Before you buy gardening books or books about plants, it helps to read reviews of them. But to derive maximum benefit from those reviews, approach them with a game plan. Don't be content simply to learn something of the subject matter of a book and how highly the reviewer rated it....
Inexpensive Gardening Books Packed With Information
Draw up a checklist, ahead of time, indicating general attributes of gardening books that make or break a particular gardening book for you (or for a gift recipient). With this approach, you tailor your reading of the review to your own needs. Not every reviewer will address all the concerns on the checklist; but what one review fails to cover, another will, hopefully, address.
Price is, of course, a consideration when buying gardening books. The book below is a good example of an inexpensive gardening book that packs a lot of planting ideas into a small space:
Gardening Books With Literary Themes
But we don't look for planting ideas from all gardening books. Some gardening books are more literary in nature -- calling, necessarily, for a different checklist. Are you more interested, e.g., in older writers or current ones? Are you more interested in theory or tales from everyday folks?
The point is to take control of your reading of the gardening book review, rather than being a passive reader, by prioritizing. If you already know what concerns rank highest for you before you begin reading, you'll be better able to zero in on those concerns when (if) the author addresses them.
Gardening Books Handy As References
Generally, if you're buying a book to identify plants, you'll want lots of great pictures. But one of the most highly rated wildflower ID guides, Newcomb's, provides the exception to the rule. Using a key system, the reader answers questions about what a plant looks like and is guided to the ID in a logical, systematic manner.
Would such an approach work for you? If not, indicate so on your checklist. The other 2 books below are much more picture-oriented.
When buying plant books specifically for ID purposes, portability can be an issue. The pocket-size Audubon Society series of field guides is ideal.
Gardening Books Specific to Climate
Further aspects of gardening books you might wish to look for include:
- Historical background on plants
- Humorous writing style
- Plant information specific to your climate
Of particular importance, from a practical perspective, is #3. If you are a northern gardener, for example, looking for planting ideas, it's critical that a gardening book focus on plants hardy in your area. All 3 books below treat hardy plants; but for the first 2, hardy plants are the focus.
Other Considerations When Buying Gardening Books
I prefer reference books with information presented in alphabetical order, as is true of the native plants and black plants books mentioned above, as opposed to Hardy Succulents. But if design information is what you seek, both the latter and the black plants book are excellent.
Gardening book buyers will always have to weigh price against thoroughness. While the book on attracting wildlife I mentioned earlier offers lots of information for the price, it can't compete with the following, larger volume: