I’ve spent much time reading many books, particularly older ones, concerning gardening, farming, cooking, natural history and numerous related areas. Almost every one has taught me something new. However a few books turned out to be exceptional; so well written or informative they became worth reading solely for their own worth regardless of any intellectual or pragmatic interest in their actual subject matter.
Many of these great works are known only by collectors of antiquarian books or literary scholars and seldom are any ever brought to the public’s notice. You are unlikely to pick one up by chance so without recommendation you would probably never uncover it’s wonders. I have discovered these books virtues and want you to enjoy them too. Thus I am recommending those that I have found really superb. And all of them lead to a fuller understanding of this wonderful world.
As I said, you do not need to have an interest in the subject to be entranced by a book. This is what is so delightful about many older books- they have unique insights, explanations and asides as well as footnotes, anecdotes and profuse examples. Now these would be edited out. But so often it is in these ‘errata’ that the most interesting nuggets are unearthed.
Many of these fine books are long out of print, and even when available as re-prints are seldom widely known. Yet each should be. Fortunately now with the facilitation of the internet many institutions are making such gems from their library available as e-books, with more becoming available daily. Where known this has been indicated and where possible a link given. Market e-sites and second hand bookshops are another source and original quite readable copies in dishevelled condition may be available much more economically than perfect leather bound tomes or expensive photo re-prints.
you do not need to have an interest in the subject to be entranced by a book
Most of these books will be especially valuable for students and scholars of the natural sciences wanting sources of original observation and argument. Of course academic courses recommend those books you need for your studies, or more accurately, for your exams. But seldom will they suggest discarded or politically incorrect predecessors, and they never mention any books you might actually find interesting!
Other books you might like to know of are the necessary references for the practical back yard gardener wishing to understand the processes they are working with or to identify some unknown plant or critter. Although the internet can be a good source of information often a book is more convenient and can be ‘to hand’. So I have included a list of those reference books I find I use more often than others though of course there are so many potential alternatives.
Indeed; omission from any of my lists is no insult, it’s merely there are so many more to select from, in the end it can only be my opinion….
Thus the following is my ‘recommended reading list’, those books I found riveting must reads, the many others uniquely interesting and well worth reading, and those that I find exceptionally good for reference.