God of the Garden Reading List

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Hello, folks! I had good intentions of adding this resource list to the Rabbit Room’s annual “Stuff We Liked in 2021” post, but the document kept growing and I missed the boat. I ended up posting these on social media, but thought it would be helpful to compile them here for your perusal. One of my favorite parts of writing The God of the Garden was the excuse to read a whole bunch of books about place, culture, gardening, community, and the natural world, and to read them through the lens of my belief in Christ, his Kingdom, and the promise of a New Creation. Lest you think I read more than I do, I confess that I read a few of these in 2020, and a couple of others were first read years ago but were referenced in my book. I hope some of these will ignite in you a love for this creation that God so loves.

As I wrote in the afterword, “We have a mandate to take care of the place, and we’re told in Scripture that the master of the house is returning. This is more than an environmental concern (though it is certainly that, too). It extends to the way we build things, the way we get around, the way we do the business of life. If God intends for us to flourish, we disregard the flourishing of his creation at our peril. Infrastructure, city planning, creation care, justice, neighborliness, and stewardship of resources are all theological concerns.” Happy reading!

William Wordsworth: Poems Selected by Seamus Heaney

It can be difficult to know where to begin with a poet, so it’s not a bad idea to let another Great Poet point the way. This little pocket edition lived in my backpack for about a year, and is the reason the chapters of The God of the Garden were structured around Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.”

Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selborne

Selborne is a lovely little village in Hampshire, England, right up the road from English L’Abri. I have good memories of walking with Jamie through the pasture below the church and into the hills along muddy footpaths, where we were chased by cows. We learned that it’s difficult to run in Wellies, especially in ankle-deep mud. We also climbed the famous zig zag path he cut with his brother in 1753, up a steep hill into Selborne Hanger, where White spent a lot of his time carefully observing the minutiae of natural life. It’s a lesson in paying attention. Last summer we met some good friends for tea at the museum there, where we saw his original manuscript and then wandered the gardens he planted. He was a humble man, and pastored the church there for his whole life. His grave in an unassuming corner of the churchyard is nondescript, which feels beautifully appropriate.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

I’ve written at length about this one, so if you aren’t convinced yet, you never will be. One of the great works of American literature, says I. In 2014 I had the honor of “opening” for Wendell at an event here in Nashville, where I played about five songs, all of which were inspired by him (“Planting Trees,” “The Magic Hour,” and “World Traveler,” among a few others) with Mr. Berry and Tanya listening on from the front row. I was a mixture of wildly intimidated and wildly thankful. I brought my first edition for him to sign, and it’s probably the one book I’d rescue if the Chapter House were ever on fire.

The Art of Pencil Drawing by Ernest W. Watson

Drawing trees has taught me as much about them as reading. For the most part, the drawings in this book are all from either sitting in front of the tree itself, or from pictures I’ve taken with my phone. A few people have asked for sketching advice, which is kind of hilarious because I don’t really know what I’m doing. But songwriting and book writing have both taught me that the only way to learn is to do, and I’m committed to the long game. It really does come down to practice. That said, this book is full of good, practical advice on things like which pencils to use and when, how to compose a sketch, and techniques on textures and such. To be honest, though, YouTube has also been just as helpful. Simply find a how-to video of a tree you like, turn on some good music, and prepare to be disappointed. Try again the next day, then the next, and in a week your disappointment will decrease a little. Whatever you think of the final product, you