A Garden of Good Reads

Posted On March 4, 2018

This spring, the staff offer up some flowery reading selections … though some aren’t so pretty

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

This Man Book prize-winner from South Korea tells the story of a young housewife, Yeong-hye, who stops eating meat after a series of bloody dreams. Meanwhile, her brother-in-law has found a way to create his most vibrant piece yet. The choices they make from separate revelations will twine them together while pulling the rest of their family apart. Yeong-hye has always been a model homemaker. Her husband, Mr. Cheong, notes that although he was never particularly attracted to his wife, she suits him and they work well to maintain the conventional life he desires. But when Yeong-hye disposes of all their meat products and refuses to eat or cook any, Mr. Cheong becomes angrier and angrier at her, joining her family’s forceful efforts to get her to start eating meat again. When none of it works he eventually divorces her as “defective.” Yeong-hye’s passive but persistent refusals give her brother-in-law the idea to film himself painting her with flowers as the new project that will push him past his artist’s block. Through his art, he awakens a physical passion for Yeong-hye that she returns while covered in the flowers. She does not want to take the paintings off, and finally she is institutionalized as she believes she is becoming a plant and refuses to eat anything but air.

This novella is an intense read. Revealed as stronger than she seems but increasingly delusional, Yeong-hye represents a struggle to understand and take control of a body and life that have never really felt like her own.  ―Melanie Griffin

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

You will never look at flowers the same way again.  “The Reason for Flowers,” written by scientist, photographer and beekeeper Stephen Buchmann, is an eye-opening look into the world of flowers. This book chronicles the evolution of the modern-day flower, its detailed biology and reproduction, how it works in harmony to help provide the food we eat, the clothes we wear and just about anything we make that has fragrance and color. Buchmann includes receipts for preparing edible flowers and interesting antidotes for some of the unpleasant aromas emitted by certain flowers. There are fascinating facts about the influence of flowers on the world economy, literature, art and so much more.  This is a great book for gardeners or anyone who wants to gain a broad appreciation of the flowers we see in our daily lives. ―Becky Patrick

Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

Wicked Plants is a short compendium of poisonous, invasive, attacking and otherwise dangerous plants. Did you know Hellebores may have been used by the ancient Greeks in one of the first cases of chemical warfare—to poison the water supply of a whole city? Or that rosary pea, once touted as a weather forecaster, is so poisonous you could die from chewing just one seed? Wicked Plants will appeal to gardeners, trivia buffs and readers/writers of murder mysteries looking for a well-planted plot twist. ―Megan Mathis

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh 

Victoria grew up in a brutal foster care system and now lacks the ability to connect with people. The only way she can connect to the world is through plants – especially flowers. To Victoria, every flower has a meaning. Victoria’s talents with flowers and plants is noticed by a florist, who gives Victoria her first job.  Soon, Victoria is helping customers fulfill their desires through flowers. And Victoria’s life begins to bloom as well. This is a beautiful, romantic novel about hope, redemption and second chances. ―Julie Ellis