With the plethora of books, web sites, videos etc on permaculture one might ask oneself why another book on the subject. My own answer (after half a century of gardening and ten years direct experience with the subject at hand) is that the first generation of books, such as those of Mollison, Holmgren and others, gave us the vision and the principles but attempts to put the theory into practice, especially in temperate climes, were discouraging. From my own experience, nothing beats a hands-on practical course. Nevertheless, I will present three books on permaculture.
All three books contain tons of practical information and fabulous illustrations. All three aim “to whittle down all of the information and theory and experience into a tool that can be used in a practical way” (Faires, N). Having said this, have they succeeded, to what extent and for whom? This last point, which I hope to address in this review, is what most distinguishes them.
The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture by Nicole Faires, Skyhorse Publishing, 2012
The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture is the most comprehensive and deals with the theory and practice of permaculture as a whole. The author states that “this book is for those who are willing to go the whole way into changing their lifestyle.” She presents an excellent introduction to the fundamentals of permaculture: design, energy, water, homes and shelter, gardens, cooking and preserving, community, etc. without getting enmeshed in a kind of religious zeal which colours some of the writing and courses on permaculture. In fact, the author specifically states that she aims to stay away from ideologies to concentrate on the science.
This book is an excellent practical manual and reference book to both the theory and practice of permaculture especially for those who want to live in a self-reliant, sustainable and ecological way. Although the author lives in BC, her examples cover all the climatic zones of the USA and southern Canada.
The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture: Creating an Edible Ecosystem by Christopher Shein with Julie Thompson, Timber Press, 2013
The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture narrows the domain of permaculture to focus on gardening. What distinguishes this book is the way that the author leads us through the design process. All books on permaculture stress that design is at the heart of permaculture but few take us through the process in an easy non-technical fashion so this approach is particularly useful to those of us who have not studied design in a formal way. The author leads us, step-by-step, in a practical hands-on way, in creating an edible ecosystem with many useful inserts, diagrams and illustrations. Along the way he addresses all of the basic principles and provides examples from his own garden. This book is useful to both the beginner and those with more gardening experience who are new to permaculture. The author lives in California and most of the examples are for a slightly warmer climate than ours nevertheless are generally applicable to those of us who live in the southern part of Canada.
Permaculture for the Rest of Us: Abundant Living on Less than an Acre by Jenni Blackmore, New Society Publishers, 2015
Last but not least, there is Permaculture for the Rest of Us: Abundant Living on Less than An Acre. The title says it all. The author, who lives on a small island east of Halifax, aims to write “an encouragement manual” in order “to save others from getting bogged down by the same mistakes we made.” She wants to “share her story with those who dwell in less benign places” in her case, a windswept island, 1-2 inches of poor acidic topsoil, poor drainage and so on. At last a book that speaks to the rest of us, from Newfoundland across the Canadian shield and the boreal forest over the northern prairies to the Rockies and beyond.
The author’s style is anecdotal and LOL funny. She meshes permaculture principles with her own experience as a low-income mom ruled by necessity wanting fresh food from her own garden from late May to December. Her stated intention was “to write a beginner’s guide. . . to entice readers into the wonderful world of permaculture.” She eschews dense technical explanations yet succeeds in presenting the fundamental concepts of permaculture in a humorous, user-friendly manner. She makes no pretense to be exhaustive yet the basics are all there. Although the book is purportedly for beginners, I found it to be an entertaining refresher. I believe she will succeed in enticing at least some readers to further pursue their exploration of permaculture.
You can find these books and many more in the COG Library here.
Books are shipped across Canada for free!