The best books to make you love plants

Why am I passionate about this?

A house plant in my living room attacked another plant, wrapping itself around it and killing it. Then another plant tried to sink roots into a neighbor. I began to do a little research, then a lot of research, and learned that plants accomplish amazing feats. They can tell by the angle of the sun when spring is coming, and they can call parasitic wasps to rid themselves of caterpillars. Plants vastly outweigh and outnumber animals, so they run this planet. What if, on another planet, they could think like us… and that’s why I wrote a novel.


I wrote...

Book cover of Semiosis

What is my book about?

Colonists from Earth arrive on a distant planet where they hope to create an agricultural colony and establish an idealistic, peaceful society. Instead, they discover that the native plants are intelligent, and the plants have their own plans. They can do a lot and, when they need to, they can act ruthlessly – and they see animals, including humans, as their servants. Only mutual communication can forge an alliance. 

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses

Sue Burke Why did I love this book?

If you don’t know much about what plants can do, this is a great place to start.

Learn what a plant sees, smells, and feels. Yes, they can do all that. They know what color shirt you’re wearing. They can smell the warning from a neighbor plant being eaten by a bug. They know when you touch them. They know where they are, and they remember things. Plants are not passive, and they are acutely aware of the world around them.

By Daniel Chamovitz,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked What a Plant Knows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How does a Venus flytrap know when to snap shut? Can it feel an insect's spindly legs? How do flowers know when it's spring? Can they actually remember the weather? And do they care if you play them Led Zeppelin or Bach? From Darwin's early fascination with stems and vines to "Little Shop of Horrors", we have always marvelled at plant diversity and form. Now, in "What a Plant Knows", the renowned biologist Daniel Chamovitz presents an intriguing and refreshing look at how plants experience the world. Highlighting the latest research in plant science, he takes us into the lives…


Book cover of In Defense of Plants: An Exploration into the Wonder of Plants

Sue Burke Why did I love this book?

Blogger and podcaster Matt Candeias used to think plants were boring. Then, in college, he got a summer job in habitat restoration at an old quarry, and he fell in love.

He learned about the strange ways plants have sex, how they conquer new territories, and what animals they prefer to eat. Most of all, they fight for survival. It’s not exactly war, but there is never enough water, nutrients, space, and light, and there are always predators. Plants meet their challenges in surprising, wonderful ways.

So go outside, he says, and get to know your local plants like you know your friends.

By Matt Candeias,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Defense of Plants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Study of Plants in a Whole New Light

"Matt Candeias succeeds in evoking the wonder of plants with wit and wisdom." James T. Costa, PhD, executive director, Highlands Biological Station and author of Darwin's Backyard

#1 New Release in Nature & Ecology, Plants, Botany, Horticulture, Trees, Biological Sciences, and Nature Writing & Essays

In his debut book, internationally-recognized blogger and podcaster Matt Candeias celebrates the nature of plants and the extraordinary world of plant organisms.

A botanist's defense. Since his early days of plant restoration, this amateur plant scientist has been enchanted with flora and the greater environmental ecology…


Book cover of The Hidden Life of Trees

Sue Burke Why did I love this book?

As a forester in Germany, Peter Wohlleben slowly came to understand the trees he managed as living beings that form a community.

They not only understand their environment and communicate, he says, they work together, nurture their seedlings, and do everything they can to control their environment. They also lead complicated lives and make important decisions such as when to drop their leaves in fall.

Too early and they lose the chance to make more food, facing potential starvation; too late and an early storm could weigh down leaves with snow and ice and break a limb, a potentially fatal injury. Learn how they figure it all out.

By Peter Wohlleben, Jane Billinghurst (translator),

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Hidden Life of Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A paradigm-smashing chronicle of joyous entanglement that will make you acknowledge your own entanglement in the ancient and ever-new web of being."--Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben…


Book cover of The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior

Sue Burke Why did I love this book?

Here we step into more controversial territory. Is “plant neurobiology” a thing? That is, can they think? Stefano Mancuso says yes, but not like us.

A plant behaves more like a swarm of insects, and each of its parts and cells reacts to changes in its environment, which affect the other cells around it, and in that way, a decentralized intelligence can reach what looks like a decision. Plants find solutions to the problems of life that would never occur to us, and we can copy them to make our own lives better.

Beautiful illustrations will help you fall in love with plants.

By Stefano Mancuso,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Revolutionary Genius of Plants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"In this thought-provoking, handsomely illustrated book, Italian neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso considers the fundamental differences between plants and animals and challenges our assumptions about which is the 'higher' form of life." -The Wall Street Journal

"Fascinating...full of optimism...this quick, accessible read will appeal to anyone with interest in how plants continue to surprise us." -Library Journal

Do plants have intelligence? Do they have memory? Are they better problem solvers than people? The Revolutionary Genius of Plants-a fascinating, paradigm-shifting work that upends everything you thought you knew about plants-makes a compelling scientific case that these and other astonishing ideas are all true.…


Book cover of The Overstory

Sue Burke Why did I love this book?

Now for some fiction about trees, or rather, how people react to threats against trees and are drawn together to defend them.

The interlocking stories of a dozen characters take place over decades, much as a tree grows, connecting each life to lives that last far beyond them. In our world, we often endanger trees without a thought. This novel won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction because it can make you think. If your mind were only a slightly greener thing,” a tree says early in the novel, “we’d drown you in meaning.”

By Richard Powers,

Why should I read it?

30 authors picked The Overstory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of-and paean to-the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers's twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours-vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see…


You might also like...

Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

Book cover of Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

Leslie Tall Manning Author Of Maggie's Dream

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Mentor Laugher Research nut Avid reader

Leslie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Winner of the Literary Titan Book Award

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family’s happiness.

But Marilyn’s quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by the courts as the new guardian. Caleb Jones wants something more than a father-daughter relationship. He sends Carol far away, where the boy won’t be a hindrance to his plans. Marilyn devises a plan of her own: to locate her little brother, kidnap him, and run away.

Independence, however, often comes at a high price.

As Marilyn weathers the unexpected and often brutal storms of her childhood and adolescence, hope becomes her ally as she winds through small southern towns, wrapping herself around an assortment of hearts along the way. With unexpected help from a caring social worker, a carnival of misfits, her first true love, and even the elusive Tan Man himself, Marilyn will discover that “family” isn’t always what we imagine it to be.

"A dazzling piece that delves deep into the themes of survival, the casualties of self-discovery, and the power of familial ties." ~ Prairies Book Review

Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

What is this book about?

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family's happiness.

But Marilyn's quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by the courts as the new guardian. Caleb…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in trees, flora, and botany?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about trees, flora, and botany.

Trees Explore 49 books about trees
Flora Explore 26 books about flora
Botany Explore 33 books about botany