So a few weeks ago (well, months ago, really) I received a new book from the University of Chicago Press. It was called “Life in the Soil: A Guide for Naturalists and Gardenersâ€ by James Nardi.
With any book I receive, gift or promotional, I try to read cover to cover before making any comments on them. That was hard with this book, and I have to confess I did not do that.
It wasn’t because it was a bad book. It is a great book if you remember what it is. It was packed full of interesting information that was written well. It was just that it just not the kind of book you read from cover to cover. When they said Field Guide, they meant Field Guide. This is what I would refer to as a flipping book.
You open it up and read the first chapter or so, flip through the pages thinking “I’ve seen one of those beforeâ€ or “I didn’t know thatâ€ and then read the last chapter or so. Than repeat the process many, many times over the course of several years without ever knowing if you have actually accomplished reading the whole book. And of course, you would use it as a reference in the field (i.e. your garden).
So what is this book a field guide of? Life in the soil, of course. If it can come out of the ground, it is in this book. For you bird lovers, this is to dirt what bird field guides are to the air. And when I say everything, I mean everything. They even cover Puffins, who nest in burrows in the ground. Any book on dirt that covers Puffins has to have covered everything.
So who would this book be for? Any one who frequently works with things close to the ground. This would mean the typical gardener, a lawn lover, a landscaper or even an avid hiker. Anyone who might at some time point at the ground andÂ exclaim “Holy shit, what was that?â€ accompanied with or without a small shriek when the object of the question initially reveals itself.
Wonder what that buggy is that just skittered away? What will that grub turn into? How far down do woodchuck holes go? The book has all of this and more.
Every creature’s profile includes a drawn picture to help you match what you saw to what it is. It also includes more information than you thought possible about the individual critters as well.
I will say that this book is not a “fun” read. It is a practical book meant for a practical purpose. You may pick it up on a rainy day out of curiosity, but I doubt you will find yourself settling onto the couch riveted to the pages while enjoying a bottle of wine.
But, Christmas is coming and this book should belong on your wish list if you are the type of person curious about life in the garden beyond the birds and the butterflies. It will become a well worn feature on you gardening bookshelf.
Other reviews of this book:
In the Garden Online