Reading, like feasting your eyes on a fresh bouquet of flowers, is like dreaming with your eyes open. This summer, we say, up the ante, and enjoy them together! Read on for 7 books that either feature flowers in their plot, give practical gardening tips, have flower-inspired titles, or are other flower-related fiction and non-fiction. From true crime to classic literature, we’re about to beautify your summer reading list.
For Non-Fiction Readers
Desert Flower by Waris Dirie & Cathleen Miller
This inspiring true story follows Waris Dirie on her journey from an unspeakably challenging childhood (where she was never even taught to read) to blossoming into a world-renowned fashion model, and even more notably, a human rights ambassador for the U.N. The road was anything but easy for Waris. She bravely left her home country in search of a better life and took on menial jobs, like cleaning houses and working at McDonald’s, to make ends meet. But there was nothing that could slow her down on her voyage of growth and self-realization. When it comes to book titles, Desert Flower is one of our favorites ever! Desert flowers are known for their resilience; they can grow and flourish in even the toughest of conditions, and that is exactly what Waris has done, and is still doing. This book is a definite must-read for young girls and women everywhere.
Praise for Desert Flower: “Waris’s story is one of remarkable courage. From the deserts of Somalia to the world of high fashion, she battles against oppression and emerges a real champion. She is the most beautiful inspiration to anyone.” —Elton John
For Fans of Fiction
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This novel follows fifteen-year-old Kambili as she comes of age. When a military coup suddenly forces her to move in with her professor uncle and his family, she learns that a beautiful world exists outside her protective father’s grasp. In her uncle’s home, Kambili is exposed to a colorful, more liberal life, full of knowledge, discussions, and warmth. The title refers to a purple hibiscus that grows in Kambili’s aunt’s garden. Ever heard of purple hibiscus? Likely not! Purple hibiscus doesn’t typically grow in nature, instead, this one was created by her aunt’s botanist friend. It’s a stunning, rare sight to behold, making it the perfect symbol for our heroine as her beauty is forged not naturally, but from her incredible experiences, the sum of which makes her that much more breathtaking.
Praise for Purple Hibiscus: “This has a high standing on my top ten list of books to read, and hopefully, it will be on yours too!” —The Guardian
For Young Readers
Flora: A Botanical Pop-Up Book by Yoojin Kim & Nicole Yen
Your little ones will open this book and be fully transported to a playful and immersive world of flowers—lucky! Flora covers the intricate voyage that flowers make from seedling to vase, including highlighting the roles of bees, hummingbirds, bats, and more! With colorful pop-ups, informative pull-tabs, and incredible educational facts (did you know that hummingbirds can drink up to 2x their body weight in nectar a day?), this book is a full-immersive experience for you and your little tot.
Praise for Flora: “What a beautiful book! Every page I turned my 2-year daughter said wow! The pictures are realistic she even tried to smell the flowers.” —Bernadette (who needs literary critics when you have praise from mom and daughter?)
For Aspiring Florists
On Flowers: Lessons from an Accidental Florist by Amy Merrick
Calling this a “coffee book table” simply doesn’t do it justice. This book is a ticket to the incredible world of Amy Merrick who is on a mission to turn all your preconceived notions about flowers on their head. Expect to walk away with a newfound appreciation for wildflowers, insider insight on how to arrange like a floral designer, an understanding of the beauty of unstructured designs, and a look inside a lifestyle that can only be described as scrumptious and totally Instagrammable. Whether you’re an old flower pro or an aspiring florist yourself, this book is full of nuggets that can be utilized in your home, garden, or even personal life. It’s a must-read and a must-see!
Praise for On Flowers: “If coffee tables could make . . . wish lists, [this book] would certainly be on them.”
—Better Homes & Gardens
For Classic Literature Lovers
The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck
In The Chrysanthemums, we follow Elisa, a hardworking woman who runs a farm with her husband in the early 20th century. Her humdrum life of tending to the crops and animals swiftly turns into her greatest pleasure when it’s finally time for Elisa to tend to her prized Chrysanthemums. Her face all but lights up when offered the chance to discuss her precious plants and the meticulous process behind the “yellow chrysanthemums (that) were ten inches across” with a passerby. This short story highlights the beauty of tending to your own garden and even digs deeper and speaks out on the state of women’s rights in society during the 1930s in the USA—much of which is still relevant to this day. You can read the whole story here or in The Long Valley, a collection of short stories by Steinbeck.
Praise for The Chrysanthemums: Because we all know and love John Steinbeck, instead of more praise, we’re going to give you more colorful writing about flowers from Steinbeck. “The spring flowers…were unbelievable. The whole valley floor would be carpeted with lupins and poppies. Every petal of blue lupin is edged with white so that a field of lupins is more blue than you can imagine.” —John Steinbeck, East of Eden
For Art Lovers
Hummelo: A Journey Through a Plantsman’s Life by Piet Oudolf
This stunning collection features 350+ photographs and fascinating stories from the personal garden of Piet Oudolf, the renowned Dutch landscape designer. Each year, thousands of flower aficionados flock to the small town of Hummelo in the Netherlands to visit the home gardens of the famed landscape designer who’s credited as a trailblazer of sustainable garden design. His distinctive style highlights his extensive knowledge and appreciation of plants, perennials over annuals, and biodiverse plants with interesting shapes. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand (or green thumb) at landscape design, this magnificent collection also covers landscaping techniques, matrix planting, and much more.
Praise for Hummelo: “An updated version of the original . . . reflects important new commissions and directions for Oudolf.” —The Washington Post
For True Crime Fans
The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean
This riveting tale of thievery and deceit covers the crimes of Florida-based horticulturist and plant dealer John Laroche. In 1994, Laroche was arrested for poaching rare orchids in the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. Driven by money and glory, Laroche was obsessed with cloning the elusive ghost orchid. In an incredible turn of events, his trial defense must rely solely on a loophole in Floridian law that claims Seminole natives can remove endangered species from the swamp. Spike Jonze’s film version Adaptation, with an all-star cast including Nicolas Cage, Tilda Swinton, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper, is also a must-see for flower (especially orchid) fans everywhere.
“It is despite her thief, and not because of him, that Orlean succeeds in revealing the grandeur of a miniature.” —The New York Times
What was your favorite book on the list? Have suggestions for our Fall Floral Reading List? Comment below—this can be our own little virtual Book Club!