Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Learning | Amy Stewart's Non-Fiction

I love getting book recommendations from customers.  

One lady, Donna, always seems to be reading things that look interesting to me. We often talk about the mystery books we like.  Recently, she checked out a book that was not a mystery: Amy Stewart's The Earth Moved: the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms. I admired the cover, and mentioned that I had always wanted to learn more about earthworms. (Seriously, who has not wondered why they come out of the ground when it rains? I always feel sorry for the ones who stay on the sidewalk and die.  And what's the difference between an earthworm and a nightcrawler?) I checked out the e-book version.

Donna encouraged me to look for other books by Amy Stewart, too. It turns out that Stewart specializes in writing non-fiction books. 

Reviews of Stewart's work tend to use adjectives like "witty" or "quirky." She wrote her first book after she moved from Texas to Santa Cruz, California. She always dreamed of having a garden. So she set about transforming her tiny 1200 square foot yard into one. She researched the subject of gardening by doing it (not unlike my fellow blogger, Tara, in her Short Attention Span Challenge.) 

Stewart shared her personal experiences, and lore she discovered along the way. I love the quotes she included from old gardening books. I also enjoyed hearing how others shared heirloom seeds with her, especially the story about the little tomato her grandmother sent in the mail. Then there was the time she hired some men to dig in her yard and amend the soil; after she explained what needed to be done, she grabbed her gloves and shovel, and proceeded to work alongside them, all day long. All of that work resulted in From the Ground Up: the Story of a First Garden.

Glancing over the list of Stewart's titles, I realize they all are somehow related to gardens and pests, botany and bugs.  She has an eye for interesting facts about plants and insects. From the Ground Up and Flower Confidential: the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers have chapters which should be read in order because of their logical progression.  As mentioned above, the first book is her own story, so it is written as a first-person narrative.  

The other books are equally interesting, and the chapters are organized in a logical heirarchy, but reading the chapters in random order would be no problem. These are the kinds of books I like to read in a doctor's waiting room, or an airport. Here's a sample from Wicked Bugs,  on page 94, under the "Destructive" section, in an entry called "The Gardener's Dirty Dozen:" "They may not change the course of civilization. They might not spread the plague or send villagers fleeing for the hills. And they've probably never been implicated in a murder--although they do inspire murderous rages. These are just some of the pests that drive gardeners mad."  

I, for one, am glad Amy Stewart is able to share her interests so eloquently.

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