I’ve seen the same question pop up in about three different places, lately. Since this has come up so frequently in such a short amount of time, I thought I would take the time to write about why this is such a wonderful question… and why it’s such a terrible question.
I’m happy and excited to see people asking this, because it means people want to learn more. People care enough to try to wrap their heads around what Permaculture has to offer. On the other hand, most people want “one” book to start with, and it should be a “good one” for their needs, but they don’t ever tell us what their needs are.
If you’ve been paying attention, my article last week was on starting where you’re at. This is important for more than just implementation. If you try to dive right in and read the Permaculture Designer’s Manual, without any real prior exposure, you will probably learn a lot. Or you will fall asleep. Or maybe both. The truth is, that book is a huge volume of information to take in all at once. It is also the defacto source of the best ways to design and implement for any given climate and environment.
Most people don’t NEED to know how to design and implement for anything outside of the climate they live in.
So the next sets of books that are often recommended are from the “big hitters” in Permaculture. These are the books by Sepp Holtzer, Ben Falk, Toby Hemenway, Eric Toensmeier, Joel Salatin, and so on. This is great, but if someone lives in the desert, the “Resilient Farm and Homestead” may not be the best book to start with. If someone wants to focus on pastured livestock, the books on edible food forests won’t be as useful to them. The first response to someone asking this question, “can you recommend …” should be “what are you wanting to do with the information?”
Someone who wants to learn design, really SHOULD dive into the Designer’s Manual.
Someone wanting to go from trying to learn how to container garden to growing food in raised beds with a Permaculture focus, should probably pick up something more introductory that meets those needs. So far, the best book for this that I’ve found isn’t one of the “big names” in Permaculture, but is chock full of useful information, regardless. I highly recommend the book “The Suburban Micro-Farm” by Amy Stross for any beginner. The Amazon link may be an affiliate link, but it’s for her, not me, if it is. I pulled it straight from her site, as is. The book is an easier read, with better break down than say… “Gaia’s Garden” by Toby Hemenway. This is just my opinion, of course, but I’ve read both, and I try to recommend what I think is best for a person based on what they tell me their needs are, and I truly believe this book is a better starter book for a backyard gardener wanting to expand into Permaculture centric food growth.
She also has a website, called Tenth Acre Farm. You should go visit her site, and pick up a copy of her book, if you’re just starting out.
If you’ve been following my Twitter and FaceBook posts this last week, a lot of the quote graphics I posted came straight out of her book.
If you’re more advanced, and you’re looking for how to choose specific elements for your food forest implementation, try Mark Crawford’s “How to Grow Your Own Nuts” and “Trees for Gardens, Orchards, and Permaculture.”
Before you rush out and buy books that are recommended, also try this.
Check. Your. Local. Library…
Our local library system has a really nice selection of books on the subject. I own many of them, myself, but some of the ones I don’t own I can preview before buying, just to see if it’s anything I might want to hang onto for reference purposes. The library systems are often neglected by the current generation, so help support it by utilizing it regularly. It’s good for the community.