We have temporarily closed all Denver Botanic Gardens locations. Denver Botanic Gardens’ response to COVID-19

March 31, 2017 | Rory O'Connor-Walston, Former Catalog Librarian

The Helen Fowler Library is known for the largest horticultural collection in the Rocky Mountain region, but did you know we have a small fiction collection as well? While literature dedicated to the depiction of imaginary places and people may not seem like an obvious fit, I promise you it’s worth exploring.

The library’s collection features contemporary authors such as Alice Hoffman and Margaret Atwood, as well early twentieth century authors such as Willa Cather and W. H. Hudson. There are a variety of genres, including science fiction, historical and literary fiction, with botanical, horticultural, and ecological themes.

And while the bulk of the collection is dedicated to botanical and horticultural materials, having fiction allows readers to engage with botany and the natural world in a unique, thought provoking way. There is something for every reader, from ecological thrillers to meditations on the Civil War.

Here are my five favorite fiction books in our collection (and because it’s a popular question, no, I have not read them all, yet):

  1. The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea. A wonderful set of short stories, Urrea’s collection features a strong sense of place and connection to the environment, especially the Mexican-American border. The eponymous story of the set looks at life in the U.S. after there is no more water.
  2. Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen. Spanning several decades, Evergreen follows a family living off the land in a remote cabin, in the vanishing Minnesota wilderness.
  3. The Bees by Laline Paull. Depicting the life of a bee named Flora, The Bees touches on both pollinators and modern environmental disasters. Think Animal Farm in a beehive.
  4. Tracks by Louise Erdrich. Four Souls, a resident of the Ojibwe reservation, sets out to walk to Minneapolis and St. Paul, seeking restitution and retribution on the lumber baron that stripped her reservation.
  5. Whose Names Are Unknown by Sanora Babb. There is a fascinating story behind Babb’s Dust Bowl novel. This novel, written at the same time as Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, was rejected due to the (now misguided) notion that there wasn’t enough support for two books on the same subject around the same time.

All of these books, and many more, are available for members to check out. The Helen Fowler Library, located in the Boettcher Center at York Street, is open Saturday-Thursday, 10-5 p.m.



Thank you for your sharing

WOW Rory! Thanks for your great article about the Helen Fowler Library, nowadays, everybody with a phone in hand, but I think what we need is reading some famous books but not at the social network everyday. The 5 great books which you shared me, same as you, I have not read them, if I free, I will try to read some of them, I like the " The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea", short stories suit for me. Any more great books you recommend? I will be very happy to enjoy your update, thanks much for your post.


Hi Rory, I also like reading Rebecca Rasmussen's Evergreen, haven't read other fiction books though, will try if I have enough time. Thanks.

Add new comment