Thursday, December 23, 2010

Favorite Reads of 2010: The Brother Gardeners

It's that time of year again--your friendly neighborhood librarians are eager to tell you about their favorite reads of 2010. Here is Hubert K. with his review:

The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire & The Birth of an Obsession
by Andrea Wulf

The Brother Gardeners is my favorite book from last year, I suppose because it combines a general interest I have for history with a love of plants in all their beauty and diversity, and it explores that subject in a book that is in scholarly conception and in physical design, a wonderful example of the art of the book.

We take the botanical world we know today for granted, and don’t realize that what we know and what we grow in our gardens represents the domestication and familiarization of plant species that to an earlier age were exotic. We have a hibiscus on the front lawn as the result of a conscious and deliberate effort of plant collecting and acquisition by an earlier generation of gardeners. A European botanical garden of the 17th century was analogous to the beautiful engraved maps produced in the century, a symbolic compendium of new discoveries and a triumphant statement that the hidden and far-flung geography of the world, its secrets and treasures, had become known to man and was at his command. They gave names to these plants. A garden, as such, has something fundamentally Edenic about it. A narrative that explores how gardeners tried to recreate and in some symbolic way restore the first garden says something moving and fundamental about human longing, and is perhaps in an ontological sense the most vital and rudimentary history you can write.

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