Whats in a book?

Smoke

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After Christmas I have read a few posts about those seeking bonsai books for Christmas. I thought hmmm... the recent thread about your three favorite books may have had something to do with this.

Not wanting to open a can of worms, I am left wondering if anyone out there has found anything really usefull in a book. I mean hundreds of dollars are spent on books, so can they be usefull?

Have you learned something that you have actually put to use?

Was it measurable and did you photograph its results?

How do bonsai books measure up? Are they written to generic for beginners or do they have the advanced stuff your looking for?

Would a bonsai book about special techniques for a specific task be more to ones liking? I find that most books spend way too much time on going over the basics too much. I mean you read one way to repot you have read them all. Beginning type books are more apt to attract a much larger portion of the reader population since it is new people we wish to attract with a book. people that have been in the hobby long enough begin to know who is who and will buy books based on a writers body of work over other things.

so bottom line...what niche does a book exactly fill in our hobby and why, meaning, will reading about it make you better at bonsai?

aghh, winter...Al
 

bonsaimeister

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Well, Al, I bought myself a copy of Robert Steven's second book from Stone Lantern, and, frankly, was quite disappointed. I was actually quite pleased with the first one, but wish I'd stopped there. The information is basically the same, but the formatting of the second book is rather poor. With some of my other books, like Naka I and II, I can flip to a certain page in seconds and reference something with the simple, intuitive format, but the opposite is true with Mission of Transformation. The majority of the pictures are blown up from thumbnail size to 1/2 page or bigger. Not only did this give the book an unprofessional feel, but it hurts the eyes and makes it next to impossible to pick out any detail. The first book, however, was full of crystal clear, professional pictures, and a great source of inspiration!
 
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grizzlywon

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Books are great at telling you how to do something, but it is up to the reader to put it into practice and learn the skill. Similar to martial arts or pretty much any sport, you can read about the perfect move, but all moves take practice to master. Kinda like wiring, you can learn the how to's from a book, but that doesn't mean jack when you first grab some wire and try to get a large branch to bend.

On the otherhand, there is a lot about our hobby/addiction that can be learned a lot faster out of a book than by practice or trial and error. Like when best to prune, what a specific tree likes or suffers from. You could spend a lifetime and never figure out why a certain tree does this or that but a book can at least clue you in, in an instant.

Books are also invaluable at teaching us the art side of Bonsai, like balance, symetry etc. I learn a little more about this everytime I pick up some of the books or magazines I own, (some thanks to you, Al)

And lastly, they give us something to do in the winter.

Forums like this are a form of literature that is in many ways better than a book, in the fact that it is dynamic.


So Al, what are you fav three books?
 

Smoke

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Well, Al, I bought myself a copy of Robert Steven's second book from Stone Lantern, and, frankly, was quite disappointed. I was actually quite pleased with the first one, but wish I'd stopped there. The information is basically the same, but the formatting of the second book is rather poor. With some of my other books, like Naka I and II, I can flip to a certain page in seconds and reference something with the simple, intuitive format, but the opposite is true with Mission of Transformation. The majority of the pictures are blown up from thumbnail size to 1/2 page or bigger. Not only did this give the book an unprofessional feel, but it hurts the eyes and makes it next to impossible to pick out any detail. The first book, however, was full of crystal clear, professional pictures, and a great source of inspiration!

I can second that entire post...I was left wanting...

Many of the pictures came from the internet and was almost like a collection of posts over a period of years with some dialog thrown in. (This is why internet people should not write books, Rob Kempenski's new book is much the same as was Morten Albek's two years ago.) Books like these come with hype and anticipation of something great because they have an internet following hoping that somehow they will get it and fill the niche.....they never do...

Kimura's first book was an overnight sensation selling out and demanding a second and third printing in paperback after a successful hard cover run. His second book sans internet...big flop.
 
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mcpesq817

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I had bought a lot of bonsai books on eBay, and after reading, ended up selling most of them for many of the same reasons you guys have mentioned. The ones I've kept are:

-- Naka I and II

-- species-related books - pine, juniper and azalea books from Stone Lantern, Ponderosa Pine book from Larry Jackel, maples and flowering bonsai books from Peter Adams

-- the Dave Joyce book - it's hard to say that I've learned anything specific from this book, but I really enjoy it. Maybe because it covers one guy's experience over decades of working with various trees, all well documented.

-- I also have the six volume mini-bonsai set that's in Japanese by Kyosuke Gun - even though the books are in Japanese, the step-by-step drawings make translation practically not necessary.
 
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I sold my naka books on ebay years ago. I still have a big collection of books, some quite old, and almost all of which are written to beginners or to introduce bonsai to others who do not know anything about it. When I was a noob, I did gain some insight from "Bonsai Masterclass" by Peter Chan, especially the knowledge of air layering which I have put to good use through the years. Mostly there's not much in those books, though.
 

grouper52

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Interesting question.

I started out with one beginner's book, Growing and Displaying Bonsai by Colin Lewis, and that was the sole extent of my formal teaching, and my entire bonsai library, for a half dozen years. Still a great book, dirt cheap used on Amazon.com.

I next purchased Naka's books, and found them quite helpful on deeper, more subtle levels. Deborah Koreshoff's book was next, and probably the last instructional sort of book I have found useful, with the exception of the Stone Lantern Pines book. Some others came and went around that time, the famous ones everyone recommended, but I found them all wanting except for the beauty of the photographs in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Bonsai book by Susan Resnik, and Amy Liang's Living Art of Bonsai.

About the same time, I started to collect books, some old, about Penjing. Many were in Chinese, which I can't read, but it didn't matter, because I hadn't been much interested in specific, wordy stuff or techniques for years by that point. The inspiring effect of the pictures, however, shaped, and continue to shape, my mental reservoir of possibilities. I never tire of these Chinese picture books, and they are the only ones I've looked at for years now.

It may offend some folks to read that I regretted making my only major recent book purchase: Vision of My Soul. Mr. Stephens can keep THAT vision to himself, thank you very much. I bought it sight unseen based on all the hype: should have known better. VERY self conscious, quasi-spiritual art mumbo jumbo philosophy that leaves me feeling gagged with a spoon, and trees that pretty much mirror that as well - pretty enough I suppose, though rather poorly photographed and laid out, IMO, and yet lacking a certain depth of vision that I find truly inspirational. Didn't even bother considering his second book.
 

JRob

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I have found that joining and actively participating in a club, along with attending workshops and conventions are much more helpful and beneficial than books. My fellow club members have been extremely helpful to me and gracious in passing along their wisdom. That said however, I have found my catalogues of the Kokufu and Gafu Ten Exhibitions along with other books such as Bay Island Bonsai - An Exhibit of Fine Bonsai 2009, to be invaluable in developing a mental image of what to strive for in developing great trees.

JRob
St. Louis
 

bonsai barry

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Some random thoughts inspired by this thread:
1) When I first became intoxicated by bonsai, I was grateful for all the books that the library had on the topic.
2) Although considered sacrilege, I think Naka's first volume is over-rated. As Al pointed out, some of the current books are reahashes of Internet postings, but John's book was,in part, a rehash of newsletter articles. Of course no one can deny his huge talent nor his contributions to the art, and that is why I keep his book (of course, I hope that since it is autographed it might increase in value, but he autographed a lot of books!).
3) I still love books that show a lot of examples of great trees. For this reason I like Liang's book, "The Living Art of Bonsai."
4) I especially like books that show the history of trees and their transformation, but Walter Pall's pages and DVD do this better than most books.
5) I still search the Internet everyday for good prices on books. Since I teach junior high, I like to have a large collection of books for the Spring time bonsai club we do each year.
6) Japanese books on bonsai are not only visually informative but look erudite on my book shelf.

Jeff
 

Attila Soos

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I consider almost every bonsai book interesting, even if I don't learn anything new from the text. To me, the value lies in the pictures. If I see one single picture in the book that intrigues me, I consider the purchase worthwile. If I see ten pictures that capture my attention, in one book, then I am really happy with the book. Each book tells a hidden story of the bonsai universe of the person who wrote it. I find that always fascinating. Sometimes I find very useful to see pictures on bonsai that I dislike. In a roundabout way, I love to see pictures of really bad bonsai, especially when the author may think that the tree in question is a good one. This shows me things that I need to avoid in my trees. So, I like to read between the lines a lot.

Having said the above, my all time favorites are two books. The first one is the Four Seasons of Bonsai by Kyuzo Murata. I like this because Kyuzo Murata has an unsurpassed sensibility in seeing the beauty in all the plants around us, and he can express this beauty in every bonsai he creates. Many of the bonsai shown in the book are modest and incredibly unpretentious - Mr. Murata is the grand master of the Artless Arts. He can create a masterpice without the least effort to create art - paradoxically, I see this as the highest form of art.

The other book is Forest, Rock Planting & Ezo Spruce Bonsai by Saburo Kato. Species-wise, this book is restricted to only a handful of species. But the true value is that the book shows us how to create an infinite range of moods and feelings with a few trees. It shows how the character of the trees, and the structure of the arrangement, influences the outcome.
The information in this book is simply priceless to me.

I also want to mention, that the books from China, showing Chinese bonsai, are an endless source of inspiration to me. I can't read them, but I can spend hours just pondering over the images. They always look refreshing and far more creative than anything I see in the "traditional" bonsai literature. Some of them are beautiful, others are plain ugly, but ugly in a pictoresque way. Others are just weird. Lots of variety.
 
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BUBBAFRGA

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Al,

I would have to agree that most knowledge of Bonsai is not past on though books but in Person with a teacher. I have involved in one since or another for last 15 plus years. I have a collection of more that 30 books on Bonsai, I got most if not all ones mention already. But since I joined some clubs and stated taking workshops my skills and knowledge has increase three fold in past two years. Books are good but hands on with a teacher is the only way to learn.
 

Attila Soos

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Al,

I would have to agree that most knowledge of Bonsai is not past on though books but in Person with a teacher. I have involved in one since or another for last 15 plus years. I have a collection of more that 30 books on Bonsai, I got most if not all ones mention already. But since I joined some clubs and stated taking workshops my skills and knowledge has increase three fold in past two years. Books are good but hands on with a teacher is the only way to learn.

I agree.
If I was advising my son about the fastest way to acquire a working knowledge of bonsai, I would send him to work at a bonsai nursery. An entire growing season, from Spring to Fall.
Ater that, the books can only add to his knowledge base.

I did the other way around, getting my initial knowledge from books, and then getting every opportunity to expose myself to real-life experience. It takes much longer this way, and it often results in costly mistakes.
 

Yamadori

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If not for the common beginner books I would not have known where to start or why my first trees died. Living in a rural area where bonsai artist are few and far between the books were my teachers, inspiration, and bonsai companions. I have grown past many of the books but I appreciate them for how much I learned. I still reference them from time to time.

Currently I am reading Bonsai Today Master Series, Junipers. I like the species specific information. My trees will definately benefit from what I am learning.

Personally I really like Vision of My Soul. It was reccommended to me by Ted Matson so I figured it must be worth buying. I was quite excited to read it. The approach to bonsai is very different from all the "how to" books I already have. The explanations about aesthetics are engrossing. The focus on artistic composition rather than root pruning is just where my interest is now. In particular Robert expained windswept style in such a way that I see it from a new set of eyes. I see how hard or soft the wind is blowing by every bit of development. I understand the finer nuances to make it convincing. Now I have to try to pull it off (that is trickier).

I also enjoyed Post Dated by Michael Hagedorn. It is not a how to book at all but rather his journey through his apprenticship in Japan. It sure took the romance out of the apprenticeship and gave me a better understanding of the experiences an apprentice goes through. It makes me look forward to the GSBF convention in 2010 with all the fresh faces back from their own experiences in Japan. The book is not a pulitzer quality of writing but it is his own words. I reccommend it as an enjoyable read. It gives a great perspective on the modern Japanese bonsai community.
 

BUBBAFRGA

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Yamadori;43967-- Living in a rural area where bonsai artist are few and far between [/QUOTE said:
I know what you mean. I belong to 2 clubs and one study group. Study group is over an hour away, one club is almost two hours and the second is 3 hours away.

But it is well worth the drive. I have had been in or at workshops with Michael Hagedon, Sean Smith, Robert Mahler, and Lance Laney. Been at great demos with Mike Rodgers, Mike Cartrett, Ben Oki, Jim VanLandingham, Sean Smith, and Robert Mahler.

And I will be at Joy of Bonsai, Kawa Bonsai in Bunnell Fl next month with Suthin Sukosolvisit.

Books are great and sites like this one is also great, but cannot compare with hands on with a good teacher.
 
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hank mazur

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In my case i treat books as a source of new questions. I started reseaching Bonsai in September of this year because i wondered whether or not i could grow herbs to resemble some of the bonsai trees i saw on several vacation trips. I grow Rosemary and Thyme herbs to satisfy my wifes needs for fresh herbs all year long and the last two plants lasted four years. On a lark after the plants passed into winter, i pruned alot of the fine branches to see what they looked like. Which was the start of my research. There is very little written about these two herbs for Bonsai wheter in books or the web. So the next logical step was to learn as much as possible about growing trees for Bonsai and adapting that info for Herbs. Some of the things i learned about growing trees can be counter productive. Take for instance, one of the goals of growing plants for Bonsai is to obtain " leaf size reduction", but hold on a second, if you start with a leaf size that is 4 to 5 mm long , what is that going to leave me with, 2 to 2.5 mm leaves, which is totally useless unless it results in doubleing the # of leaves per branch segment. The other thing that raised a red flag is all the recommendations that "bare rooting" is very seldom performed, and that repotting is only performed at "specific times" of the year, Spring or Fall to coincide with normal plant growth cycles. Since i bought my herbs late in the seaon, september, i decided to try the "Bonsai" way. For those of you who may not be aware of the fact that herbs put up for sale in 4" pots in the spring pretty much become pot bound by the end of the season. I would normally wash out all the growing medium, straighten the roots and plant them in an 8 " pot with potting soil and let it grow. As it is now, i am struggling to keep the plants alive.
Your are probably wondering why i am talking about Herbs on a bonsai tree site, well i just wanted to share my first experiance at trying to apply accepted Bonsai practices on Herbs. It is also to point out that it doesn't matter where you get the information from, whether it's from books, workshops, the Web, teachers , or others, that is your "understanding " of the infomation and how you apply it will increase the likelyhood of success. But ultimately, it will be the plant that will decide whether or not it will respond in the way that you want, and that decision is out of your hands.
 

BUBBAFRGA

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s. But ultimately, it will be the plant that will decide whether or not it will respond in the way that you want, and that decision is out of your hands.


As the old saying goes " Bonsai is 80% horticulture and 20% artistic" you have to keep it alive to trim and shape it. The 20% is whats hard to learn from books.

Just my opinion
 

Klytus

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Isn't there a Spruce or similar you can use to make a refreshing beverage? i think i read it somewhere in a book or maybe a TV show,or the Internet,or all three.

I would know for sure if i had drunk a cup of it.

Maybe an addition to the herb garden is a source of vitamin C from conifer needles.

One could eschew the traditional herb wheel and opt for individual and stylish pots.

Here an article,but beware the 'Australian black pine'.

http://moscowfood.coop/garden/evergreentea.html
 
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Yamadori

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"80 % artistic and 20 % horticulture". Unortunately most never make it over the 20 % horticulture.

It is the 80% part that Robert Steven's book, Vision of My Soul addresses. Of course when you get into the subjective nature of artistic expression then each person has their own vision. His ideas will not be for everyone. If they were, he would have needed to name it Vision of Everyone's Soul. He talks about the subjective(80%) and objective elements(20%) in the book. I think it is an interesting book.

Can anyone reccommend other books that deal so much with artistic vision? Maybe that is mostly to be found on web sites and blogs.
 

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