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Holiday Reading

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Idrissa found this witty
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Five books on my wish list, each celebrating landscape and place.

    Visions of the Black Belt

    In Visions of the Black Belts, Robin McDonald and Valerie Pope Burne offer a richly illustrated tour of the Black Belt, the fertile arc that represents the cultural efflorescence of Alabama's heartland. Like knowledgeable friends, McDonald and Burnes guide readers through the Black Belt's towns and architecture and introduce the region's great panoply of citizens, farmers, craftspeople, cooks, writers, and musicians. A constellation of Black Belt towns arose during Alabama's territorial decades, communities like Selma, Camden, Eutaw, Tuskegee, Greenville, and many more. Visions of the Black Belts recounts their stories and others, such as Demopolis's founding by exiles from Napoleon's France. As an escarpment of clouds scuds across an indigo sky, the ruins of Alabama's lost capital of Cahaba reveal the secrets of its lost squares. Also on this picturesque tour are the Black Belt's homes, from artless cabins wreathed in fern to ozymandian manses wrapped by stately columns, such as Kirkwood and Reverie. Among the emblematic houses of worship lovingly photographed in Visions of the Black Belts is Prairieville's St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, noted for its "carpenter gothic" style. Also reflecting the region's history of faith are poignant graveyards such as Greenville's Pioneer Cemetery with its homespun memorials of seashell-and-concrete and the elegant marbles clad in ebon lichen of Selma's Live Oak Cemetery. In photos and text, McDonald and Burnes bring to life the layers of history that shaped the Black Belt's tastes, sounds, and colors. Their gastronomic discoveries include the picant crawfish of the Faunsdale Bar & Grill and GainesRidge Dining Club's famed Black Bottom pie. They bring the sounds of the Black Belt to life by presenting a wide range of musicians and musical events, from bona fide blues and soul masters to Eutaw's Black Belt Roots Festival. Including two maps and more than 370 full-color photographs, Visions of the Black Belts offers a timeless message of faith, determination, and the rich simplicity of living in harmony with the rhythms of the land and nature.

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    Heirloom Harvest

    One of the foremost plant conservationists in the world, Amy Goldman has devoted her life to cultivating fruits and vegetables. A 200-acre plot of land in the Hudson Valley has become home to an abundance of organic produce, with orchards full of apples, pears and peaches and plots of squashes, melons, beetroot, peppers, tomatoes and aubergines. Her aspiration to preserve our agricultural heritage and celebrate our beautiful and unique heirlooms is perfectly matched to the work of acclaimed photographer Jerry Spagnoli. Over more than a decade, Jerry has visited Amy's garden, and with the historical daguerreotype camera has produced ethereal images that have a silvery, luminous depth and a timeless beauty. In Heirloom Harvest, these photographs are accompanied by an essay by Amy in which she shares her passion and advocacy for heirloom gardening. An exquisite package created with the highest production values, Heirloom Harvest will become an heirloom itself, underscoring the historical continuity and value of the produce that comes from our earth.

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    Chanticleer

    Chanticleer, a forty-eight-acre garden on Philadelphia's historic Main Line, is many things simultaneously: a lush display of verdant intensity and variety, an irreverent and informal setting for inventive plant combinations, a homage to the native trees and horticultural heritage of the mid-Atlantic, a testament to one man's devotion to his family's estate and legacy, and a good spot for a stroll and picnic amid the blooms. In Chanticleer: A Pleasure Garden, Adrian Higgins and photographer Rob Cardillo chronicle the garden's many charms over the course of two growing cycles. Built on the grounds of the Rosengarten estate in Wayne, Pennsylvania, Chanticleer retains a domestic scale, resulting in an intimate, welcoming atmosphere. The structure of the estate has been thoughtfully incorporated into the garden's overall design, such that small gardens created in the footprint of the old tennis court and on the foundation of one of the family homes share space with more traditional landscapes woven around streams and an orchard. Through conversations and rambles with Chanticleer's team of gardeners and artisans, Higgins follows the garden's development and reinvention as it changes from season to season, rejoicing in the hundred thousand daffodils blooming on the Orchard Lawn in spring and marveling at the Serpentine's late summer crop of cotton, planted as a reminder of Pennsylvania's agrarian past. Cardillo's photographs reveal further nuances in Chanticleer's landscape: a rare and venerable black walnut tree near the entrance, pairs of gaily painted chairs along the paths, a backlit arbor draped in mounds of fragrant wisteria. Chanticleer fuses a strenuous devotion to the beauty and health of its plantings with a constant dedication to the mutability and natural energy of a living space. And within the garden, Higgins notes, there is a thread of perfection entwined with whimsy and continuous renewal.

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    Lake|Flato Houses

    Lake|Flato Architects of San Antonio, Texas, is nationally and internationally acclaimed for buildings that respond organically to the natural environment. The firm uses local materials and workmanship, as well as a deep knowledge of vernacular traditions, to design buildings that are tactile and modern, environmentally responsible and authentic, artful and crafted. Lake|Flato won the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture in 2013, and it has also received the American Institute of Architects' highest honor, the National Firm Award. In all, Lake|Flato has won more than 150 national and state design awards. Residential architecture has always been a priority for the firm, and Lake|Flato Houses showcases an extensive selection of landmark homes built since 1999. Color photographs and architectural commentary create a memorable portrait of houses from Texas to Montana. Reflecting the firm's emphasis on designing in harmony with the land, the houses are grouped by the habitats in which they're rooted-brushland, desert, hillside, mountains, city, and water. These groupings reveal how Lake|Flato works with the natural environment to create houses that merge into the landscape, blurring boundaries between inside and outside and accommodating the climate through both traditional and cutting-edge technologies. The sections are opened by noted architect and educator Frederick Steiner, who discusses Lake|Flato's unique responses to the forms and materials of the various landscapes. An introduction by journalist Guy Martin summarizes the history of Lake|Flato and its philosophy, and explores the impact of its work on sustainable architecture.

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    Joel Sternfeld: Walking the High Line

    In March 2000, Joel Sternfeld began photographing the High Line, an abandoned elevated railway which runs down the West Side of Manhattan. Sometimes a river of grass, sometimes more like Canadian wheat fields, this unique ruin permitted Sternfeld to contemplate nature within the city. Walking the path of this true-time landscape, Sternfeld experienced the seasons as they unfolded in a meandering ribbon within the vertical architecture of New York City, and he created a suite of images marked by quiet grace and formal rigour. In Walking the High Line, as in all of his work, landscape is both a social and cultural indicator. In 2009, the High Line was converted into a public park that will preserve the delights of the High Line for future generations. Sternfelds book is thus a unique record of the High Line at a time when it faced demolition, and this reprint follows several sold-out editions. A major figure in the photography world, Joel Sternfeld was born in New York City in 1944. He has received numerous awards including two Guggenheim fellowships, a Prix de Rome and the Citibank Photography Award. Sternfelds books published by Steidl include American Prospects (2003), Sweet Earth (2006), Oxbow Archive (2008) and First Pictures (2011).

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