cover image Tools of the Earth

Tools of the Earth

Chronicle Books, Jeff Taylor, Rich Taylor. Chronicle Books, $25 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1909-1

Taylor's latest collection of hilarious and often poignant essays is as bracing as a cool drink on a hot day. Using the same format he plied in Tools of the Trade (1996), Taylor zeroes in on a couple of dozen specific garden implements--from the humble bucket and wheelbarrow to the tiller, cloche and grindstone--using them as springboards for informative, entertaining musings that deftly manage to avoid being folksy. Each chapter is introduced by one of Iwasaki's graceful photographs and ends with a pithy quote from such diverse sources as Thoreau, Luther Burbank, Freud and Goethe. The latter's observation, ""There is no sight more terrible than ignorance in action,"" concludes a chapter entitled ""Loppers,"" which segues neatly from pruning to clear-cutting. Taylor recounts the virtues and shortcomings of his chosen subjects with the expert air of one well acquainted with hard work; at the same time, he offers articulate deliberations on such wide-ranging topics as sleep (""Hammock"") and parenting a teen (""Pitchfork""). Taylor can be funny, as when recounting a barefoot encounter with a stray trowel that left him ""spitting out synonyms for fertilizer,"" and lyrical, as in the essay, ""Gloves"": ""Hands can pick up a coconut or a snowflake, count tiny seeds or lift watermelons, stroke a lover or field-strip an automatic weapon."" Calling himself ""an average Joe Hoe,"" Taylor is any gardener's dream neighbor--especially if he lends out his hand tools. (Oct.)