Sunday, November 27, 2005

This Week's Recommended Reading: Week of November 25th

I know, I know, my weekly recommended reading is a couple of days late. I blame it on turkey-induced lethargy and general laziness. Anyway, here are my recommended books for this week: Accordion Crimes and Western Garden Book. (previously recommended books).

Accordion Crimes (E. Annie Proulx)

This week's fiction recommendation is Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx, author of the prize-winning novel The Shipping News, and the short story Brokeback Mountain. (Proulx's official web site)

Accordion Crimes traces the travels of an accordion across North America, giving us a glimpse into the lives of its owners and the hardships they face. The novel highlights the diversity of the people that settled North America: the accordion was carried by an Italian immigrant to New Orleans, and it travels to Germans in Iowa, a hispanic community in Texas, Acadians in Maine, and onward. All share a love of music that links them to their heritage as well as to each other.

The constant shift in scene doesn't lend itself to deep character development. Instead it is closer to a collection of short stories, each giving the flavor of the lives touched by the accordion. This is not the novel for you if you are looking for happy endings; most of the characters face tragedy and many succumb to untimely deaths. In the end, the music lives on.

Western Garden Book

If you live in the western part of the United States - Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, or Wyoming - this should be your gardening bible. Unlike many "nation-wide" gardening tomes, it takes into account the numerous microclimates that exist even within a relatively small region. My own area is in zone 19, the "thermal belts around Southern California's interior valleys", optimal for citrus trees and bougainvillea, but not rhododendrons or apples.

The guide includes a section on plant selection organized by type of plant, season when it blooms and color of flowers and foliage, among other criteria. The encyclopedia portion is very detailed, with information on which varieties should be used in different growing zones. There is also practical guide to gardening with sections targeted to concerns for the western gardener, such as fire-resistant landscaping and water conservation, in addition to practical tips on planting, growing and pest management. The encyclopedia is illustrated throughout, both with photographs and drawings.

If you must have one gardening book, this is the one to buy.

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