Reading guide for A Garden of Marvels by Ruth Kassinger

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Garden of Marvels

How We Discovered that Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants

by Ruth Kassinger

A Garden of Marvels by Ruth Kassinger X
A Garden of Marvels by Ruth Kassinger
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2014, 416 pages
    Mar 2015, 416 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Heather A Phillips

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The author was inspired to understand the basic biology of plants because her favorite kumquat tree died. Many people have emotional connections to their plants. What plants have meant something special to you?

  2. The author traveled across the country, meeting people who are enthusiasts of or experts on particular species, from pumpkins to petunias. Which individuals come most alive for you? What is it about the author's descriptions that make them vivid?

  3. Although the book is not primarily a memoir, readers get a sense of who Ruth Kassinger is as a person. How does she do that? How would you characterize the author? Does knowing the author's personal history affect how you read her non-fiction book?

  4. The author wanted to learn the basics of botany, but not by studying a textbook. She wanted to take "the primrose path" to understanding. The unstated purpose of the book is to convey that understanding to readers. Do you feel she succeeds? Are there facts that startled you?

  5. What do you think about this "primrose path" method of learning? What worked best for you: learning by following the first botanists as they discovered the basics of plant physiology or learning from the modern experts Kassinger visited?

  6. The author points out that most school systems do not teach the basics of plant biology any more. Recalling your own science education and your life experience, what do you think about the importance of teaching basic botany? Are there any science classes you would have exchanged for one on botany?

  7. The author recounts her children's experiences with science fairs and "invention conventions." What do you think of these popular elements of school curricula? Are they meaningful? Can they be improved?

  8. Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries were reluctant to see that flowers are all about sex. The author's friend, Amy, didn't want anthuriums (with their penis-like blooms) at her wedding. In modern cultures is there still a reluctance to come to grips with the fact that flowers are sexual organs?

  9. The author writes about scientists who are using genetic engineering techniques to modify cyanobacteria (also called blue-green algae) so that they excrete ethanol, gasoline, and other fuels. If they are successful, algae oil would be a less polluting alternative to burning fossil fuels. What do you think about genetic engineering in general and in this context?

  10. The author believes knowing more about the way plants work will make her a better gardener. Having read the book, is there information you now have that will change how you care for plants?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of William Morrow Paperbacks. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Royal Society

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Women & Power
    Women & Power
    by Mary Beard
    The treatise Women & Power: A Manifesto discusses a scene in Homer's Odyssey in which Odysseus&...
  • Book Jacket: Speak No Evil
    Speak No Evil
    by Uzodinma Iweala
    Young Nigerian American writer Uzodinma Iweala is fast becoming known as a powerful chronicler of ...
  • Book Jacket: Winter
    by Ali Smith
    "God was dead; to begin with." This first sentence of Winter perfectly sets up the dreamy journey ...
  • Book Jacket: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    by Atia Abawi

    When you're a refugee, everyone has lost, at least for the time being... And the journey ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Sometimes I Lie
    by Alice Feeney

    This brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something a lie if you believe it's the truth?
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One N U G

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.