Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History

Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History
by Bill Laws

224 pages
Firefly Books, 2011
List price: $29.95



In the spirit of Wicked Plants (and this is a good thing), Bill Laws brings trivia buffs a treasure trove of quirky facts about fifty plants that made a difference in the world. It matters not whether you're a gardener or that you simply enjoy learning obscure information - this is a book for the curious sort.

There are between 250,000 and 300,000 types of flowering plants in the world, and Laws highlights 50 of them, sharing essential facts such as a description of the plant, its native range and how it has been used thoughout the years and how it has affected human life.

The book itself has a retro feel to it, with beautiful illustrations, vintage photographs, and fonts that enhance that character. An attached ribbon bookmark is a nice touch. But the best part is finding out things like this:

"Adding the female flower clusters of the Common hop (Humulus lupulus) to the brewing process turned ale into beer, and in doing so increased its shelf life."

"Cotton is a natural fabric, yet more chemicals are sprayed on cotton than on any other crop. Today, cotton accounts for less than 3% of the world's farmed land, but it consumes about a quarter of the world's pesticides."


Bill Laws, born in 1948 and brought up in Llansteffan, west Wales, became a journalist/writer after being thrown out of two secondary schools and failing his English exams. Currently editor of Britain's national magazine for Gypsies and Travellers, Travellers' Times, he's the author of 15 titles and working on a social history of street music (involving busking through Britain with his soprano saxaphone).




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The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Grow the Good Life

Grow the Good Life
Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

by Michele Owens

224 pages
Rodale, 2011
List price: $24.99



Some gardening books are how-tos and some are entertaining. The former, I tend to skim through until I come to a part that is relevant to whatever it is I'm trying to do. The latter, I take my time reading and usually don't want it to end. Michele Owens has managed to write a book about vegetable gardening that compels us to grow our own and helps us with how to do it, while being fun to read. Even if you choose not to plant a vegetable garden, you're sure to see the food you eat in a much different light.

I read every word of Grow the Good Life because I didn't want to miss a single tip or anecdote. Owens masterfully weaves vital and interesting facts about our food choices and gardening advice with accounts of her own experiences. She presents an excellent case for growing our own food and I grew more motivated with each page I read.

If you don't already grow some of your own food,  Grow the Good Life will inspire you to do so, and if you already do, you will relate to Owens because she relates to us, and this is what makes it such an enjoyable read.
"No matter how different from me they may be, I find that I can always talk to gardeners. Yes, we share an interest, but the sense of community among gardeners runs deeper than the common topic of conversation and transcends vastly different ways of living." 
~Michele Owens

Michele Owens is a co-founder of Garden Rant, one of the most popular and influential gardening blogs. her articles about gardening have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine and Organic Gardening. She lives in Saratoga Springs and Salem, New York.






__________________
The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.