original and unique, Leaves is the visionary life work of Alice Vitale who has devoted 30 years to researching and creating authentic portraits of living leaves. This historical herbal is an appreciative salute to the wonder, beauty, and utility of leaves, as well as a visual guide to their identity. From ancient to modern cultures, here are the distant voices of folk-healers, herbalists, and physicians mingled with superstitions, myths, medicines, recipes, and poetry. Over 110 specimens from American soil are illustrated with fascinating facts in botany, horticulture, history, literature, food, and folklore. Some gems from the book: Edison used bamboo filaments for the incandescent light bulb as late as 1910. The Australian koala bear feeds on eucalyptus leaves that are 12-18 months old. Younger leaves lack enough oil for nourishment while older ones contain deadly prussic acid. The koala can detect fine differences that chemists find difficult to ascertain. Whitman says “Every leaf a miracle.” So is this book! Avg. Review (2): 5 stars
Pakenham, Meetings with Remarkable Trees Thomas Pakenham, Meetings with Remarkable Trees (1998), Random House, ISBN: 0375752684— You enter a shrine when reading this book. It's a personal selection of 60 ancient large living trees, all with a strong personality. It's these living monuments that the author has given homage with his pen and camera. In this magnificent volume, Pakenham assembles a beautifully photographed gallery of 60-odd trees of Scotland, England, and Ireland. I enjoyed the author's tracking down Wordsworth's yew tree from his 1803 poem “the pride of Lorton's vale”— a 1000-year old tree. Some of the photographs are indeed breathtaking— the Metasequoia at Cambridge's Botanic Garden with hundreds of branches swirling like the arms of Lord Shiva dancing; the Chinese wisteria at Kew whose stems twine together like Medusa's serpents; the beech hedge at Meikleour that resembles a cascading green waterfall from heaven. Pakenham includes a map of Britain and Ireland showing the locations of his sacred trees, so readers who are inspired may retrace his steps and visit these ancient beings to receive their blessings. Avg. Review (1):5 stars
Diana Wells, Ippy Patterson, 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names Diana Wells, 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names (1997), illustrated by Ippy Patterson, Algonquin Books, ISBN: 1565121384— If you love horticultural history, etymology, and flower lore— this is the book for you. Diana Wells has uncovered myths, legends, folk beliefs, and stories of the intrepid botanists who searched the world's far corners for new and unusual flowers. From baby blue eyes to silver bells, from abelia to zinnia, every flower tells a story. The author presents well-known garden favorites and the not-so-well-known stories behind their names. Not for gardeners only, these flower stories tell of human striving, stories of ambitious explorers, clever hucksters, arbitrary monarchs, and patient scientists. Written with wit and energy, this book is an essential reference book for those interested not only in the flower blossoms, but the root systems the flowers as well. The 100 two-color illustrations are delightful as you read and learn more of your garden favorite blossoms. Avg. Review (1): 5 stars
Henry David Thoreau, Walking Henry David Thoreau, Walking (1994), Harper San Francisco; ISBN: 0062511130— “I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute Freedom and Wildness” Thoreau begins his meditative 1862 essay on Walking. He goes on to describe the art of taking walks—
a word derived from sainte-terrer— a holy-lander. For Thoreau, walking is a sacred pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and every step brings us closer to the beauty and purity of Nature. Reading this essay is like sauntering with Thoreau as he points out the marvels and mysteries that surround us. He ends the essay with this visionary note: “So we saunter toward the Holy Land; till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, so warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in Autumn.” This is a wonderful book to bring along when you go on a hike. Avg. Review (1): 5 stars

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email: (10-16-99, updated 11-27-99)