An Orchard Invisible

If you're blessed with a patch of ground, or at least a windowsill where you can perch a pot or two, then now is the season to plant a garden. And there's no better companion for your labors than Jonathan Silvertown's thorough yet eminently readable history of seeds, An Orchard Invisible, out from University of Chicago Press. Silvertown has written an accessible volume that nonetheless touches on everything from Ovid's Metaphorphoses to a corn fungus eaten as a vegetable in Mexico. Silvertown manages to keep the history, and the science, digestible. He has wisely structured the book so that a nonsequential perusal is as enjoyable as a straight read. Moreover, he has an ear for the elegant phrase. Explaining the vagaries of seed dispersion, he notes, "Dormancy is time travel" -- and cooking, he argues, is "evolutionary subversion." As with the best of any scientific history written for the lay audience, Orchard Invisible gives a sense of the inextricable connections between living things. Fruit, with its nutritive allure, helps explain the evolutionary development of three-color vision in humans. The practice of masting in oak trees, when bumper crops of acorns are followed by fallow years, contributed to the rise of Lyme disease. He quotes Thoreau: "I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders." An Orchard Invisible is a veritable wonder-cabinet.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."