Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren

There are some that say gardening contains all the drama of human life — happiness and sadness, triumph and defeat, jealousy, hatred, life and death. Of course, there are some elements of gardening that contain all this and more. Such is the world of those hearty gardeners who attempt to grow the biggest pumpkin in the world.

I received a review copy of Backyard Giants a few weeks ago, thinking that I might try it after finishing some other weightier business tomes. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the title, but soon found myself immersed in a world I only vaguely knew. Sure, I had seen growers on television and in magazines, touting their humungous, over-grown “pumpkins”, but I had never realized what goes on behind the scenes — in the garden and in the clubhouses of gardening clubs — across the country.

Author Susan Warren hooked me from the first chapter as she introduces Ron and Dick Wallace, giant pumpkin growers from Rhode Island, the focus of the book. I immediately felt like I knew these men and were overhearing their conversations instead of reading them on the page. Warren puts the reader right their beside them as they create a new pumpkin patch, chose their seedlings and start another, summer-long, attempt at a world record pumpkin. Along the way we get to know their fellow growers, both local, national and, in the case of one Canadian grower, international.

Throughout the book we look on as they pick, chose, change their minds, wonder and worry. Were they doing everything they can? Were they doing too much? Too little? Growing giants is a worrisome task and can lead to strained marriages and sleepless nights. We feel each triumph and each defeat as weather, wildlife and worry take their toll on both the gardeners and their charges.

I didn’t linger over Backyard Giants. I devoured it. I found myself pulled through the pages, wanting to know what happened to this grower or that. Would the Wallace’s achieve their long-desired goals, or would their dreams be left to rot in the garden? I am sure others will think it odd that I find such drama in a gardening story, but at its very heart, this is a story of people. People who dare to dream Cinderella dreams of coach-sized pumpkins that earn the title — the biggest pumpkin in the world.

Highly Recommended.

More 2012 Gift Guide Items:

  1. Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
  2. Bulb Planting Tools
  3. Blue Snowball Microphone
  4. Seagate Backup Plus 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive
  5. Logitech C920 HD Web Cam
  6. We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
  7. Sunset Western Garden Book – New Edition for 2012
  8. The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings
  9. Garden Mysteries by Anthony Eglin
  10. The Creative Habit/The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp
  11. Moleskeine Journals
  12. Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening (3rd Edition): Month by Month
  13. Podcasting for Dummies/Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies
  14. Wacom Bamboo Splash Pen Tablet
  15. Radical Careering by Sally Hogshead
  16. The $64 Tomato
  17. Blue Yeti Microphone
  18. BioLite CampStove/HomeStove
  19. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  20. The Curious Gardener
  21. Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
  22. GoPro HD HERO 3
  23. Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart
  24. The Starfish and the Spider by Orj Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
  25. Microphone Boom Arms
  26. The Information by James Gleick
  27. Handy Farm Devices And How To Make Them (1909)
  28. Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas
  29. Apple iPhone 5
  30. Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod
  31. Killer Ratings by Lisa Seidman
  32. Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon
  33. Zoom Portable Recorders (H1, H2, H2n, H4n)
  34. Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds
  35. My Teenager’s Favorite Games
  36. The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness
  37. In a Mexican Garden: courtyards, pools and open-air living rooms
  38. Fields of Plenty: A farmer’s journey in search of real food and the people who grow it
  39. Apple iPad/iPad Mini
  40. The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam
  41. Cucina Rustica
  42. The Great Potato Book
  43. Rode Podcaster Microphone
  44. High-Tech Fitness Monitors
  45. Books by Douglas E. Welch
  46. Tribes by Seth Godin
  47. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  48. The Italian Slow Cooker cookbook
  49. The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need
  50. Classes from The Institute of Domestic Technology
  51. Olympus PEN E-P1 12 MP Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera