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Why should we care about George Orwell’s planting habits? In her contemplative new work of nonfiction, essayist Rebecca Solnit begins by describing the novelist behind classics like Animal Farm and 1984 as he gardens: “In the year 1936 a writer planted roses.” Though Orwell’s name is in the title, this is no biography, nor should it scare off readers who may not be particularly invested in learning the finer details of the author’s life. Instead, as Solnit describes Orwell’s relationship with the natural world, she underlines broader themes surrounding freedom, climate change and labor. At its core, the book is about the simple satisfaction that can be gleaned from doing something that you love. The connections Solnit makes in service of this mission are bold and complex, but they always come together, buoyed by her affecting prose.

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