I Want my Book Back!

I missed the Sydney launch of my first book.  I had pneumonia, and I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow.  My pillow was in Woodend, Australia.

But what I’m eternally grateful for is that Brodee Myers-Cooke – the then editor of the garden section of Better Homes and Gardens – organised for the launch to be videoed, and got hold of a copy of the book, and had a heap of the attendees sign it, with messages of support, love and encouragement.

But then that copy went missing.

Three years after publication, the ABC requested that I record Michael McCoy’s Garden as an audiobook, so I spent a few days in a voice-over booth, reading it, with several copies open in front of me, so as to not have to audibly turn the pages.  I left one or two copies with the audio-technician – a really good friend of mine – for reference, and must have forgotten to retrieve them before packing up all our belongings and heading overseas for a year.

It must have been about five years later than I realised that my precious, multiply-signed copy was missing, and after some head-scratching, thought that it was possibly amongst the copies I’d left with the technician.  I contacted her, and she claimed that she neither had it, nor had ever had it.

The beaten up lost copy

At least another five years later, I was really mourning the loss of the book, thinking that it was probably sitting in the book shelf of someone for whom it was entirely meaningless.  Then, apropos of nothing, a nephew of mine showed me a YouTube clip about people who’d prayed for the return of precious lost items.  In that moment, I was filled with belief, and simply prayed ‘I want my book back!’

This occurred just days before leading an OS garden tour, so I was thoroughly distracted for several weeks, but not long after getting back, I received an email from someone in Tasmania.

It said something like this 

‘The strangest thing just happened.  My daughter and I decided that we were going to overhaul a part of our garden, so dragged our two garden books off the bookshelf for reference, one of which was Michael McCoy’s Garden.  The front two pages had always been stuck together, and such is the inquisitiveness of my ten year old, that she had to try and peel them apart.  When she did, we found that those pages were covered in signatures and messages to you!  It was clear that it was of much greater value to you than to us, so if you send me your postal address, I’ll send it back to you.’

The emailer was herself an author, and threw in one of her books, as a bonus.  Turns out the audio technician had given it to her, years and years before. Of course, I sent a new, fresh copy of Michael McCoy’s Garden back to her.

But how about that?

The audio technicians sticky notes!

Michael McCoy’s Garden is still available from me, at $29-95 + p&h.  Contact me on michael@thegardenist.com.au if you’re interested.  I also read it onto YouTube as a lockdown project this year.  You can watch those videos at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2Zn-YfUhCsPPFIIFXwLHal7hDgxw-8Hr


  1. Clearly you were meant to have that book!

  2. Lovely story Michael.
    Funnly enough I spotted my copy of your book today and here you are talking about it. Great book and enjoyed the readings you did during lockdown.
    I am writing because I so appreciate your plant of the week. I always learn a lot from it as the writer adds that personal exerience of the plant that no reference does really. Such a lot of wisdom and experience ‘out there’ – so valuable.
    I love hearing from a wide range of different people – hopefully you can find enough who’d like to write a POTW or two. I am going to dob Donna Somerville in!!! She’d have some wonderful stories to share 🙂

    1. Thanks Jacqui, glad you enjoy PotW. I’ve had quite a few responses via email, so it looks like it’s staying. And great suggestion about Donna

  3. Such a great story about the mystery of the missing book. And three cheers for the very thoughtful Tasmanian person who facilitated your reunion.

    1. Author Rachael Treasure, no less!

  4. What a heartwarming story..the lost book. I know I can’t stand it if I ever misplace a favourite, usually garden related book. Or have lent it to someone and feel they have kept it too long!
    My own copy of your book has only ever been lent once, to one of my closest gardening friends. Safely back in my gardening collection shelf…and much admired by that English gardener too.
    Glad to see in above comment you are going to keep on with the plant of the week. Always stimulates..either a memory or a new way of viewing a plant…or indeed learning of a ‘new’ one.

  5. Really loved the chat between you and the wonderful Dan Pearson.
    True joy. Should have seen the notes I was scribbling…thank goodness I could stop start and not miss anything. I felt like an excitable Hort student all over again!
    Thinking of the PoW., and remembering the conversation I was sooo pleased to hear come up, that of Australian native plants, woodies, and the difficulty placing them to achieve that soft, seasonal look……How about including some more natives to challenge?
    When I come home from the U.K., I’ve got to say I’m always disappointed to see so many Australian gardens still only following an English or Oudolf and gang style..gorgeous that they are. Such a different growing climate. Mix it up I think.

  6. I am new to gardening and my friend sent me some reference books, one of which is your Garden book. After reading through your book I realized that I wanted to purchase my own copy for reference (as I promised to return my friend’s copy). So many beautiful plants and good advise on soils and companion plants. Thank you for taking the time to write such an enjoyable book. How do I purchase please.

    1. Hi Alison, it all depends which book it was. If it’s Michael McCoy’s Garden, I can sell you one. If you’re after The Gardenist, I’m afraid it’s out of print. Apparently you can buy a digital version from Pan Macmillan/Plum

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