1. It’s called Grow the Good Life: Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise (Rodale). Note the statement—GROW the good life. Not “Here’s how to grow the good life.” As Michele says in the first chapter, “The problem is that many how-tos refuse to admit the contingency of their own advice. Many of them spend so much time trying to cover every eventuality and anticipating every possible problem that a beginner might reasonably conclude that growing food is nothing but a series of problems.”
2. Like Michele, the book is forthright and opinionated. And funny. I couldn’t agree more when she says, “Seed starting is babysitting, babysitting somebody else’s peevish and ungrateful children. I hate it.” (But, of course, she does it, when there’s no other way to get the varieties she wants.)
3. It talks about the concept of beauty in the garden. It’s strange, but too few gardening books do, and hardly any vegetable gardening books. Books talk about good design and color combinations but they don’t often get into all the strange and wonderful places where beauty can be found—whether in the glossy black of an eggplant or in a misty view of empty plantings beds against an old barn.
4. Grow the Good Life does what no other gardening book has ever done—it makes me hungry. There aren’t recipes, exactly, but in a chapter called Flavor, Michele talks about the difference in flavor between just-picked and just-purchased vegetables, as well as the possibility of some things improving over time—like parsnips: “Finger-sized slices of parsnip roasted in olive oil and salt, with the sugars caramelizing on the outside, is one of the finest dishes known to man. And parsnips … are even sweeter when they’ve sat on my cellar stairs a few months.”
5. I’m giving it away. Please respond in comments and I will choose a winner (randomly) by 2 p.m. EST tomorrow.
I love this book. It’s intelligent, passionate, self-assured, and—most of all—beautifully written. Congratulations, Michele!