Books for Plant Lovers

At 246 pages, this adventure story is less intimidating than The Count of Monte Cristo, but it contains just as much intrigue and excitement. From the publisher: “Cornelius von Baerle lives only to cultivate the elusive black tulip and win a magnificent prize for its creation. But when his powerful godfather is assassinated, the unwitting Cornelius becomes caught up in a deadly political intrigue. Falsely accused of high treason by a bitter rival, Cornelius is condemned to life in prison. His only comfort is Rosa, the jailer’s beautiful daughter, who helps him concoct a plan to grow the black tulip in secret.”
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This 1930s Gothic classic is an un-put-down-able, curl-up-by-the-fire mystery. Don't be put off by its age: this thrilling novel feels surprisingly current. Suspenseful but not scary, and it holds its tension on a re-reading: a sure sign of a well-crafted thriller.
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I am here for this tagline: "Two women, separated by centuries. Can one mysterious flower bring them together?" Spanning from present day Australia to 19th century Chile, this novel is well-researched and fast-paced. It’s the perfect summer afternoon read, preferably in a garden with a cool drink in hand.
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This title comes from the Victorian Era’s literal language of flowers, which they relied on to convey feelings rarely spoken of: ardor and friendship, jealousy and envy, infidelity and grief. We meet Victoria Jones on her eighteenth birthday: the day she is emancipated from foster care. Though fluent in the language of flowers, Victoria uses her flowers to communicate distrust and discord. But as she strikes out on her own, she comes to learn that the language of flowers is more complicated than she was taught to believe. This beautiful debut is easy-reading, yet has depth and feeling. Ultimately, it’s a redemption story. And who doesn't love a good redemption story?
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What started as a mission to become a better gardener resulted in an in-depth research mission to understand botany. If you've ever killed a plant (oops…it happens), you'll relate to Kissinger’s experience. This book combines science, history, and biography in a completely engaging narrative. Pick this one up for a deeper understanding of your own garden and the world's first botanists.
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Sweet, sparkly, and thoroughly Southern. Like all the women in her family, Claire Waverley possesses a unique magic: she uses edible flowers to prepare foods that affect the eater in “curious ways.” Years ago, Claire’s sister fled town—and her Waverley gift—but she discovers her own sort of magic when she returns. What to say about this book? The romance verges on twee, the magic is impossible, but put them together and it sings. If you’re not down with supernatural food or a magical apple tree, skip this one—but you should know how many readers call this “a wonderful surprise.” Allen’s long-anticipated next novel, Other Birds, is due out August 30. Open-ish door. For fans of Emily Henry’s Book Lovers and Maria de los Santos’s Love Walked In.
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In this collection of personal essays, Kincaid connects her own experiences with gardening to larger issues like colonialism and prejudice. Her poetic writing style makes for a unique reading experience. If you enjoy authors who play with language and form, definitely pick this one up.
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Gilbert's sweeping novel follows the life of the enigmatic Alma Whittaker, a 19th century scientist (before that was even a word). A maker at heart, and very aware of her strengths and limitations, Alma struggles to develop her unifying "Theory of Competitive Alteration" to describe her findings. Gilbert brings the field of botany to life in this ambitious novel. (Who would have thought moss could be so interesting?)
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If the Brothers Grimm wrote The Secret Garden, this is what it would have been like. This sprawling family saga gets a little unwieldy at times, but I can't say I minded much. History, fairy tale, family drama, and Gothic mystery rolled into one.
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I love Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, and I loved this one. Set in postcolonial Nigeria, Purple Hibiscus is a coming of age story about family, religion, and freedom. This would make a perfect book club pick.
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You've probably never heard the words "science memoir" and "sparkle" in the same sentence before, but this genre-busting tale from one of TIME magazine’s "100 Most Influential People" absolutely does. In alternating chapters, Jahren tells the story of her own development—life, career, love, friendship, and always, always budgetary woes—and a little about her surprisingly fascinating (well, to non-paleobotanists) field of research. It's a terrific read, and as a bonus it's completely inspiring to get this inside look at the life someone who's doggedly pursuing the work she loves, convention be damned. For fans of Annie Dillard, Michael Pollan, and Mary Roach.
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The action in this new suspenseful novel centers around a beautiful private communal garden in London. Most of the neighbors have lived there for years and trust each other implicitly; one family felt lucky to find their new flat when they were displaced from their home after a tragic fire. In the prologue, one of these new neighbors, 12-year-old Grace, is found in a corner of this supposedly idyllic garden, injured and unconscious after a neighborhood party. Jewell flashes back in time to introduce us to all the neighbors, and we discover much to mistrust as we try to figure out what happened to Grace. I read this as a Summer Reading Guide contender, and while it held my attention, it wasn't a favorite. Published June 7, 2016.
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From the publisher: "Since its publication in 2007, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has captivated readers with its blend of memoir and journalistic investigation. When Barbara Kingsolver and her family moved from suburban Arizona to rural Appalachia, they took on a new challenge: to spend a year on a locally-produced diet, paying close attention to the provenance of all they consume. Concerned about the environmental, social, and physical costs of American food culture, they hoped to recover what Barbara considers our nation's lost appreciation for farms and the natural processes of food production. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a modern classic that will endure for years to come."
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"Sometimes I think I've figured out some order in the universe, but then I find myself in Florida." Follow Susan Orlean—who you may know from her bestselling work The Library Book on her investigative journey through the world of orchid-collecting, a surprisingly high-stakes environment. This true story about plants, passion, and justice also inspired the feature-length film Adaptation.
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A spoiled, loveless orphan and a coddled, cantankerous invalid bring a forgotten garden—and each other—to life again in this childhood classic. The themes of rebirth and renewal—and the literal spring that blooms before their eyes in their secret garden—make spring the perfect time to revisit this book, or read it for the first time, as I just did.
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