Gathering Moss: A book review

Exploring the cross-pollination of ideas — Part 1 of 3

I’m currently reading two books with botany themes — the first is a series of educational essays, while the second is a work of fiction. They have both been such absolute joys, I find myself compelled to write about them.

As an extension of the book reviews, concurrently reading two botany-themed books has got me thinking about the concept of cross-pollinating ideas. This is something I’d like to write about as well.

So that all of this is more easily digestible, I’ve split this blog post into 3 parts — 2 separate book reviews and my thoughts on cross-pollinating ideas. They are meant to be read as a whole, but feel free to read them separately and in your own time.

The first book I’m reading is called Gathering Moss, by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It’s a beautifully written collection of essays that use stories to educate on moss. I tend to read a little eclectically but this might be one of the most unusual books I’ve ever read considering I have no previous or current interest in moss. But it came highly recommended and, so far I haven’t been disappointed. I’ve found every story to be quietly soothing, easy to understand and inadvertently educational. It’s quite nice to find that I now know about moss reproduction, boundary layers and poikilohydry.

Here’s an excerpt from the current story I’m reading on the relationship moss has with water:

The moss and the water seem to have a magnetic attraction for each other. I add a drop of water to the tip of the dry shoot, and it rushes among the moss leaves like a flash flood down a narrow canyon. Dry contorted leaves unfurl, all is light and movement as the drops follow every passageway and penetrate every little space, swelling beneath the convex leaves and bowing them outward.

I can assure you that everything else I have read thus far is as well-written as this passage. I like to think that she intended for her book to be read aloud outdoors at dusk, as everyone and everything settles in for the night. Each word is meant to be enjoyed and deliberated upon, yet the whole still manages to be more than the sum of its parts. It’s rare to find a piece of writing as enjoyable as this.

In general, I find it hard to read non-fiction cover-to-cover because there’s no story to get to the end of. So it’s taking me a while to finish this book, even though it is actually quite short.

Taking a while to read this book, however, has fortuitously allowed me to read it concurrently with the other botany-themed book I’m currently reading — The Signature of All Things.

Read my thoughts on that book in part 2 of this blog series.

You can also read the final part in this series. It explores how cross-pollinating ideas from this book with The Signature of All Things by reading them concurrently has made both books more enjoyable. I also share further thoughts on the concept of cross-pollinating ideas.

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