Elisabeth C. Miller Library

Book Reviews

Reviews of recommended books by Miller Library staff and volunteers.


The Book of Difficult Fruit by Kate Lebo, 2021

Reviewed by: Tracy Mehlin on December 30, 2021
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Fruit might be considered difficult because it’s hard to grow, arduous to prepare, almost impossible to buy or else fraught with emotional associations. Kate Lebo’s talent lies in weaving her personal fascination with the various fruits — and a couple of non-fruits such as wheat and sugarcane — with her efforts to use it in…


The Northwest Gardens of Lord & Schryver by Valencia Libby, 2021

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on December 29, 2021
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I have been interested in the history of horticulture in the Pacific Northwest from an early age. However, I only recently learned of the work of landscape architects Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver and their practice based in Salem, Oregon from 1929 to 1969. Their story is told in compelling detail in The Northwest Gardens…


Wild World Handbook: How Adventurers, Artists, Scientists–and You–Can Protect Earth’s Habitats by Andrea Debbink, 2021

Reviewed by: Laura Blumhagen on December 22, 2021
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  The Wild World Handbook offers something special for all ages, though it’s aimed at ages 8-12. Part biography, part nature guide, part workbook, it’s a visually appealing book you’ll want to dip into over and over. The nine chapters each feature a particular habitat: mountains, forests, deserts, polar regions, oceans, freshwater, cities, rainforests, and…


Lost Feast: Culinary Extinction and the Future of Food by Lenore Newman, 2019

Reviewed by: Tracy Mehlin on
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When I first heard the phrase “food security” I thought of barriers due to poverty or living in inner city food deserts without grocery stores. After a particularly wet November one year when floods closed the I-5 freeway for a few days I heard the concept also applied to the danger of our region being…


In the Garden: Essays on Nature and Growing by Various Authors, 2021

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on November 3, 2021
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In the Garden: Essays on Nature and Growing is a slim volume that covers a lot of ground. There are essays by well-known writers like Penelope Fitzgerald and Jamaica Kincaid, but American readers will likely be unfamiliar with most of the other contributors. The book is divided in thematic sections: The Garden Remembered, The Collective…


The Multifarious Mr. Banks : from Botany Bay to Kew, the Natural Historian Who Shaped the World by Toby Musgrave, 2020

Reviewed by: Priscilla Grundy on October 21, 2021
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Joseph Banks was indeed multifarious. Webster defines the term as “having or occurring in great varieties.” Garden lovers might know that Banks became famous after collecting plants on a round-the-world voyage with Captain Cook on the Endeavour in 1768-71, and that he developed and guided Kew Gardens for decades. Toby Musgrave does justice to these…


Ponderosa : People, Fire, and the West’s Most Iconic Tree by Carl E. Fiedler, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on
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For many years, I would travel to eastern Washington for Thanksgiving. On these trips, I was always struck by the seemingly sudden appearance of ponderosa pine trees (Pinus ponderosa) when crossing the Spokane County line, after many miles of agricultural fields or grasslands. These stately trees created a park-like setting as they were well-spaced, with…


The Cactus Family by Edward Anderson, 2001

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on September 20, 2021
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Edward Anderson was for 30 years a biology professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla before finishing his career at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. The Cactus Family is the culmination of his life’s work as, sadly, he died shortly after publication, but more importantly because it will be a long-time standard reference for…


Urban Forestry & Urban Greening by Elsevier , 2002

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on September 17, 2021
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One of the more popular periodical publications in the Miller Library is Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, a peer-reviewed, internationally-focused journal published 10 times per year. The publisher (Elsevier) describes the focus as “urban and peri-urban woody and non-woody vegetation and its use, planning, design, establishment and management.” The editors accept submissions on a wide…


An Illustrated History of the Herbals by Frank Anderson , 1977

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on
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While researching the oldest books in the Miller Library’s collection, I discovered a much more recent gem. An Illustrated History of the Herbals by Frank Anderson quickly became a valuable resource in my study of our rare books. I say recent – but that is relative. Anderson’s book dates from 1977, when he was honorary…



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