Evolution of the Annual Book Award Program
The American Horticultural Society honors outstanding garden-related books published in North America through its annual Book Award Program, which began with a list of 75 Great American Garden Books as part of the Society’s celebration of its 75th anniversary in 1997. Each year since then, a distinguished committee of garden communicators selects the award recipients from among the year’s new books submitted by publishers. Books are judged on qualities such as writing style, authority, accuracy, and physical quality. Because of this focus on the overall quality of the winning books, the award is presented jointly to the author and publisher of each book.
Nominations are accepted for the AHS Book Awards each fall.
Winners of the 2019 AHS Book Awards were:
Designing With Palms
by Jason Dewees; photographs by Caitlin Atkinson (Timber Press) Artfully blending horticultural information with design concepts applicable to the diverse palm family, this book impressed Catriona Tudor Erler with how it took a “subject that could have been dry and academic and made it beautiful, compelling, and scientifically accurate.” Brian Thompson agrees, noting that it “broadened my perspective of palms from a gardening and design standpoint, while being enjoyable to read.”
The Food Explorer
by Daniel Stone (Dutton Books) This book details how David Fairchild, an American botanist who traveled the world around the turn of the 20th century in search of intriguing fruits, vegetables, and other plants, would forever change the landscape of the United States with his discoveries. It provides “fascinating insight into how various foods found their way to our grocery store shelves,” says William Aldrich. Mary Ann Newcomer calls it “a wonderful story and a piece of history relevant to anyone who eats.”
Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix
by Niki Jabbour (Storey Publishing) Praised for its inviting presentation, beautiful photography, and fresh approach to vegetable gardening, this book will “inspire anyone to experiment and to have some fun with off-the-wall but rewarding veggies,” says Jenks Farmer. Deb Wiley notes it is “written in an engaging first-person voice, as if Jabbour is actually sitting at your elbow, encouraging you to grow something new and showing you, through excellent color photographs, what you’ll get.”
The 2019 Book Award Committee was chaired by Mary Ann Newcomer, a garden communicator based in Boise, Idaho. Other members were: William Aldrich, past president and Fellow of GardenComm in Springfield, Missouri; Catriona Tudor Erler, a garden writer and book author based in Charlottesville, Virginia; Augustus “Jenks” Farmer, garden book author and plantsman based in the Columbia, South Carolina, area; Nancy Rose, horticulturist and recently retired editor of Arnoldia, published by the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts; Brian Thompson, manager and curator of the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens in Seattle; and Deb Wiley, garden writer, editor, book project manager, and Fellow of GardenComm in Des Moines, Iowa.