Worst Bonsai Books

Nigel Black

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I'll put this sort of thing here until this site has a section for books, videos etc.

Now I know this will likely be a contentious subject, but I believe it could be
useful. This comes about because a friend of mine loaned me a book called
Bonsai the Art of Dwarfing Trees by Ann Kimball Pipe. It's just awful, I really recommend
spending money on other books if you are in the market for new bonsai titles.
My list of complaints is long, so I'll spare everyone that. But the final insult was her
list of suitable plants in the back. It flies in the face of what most people recommend.
Particularly the Pine species she claims you should avoid. If you come across it, check it
to see what I mean. But don't pay for it.

Nigel
 

Graydon

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Ha! I love it. What an idea - worst books not best books.

I'll post some when I get back from the holiday. I can't bear to throw them out but I will let you know what to avoid. Some may be general gardening type but they still suck.
 

zelk

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any of those small booklets you get with a seed a pot and a small pair of scissors.

bonsai with American trees is a book i thought was bad
 

Nigel Black

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Graydon,

I'm glad this thread amused you.I was concerned it might start heated debates.
Still could, but I hope not. My desire was\is sincere. There are quite a few really
atrocious bonsai books out there, and I thought we could all help each other to know what to
avoid throwing away money on. That short volume for beginners by Remy and Samson is another
to avoid. Instead of that crappy title, a beginner could buy all three of the volumes published
by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden used for the same amount of money and get a greater wealth of
info, and the books would continue to be useful past the beginning stage.

Yeah, I guess this idea is sort of unexpected after countless threads about the "best bonsai books"

Zelk - Thanks for the tip. The title of that book always intrigued me. Now I'll approach with caution.

Nigel
 

Tachigi

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No heated debates! Thats what makes this forum great. No politics and no borish debates over nothing ;)

My nomination for worst book, which took a while to gleen from my library, is Totally Bonsai by Craig Cousins. While I appreciate that he is a "Talent". The book came off like a P. T. Barnum pitch.
 

Graydon

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I still have not found the books, need a few more days to go thru a pile in the corner of the "library". No matter how bad I can't seem to throw a book away. I will banish it to a pile on the floor...

I do think this thread will be amusing. I will be interesting to see who found what to be below par and why. I bet at some point someone will post a book they thought was bad and a less advanced person will site that book as a major influence to them.

Zelk - are you referring to the Masakuni title "Bonsai with American Trees"? I have had my eye on that book as I have read one of his others and enjoyed it quite a bit. I spotted a copy of the American tree one on eBay for less than $10 and was thinking of getting it. If this is the same book tell me why I should not waste a ten spot. I do so like his first book so...

Anyhow - it is nice without the heated debates so far. I can't see it staying like this forever. It's too late to make it an "invite only" site and even that would not stop the heated type debates I am afraid. I am also sure the politics will follow. Let's cherish it while we can...
 

Bonsai Nut

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Anyhow - it is nice without the heated debates so far. I can't see it staying like this forever. It's too late to make it an "invite only" site and even that would not stop the heated type debates I am afraid. I am also sure the politics will follow. Let's cherish it while we can...
Heated debates are part of almost all community forums, unfortunately. However I will do my best to ensure that debates do not degrade into arguments. Likewise I don't believe in politics :) Consider this a benevolent dicatatorship :)

Back to the subject at hand - the "Bonsai with American Trees" is not really that good. I'd give it a 3 or a 4 out of 10. It is too bad really because the author is so well-regarded in Japan. I thought for sure it was going to be good book.
 

Tachigi

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Anyhow - it is nice without the heated debates so far. I can't see it staying like this forever. It's too late to make it an "invite only" site and even that would not stop the heated type debates I am afraid. I am also sure the politics will follow. Let's cherish it while we can...
<Tapping my ruby slippers together saying> Theirs no place like home....Theirs no place like home......
 

Graydon

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Back to the subject at hand - the "Bonsai with American Trees" is not really that good. I'd give it a 3 or a 4 out of 10. It is too bad really because the author is so well-regarded in Japan. I thought for sure it was going to be good book.
So is it worth $10 and change for the book with shipping? I may get it and if it is useless to me I can donate it to our bonsai club library.
 

Vance Wood

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Heated debates are part of almost all community forums, unfortunately. However I will do my best to ensure that debates do not degrade into arguments. Likewise I don't believe in politics :) Consider this a benevolant dicatatorship :)

Back to the subject at hand - the "Bonsai with American Trees" is not really that good. I'd give it a 3 or a 4 out of 10. It is too bad really because the author is so well-regarded in Japan. I thought for sure it was going to be good book.
I have not read this book, and I have not completely read all of this thread, but your comment piqued my response. It is my understanding that the Japanese Bonsai community does not consider the North American Bonsai community with very high regard. If that is true it is possible that this book is benignly condescending in its content coming from a point of view that we cannot understand anything at a higher level.
 

Bonsai Nut

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I have not read this book, and I have not completely read all of this thread, but your comment piqued my response.
The first Masakuni Kawasumi was the founder of the Masakuni tool company, whose bonsai tools cost so much today :) His son, Masakuni Kawasumi II is the author of this book (Bonsai with American Trees).

Masakuni Kawasumi II was a student/colleague of the great Kyuzo Murata, who is considered the "father" of modern bonsai in Japan. (Murata is important enough to deserve a sidebar - he worked in the Imperial Gardens, and cared for the bonsai there after WWII when they almost died - he was also founder of several societies and owner of Kyuka-en (Garden of the Nine Mists), one of the famous nurseries in Omiya bonsai village. At the time of his death in '91, his personal collection of over 1000 trees was considered the finest collection of bonsai in the world). Murata wrote the introduction for Bonsai with American Trees - so this was not an insignificant project by any means.

Masakuni Kawasumi II has been a VIP speaker to US bonsai societies and has traveled extensively with Murata - on teaching junkets, etc. Also, Kawasumi II and now Kawasumi III, are the authors of the book "The Secret Techniques of Bonsai" which has been reviewed favorably around here (though I have not read it yet). So I don't know why "Bonsai with American Trees" did not turn out to be that good (in my opinion). I know that first editions, a few of which were signed by Murata and Kawasumi, are considered collector's items.

I just dug out my copy to refresh my memory and I remembered a few complaints I had with it. First, there are very few American trees in it :) In the main color plates, I only saw one (Sugar Maple). The rest of the trees photoed were standard Japanese trees. (Five needle pine, etc). The rest of the book covered standard bonsai practices, but not to any great depth. Demonstration photos (repotting, wiring, etc) were all of Japanese trees. There were also some strange comments in the text that I'm not sure I agreed with - as an example this comment on grafting:

"Bonsai that have been grafted grow more quickly than those planted from seedlings but I personally do not consider them good bonsai. Even though they have been well grafted, it is impossible to hide the bumps, and with the exception of some special trees, they have little or no value."

He then goes on to show how to graft trees :)

So it is not a bad book, just not a good book. Perhaps when this book came out (in 1975) there were few other English bonsai books available and this was considered a good general guide for American beginners who didn't know anything about the hobby. I think I would have had a better appreciation for the book if it was titled "Bonsai for Americans" :)
 

Vance Wood

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It is very possible that this book was in response to a publisher's request and lacked the passion of the earlier book.
 
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I have found very little of use in most bonsai books. One notable exception for a n00b is Peter Chan's Bonsai Masterclass. The problem is that so many books say so little. They have lots of large color plates of poorly done techniques on bad stock or stock that no one has ever been able to prove that they could keep alive as bonsai (i.e. pinus aristata in The Bonsai Workshop by Herb Gustafson.

I much recommend issues 1-90 of Bonsai Today, or any issue of Bonsai Europe, or any issue of International Bonsai magazine if you want better-quality articles about species care and specific techniques. Use the internet to find these. Most of the books out there are either junk to start with or have become less than useful over time.
 

Jon Chown

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Chris says,

I much recommend issues 1-90 of Bonsai Today
I agree on the Magazine, however as 1 to 90 will be difficult to impossible to obtain for most new hobbiests, I would recommend 91 and on as many of the articles are repeats of 1 to 90 plus some new stuff as well as some up to date suppliers and book reviews as well as a better print format.

Jon
 
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There are a few books out there that are basically worthless but I would hesitate before I lumped all bonsai books and/or magazines into the trash heap. Nick Lenz's "Bonsai from the Wild" is worthwhile as is Robert Steven's "Visions of my Soul", to name just two of many bonsai books that are worth owning.

As to magazines, subscribe to them all if you can, Certainly not every issue is a winner but some are, I prefer to make that decision for myself, thank you.

Before we have a huge book burning party, let us not forget that there are many people whose only bonsai information comes from these books and magazines, the Internet attracts a few, but hardly all of the bonsaists out there.

I suggest that, as with all things, it is far easier to change something you don't like by taking a hold of it and acting upon it. The bonsai community is growing and there is room for authors of all levels to step up to the plate and publish the exact material that they think is lacking.

All this reminds me of the only time I complained about her cooking, she simply pointed to the kitchen and said you don't have to eat my cooking you know, the doors to the kitchen aren't locked.



Will
 
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BONSAI_OUTLAW

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As far as books I would say that my least fav. in my collection would be my very first bonsai book the "sunset" one. It was my first though.

Publication in general? The worst has become the mag. "Bonsai Today"
 

Bonsai Nut

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1 to 90 will be difficult to impossible to obtain for most new hobbiests
Actually, almost all the issues 26+ are available via backorder directly from Stone Lantern (www.stonelantern.com). I had been missing issue 45 for some reason (I've been subscribing for years and must have missed the issue in my subscription at some point) and just ordered it directly with their Pine book. Its only the first 4 years that are really in short supply.

By the way - I have been hearing that Bonsai Today has gone downhill recently. What's the story? The last issue I have is 90 - and people say that after 90 it is not as good (?) I keep rereading old copies; 90 issues is a lot of magazine.
 
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There may be a consensus of those who are disaffected with Bonsai Today. I quit receiving the magazine for several reasons. The first was the recycled articles Jon mentioned. Then the advertising seemed to explode in size. Now I'm not against shameless commerce, I am absolutely a Capitalist. More power to 'em. But what really got me was one serious, egregious fault. Well, two.

The first was the so-called "reviews" of books and videos which they are obviously the only vendors for. Sell me a book or video. Don't make it look like news.

The second would just get me edited, anyway, so what's the point?
 

Bonsai Nut

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The second would just get me edited, anyway, so what's the point?
Standards for the bonsainut web site are:

1) Friendly,
2) Funny, and/or
3) Constructive

If you are going to post something negative, do so in a constructive way and it won't get edited. For example:

"This book sucks" will get edited because it is not friendly or constructive.

"I did not like this book because there were a lot of personal opinions that were expressed as fact, and I thought there was a lot of unwarranted negativity towards established practices..." will not get you edited because you are being specific and constructive about what you didn't like, without making personal slurs.
 

John Hill

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Don't get me wrong but most books are for the beginner that does not know how to re pot prune trim are what have you. They are pretty much the same. So one book is as good as the next. They just repeat themselves. Now for the more advanced I really don't think there are to many books out there that appeal to them.
I was going through my library and came across an old book called The "The Art of bonsai" by Yuji Yoshimura and Giovanna M. Halford which eariler 1957 was " The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and landscapes". This was a big hit for me back when I got into the art. Very nice book. It goes through the same as most books from re potting, propagation, and styles. All that is covered in most bonsai books. But this book has just a bit more. Not much but a little more. If you can find this book "The art of bonsai" It is worth the money. This is an old book and it shows methods of trunk bending with jacks,,back then!! So there are books out there that are, old some very old ,,the trees may not look like they do today but there are some great tips in these old books. I believe that most of your new books are written from those old books but the trees are more refined and those written today are just to make the good old buck!! So books are books, they are all good some just not as good as others. What is great to one may be junk to another. To me depends on the person reading it. One reads a book and gets nothing from it the next may read that book and get alot from it. So to each his (hers) own!

A Friend in bonsai
John
 

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