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The $64 Tomato: How On...
 
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William Alexander
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The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden

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3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  2,740 ratings  ·  551 reviews
When the author of this hilarious horticultural memoir plants a large vegetable garden and a small orchard on his Hudson Valley farmstead, he finds himself at odds with almost all creation. At the top of the food chain are the landscaping contractors, always behind schedule, frequently derelict, occasionally menacing. Then there are the herds of deer that batter the electr ...more
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Published 2007 by Algonquin Books (first published 2006)
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Diane Librarian
This is an enjoyable memoir about a married couple who design an elaborate vegetable garden, but it quickly turns into a more expensive, ambitious and time-consuming project than they anticipated. Toward the end of the book, the author adds up his gardening expenses and calculates the worth of the produce he's grown -- and he realizes that it cost him $64 to grow each of his 19 heirloom tomatoes that summer.

There were several amusing chapters, including William's experience in trying to grow a
...more
Norita
William Alexander, you are a talented writer. In less capable hands, I probably would have dispensed with the book entirely or thrown it across the room. Unfortunately, that is about the only nice thing I can say because Mr. Alexander, you are a pompous boob.

The book itself is a train wreck of a tale about bourgeois "gentleman farmer" (the term gentleman farmer is his, not mine) who spends a fortune on the ideal of a garden that never quite realizes its Platonic form. Alexander spends less time
...more
Ciara
i expected this to be something in the vein of all those sustainable gardening/lefty quasi-gentleman farmer memoirs making the rounds these days, with page after page dedicated to the author's environmental rights decision-making processes & lofty pronouncements on the superiority of home-grown tomatoes. what i actually got was so much funnier & more satisfying! i mean, yes, the dude acknowledges that he could conceivably be seen as a gentleman farmer, he describes himself several times ...more
Petrea
I gravitate toward books about gardening, and this seemed a likely choice. I was a touch disappointed because the author was quite negative--he kept saying how much he loved gardening, but then complained about the bugs and weeds and too abundant harvests, and the critters. Some things he brought on himself by trying not to spray for bugs, until it was too late, then he sprayed a lot, also he was gardening in the Hudson River Valley and he didn't want to put up a fence to keep out the deer--is t ...more
Katrina
of all the things gardening can do to you, the rarest seems to be inspire humorous self-assesment. this man is a gem. instead of some self-righteous monologue on the superiority of locavores and organics, glossy photos of the beauty his hands have wrought, his children eating off the fat of the land, and his wife as a piece of wallpaper, we have here the hilarious tale of a man, a family, and an obsession.

i have to point out that the tomato didn't really cost $64 dollars. he worked out his cost
...more
Evan
I'm a sucker for gardening and home memoirs, because I love to see how some other poor sucker did X/Y/Z complicated and expensive task. However, this one's closer to home, because I am a huge heirloom tomato fan and I too am planning about 1600 square feet of vegetables this year, in addition to fixing an old house and having a baby. Actually, this looks a little bit about the immediate future of my life, and so it was with some uneasy chuckles that I read of Alexander's existential crisis and f ...more
Cindy Huffman
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Frank
"The $64 Tomato" is a light laugh out loud look at one man's over-the-top gardening obsession on his three acre property in New York's Hudson Valley. Though the title may lead one to believe this to be a story about trying to grow a few tomato plants and the headaches and costs incurred with even that simple task, this book is much more broader in scope then that.
The author, William Alexander, purchases a somewhat large piece of property in upstate New York and immediatly has delusions of garden
...more
Karen
I enjoyed reading this quite a bit. While I don't agree with a lot of his actions and the chapters were a little too formulaic, I learned a lot and had fun reading it.

Explanation: The title implies that he goes to extremes normal gardeners wouldn't, but that's not entirely true. He analyzes the dilemmas and challenges most "weekend farmers" grapple with and he may spend a bit more than some, but the 64 dollars is the price he calculated out from how much hard cash he spent over a decade on his
...more
Jillaire
This amusing title caught my eye at the library a few weeks ago and I zoomed through it in a matter of days. Alexander has a casual yet sophisticated writing style that really engaged me as I read about his adventures in morphing from a mere backyard gardener to a "gentleman farmer." He goes through the design and construction of their 22-bed vegetable garden and the ensuing "cultivating" (not weeding), pest-eradicating (look out deer & Superchuck), and harvesting that it requires. As we hav ...more
Hava
I laughed out loud several times while reading this, and also couldn't help but read the section out loud to my fiancé about Red Delicious apples (and how much the author hates them, and why he cannot for the life of him understand why people choose to eat them. All I can say us: Amen, brother!)

All of that aside, I didn't love the book quite as much as I think I could have. At the end, he has no great epiphany, he doesn't come to any understanding about the way his life needs to interact with ga
...more
Mary
This was a book that had potential--- the author has a funny, warm, engaging side, some of the gardening stuff, the family stuff, the cooking stuff is really relatable. But then he has this other side that I think his editor really ought to have pushed harder to get rid of, where he needs to tell you minutia about how deep to bury the fence wire to address groundhogs and precisely how many stakes you need if you're edging a garden like his with metal. Where they're part of the overall story, oka ...more
Veronica
Oh boy where do I start with this one. It was very entertaining, informative and just truthful. As a gardener I shared his emotional ups and downs of his garden journey - struggling with the organic approach, etc. I have experienced my own "Superchuck" of pests and nearly lost my mind in the process. However, gardening is more about the journey than the end result. Except for some truly hardcore gardeners, most of us can not live off what we grow but the journey sure is fun. Yes, a $64 Tomato, n ...more
Barbara
I had such high hopes for this in the first few pages. I didn't think it was negative (as several reviews imply), it's just that gardening IS difficult. It's full of setbacks. It never quite matches our dreams. That's not negativity, that's reality. Initially I related, I laughed...and then he started talking about pests. And that's where he lost me. A so-called environmentalist doesn't resort to malathion or diazinon under ANY circumstances. And for me, you cross the line when you can't coexist ...more
Joe Bolin
I'll read almost anything about gardening: blog posts, seed catalog copy, magazines, books... A gardening theme is the reason I picked up The $64 Tomato; well, that and a mention from a friend at my community garden. It was an enjoyable and quick read. The only criticism I have is the basic premise of the book: that it costs a lot of money to have a garden. Yes, if you hire a garden designer and a contractor and outsource the installation of edging, it can be expensive. Most gardeners don't do a ...more
Jessica Dollar
Cute. But jeez, talk about privilege. I couldn't relate to a 16,000 dollar garden. Like the last book I read, I felt like this guy characterized his wife in a negative light for the sake of good storytelling. It annoys me. I expect that if I am reading a memoir or story-telling non-fiction, that the main character is the writer and everyone else is part of the story of the author. But WHY must these guys characterize their kids as cute and funny and their wives as road blocks or antagonists to t ...more
Laurie
At least my tomato isn't worth $64. Maybe I should quit before it reaches that. I finally saw humor in gardening, before I thought it was all work.
Laura Sheffield
For gardeners, this can be pleasurable reading because you relate. It has amusing tales and frustration, like little crop burglars and how to deter them. I related most to my own concerns, aging, back trouble and gardening! The $64 Tomato is a true account, from breaking sod to considering letting it go years later (no spoiler). They went from backyard organic gardeners to mini-less than organic, desperate "farmers".
The book has countless good tips and I have delayed putting raised beds out ba
...more
Jade Rhose
I happened to pick up this book for my mother (who will be reading it for her book club) this morning, and I was not at all interested at the time. I mean, its about gardening, which I don't particularly know/care about. But I invariably got bored and picked it up, just to read the first chapter.

And thus I was hooked. It was light-hearted and humorous, with the author not afraid to make fun of himself. I judge a book on how well it can make me laugh out loud, and there were a number of instances
...more
Caroline
Wanting the perfect garden and actually putting in the work to achieve it has been a pipe dream of mine for years. I thought I'd start small with a little herb garden and then when nothing died prematurely, I graduated to a little vegetable bed with minor success. That has lent itself to more grandiose dreams for the rest of the back yard. Chancing across this book will be, I suspect, a life, wallet and sanity-saver.

Hilarious anecdotes abound in this memoir as the author goes from almost electro
...more
Amanda
I checked this book out from the library. Like all autobiographical books, it is hard to know where to start. I was hooked in the first chapters where the backhoe winters in the slick clay and makes a multi holiday backdrop for the year. I'm surprised that they didn't put Christmas lights on it (but that might be a Western and Mid Western thing). What followed was hilarity interspersed with the moral dilemmas of gardening. Like other reviewers, I, too, was unprepared for the inhumane treatment i ...more
Jenny
Mar 02, 2014 Jenny rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny by: Dad from Uncle Ken
Shelves: nonfiction-read
That's a neat story, one man's tale of his life gardening. Beginning with a dream, "wouldn't it be nice to have a garden here?", and growing to his realization that he's actually farming and harvesting, rather than "gardening." I also particularly enjoyed his musings on aging and how that connected to his gardening. It seems like gardeners are particularly aware of the life cycle. I identified with his tale of how gardening sucks you in and takes on a life of its own, as well as the difficulties ...more
Judy
A book to make me glad I'm not into gardening! Lots of opportunities to laugh with the author, but was most struck by his chapter The Existentialist in the Garden, in which he asks: If you were doomed to live the same life over and over again for eternity, would you choose the life you are living now?
and his follow-up question: If the answer is no, then why are you living the life you are living now?
I love the life I have now. I think I will go to the library for more books to read!
Tori
Reading about everything that goes wrong and nothing going right gets depressing. After I read the chapter about the author trapping animals in his garden (and purposely leaving them in the trap in direct sun for several days hoping they would die because he was too afraid to release them alive) I knew the author was a moron and I couldn't stand to read the rest of the book.
Robin
As a new and struggling yet abundantly hopeful vegetable gardener, I thought this book was hilarious. The author conveys his struggles with the creation and maintenance of a kitchen garden and orchard with humor and wit. Some reviewers took issue with his pest management (aka attempted possum-acide) but I assume a certain amount of hyperbole in his tale. While I can't quite relate to hiring a garden planner and contractors with Big Machinery to create my garden, his rationalizations about exactl ...more
Peggy Sinden
What a fun way to become a bonafied master gardner. This story takes you through many years of trial and error in order to find the right combination only to realize that time is passing him by and he has spent a fortune in his quest. Was it fun, was it important, was it educational, Yes and more so. A good read from the funny side of Willam Alexander.
Daryl
This is not just for the gardener. It is a witty, informative book that illustrates the perils of perfectionism and the truism that "it's not nice to fool with Mother nature." Honestly this guy could write a book on cow manure and have you laughing out loud as you learn more about the subject than you ever thought that you would want to know.
Molly
This book was awesome! Unlike some I-lived-in-NYC-then-moved-to-the-country memoirs, it was never self-aggrandizing, boring, or written in an aggressive tone. Instead, the author came across as an introspective, involved, caring man who loves gardening and his family and can laugh at his own foibles. It also has some great tips!
Judy
I really enjoyed this book. I love food, cooking, and fresh natural produce. I have attempted a garden on several occasions despite the fact I live in a condo just because I adore home grown tomatoes. Back when I had a yard I did a couple of over ambitious gardens. I enjoyed his ups and downs and joys and humor about it all.
Molly Hall
Yes, I admit it....I am a garden-holic. I am obsessed with plants and flowers and meticulously maintained lawns. I slave over beds and borders and am constantly on the lookout for anything garden-related. I can spend hours at garden centers and nurseries, agonizing over what to buy and wishing I could win the lottery so I could just buy it all and skip the whole decision-making bit. Needless to say, when I saw the title of this book I had to read it. Although my garden consists of flowers instea ...more
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William Alexander is the author, most recently, of "Flirting with French." His previous books include the bestseller "The $64 Tomato" and "52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust." The New York Times has said about him, "His timing and his delivery are flawless."
More about William Alexander...
52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, and Nearly Broke My Heart

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“but I had set the precedent of declaring my preference for the solitary pleasures of gardening over social events.” 0 likes
“Well, ah don’t weed; ah cultivate. (As it turns out, ah will cultivate a lot.) Whereas weeding evokes images of backbreaking labor, kneeling under a broad-brimmed hat while hand-yanking weeds into a basket to be dumped in a remote corner of the yard, cultivating suggests nurturing, caring for tender shoots, feeding, and raising. All of which you accomplish, of course, by kneeling and hand-yanking weeds into a basket to be dumped in a remote corner of the yard.” 0 likes
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