I know that a lot of the people who read this blog are in America - so I'm guessing you probably won't have heard of a gardening presenter and writer we have over here called Monty Don. He heads up a weekly programme called Gardeners' World. It gives topical advice, and there are items about interesting gardens all over Britain, from tiny London plots to gorgeous stately homes: but at the centre is Monty's own garden in rural Herefordshire - Longmeadow.
It's a beautiful garden, divided into various sections. There's the Jewel Garden, full of brilliant colour; there's the Dry Garden, which is dry because it was created on top of a courtyard, there's a vegetable garden; there's a pond and an orchard and a mound created from a pile of spoil, now a vantage point where Monty and co can sit and watch the sunset with a glass of wine. And there's a potting shed, of course.
Monty is the centre of the programme, of course. But over recent years, the true star has turned out to be not Monty, but his dog, Nigel: a charismatic golden retriever who steals every scene. As Monty says:
When we are filming it is uncanny how he will always find just the one position where the combination of sunlight, flowers, the whole composition of the scene - about which he cannot possibly have the slightest notion - all come together to work perfectly around him.
And so now Monty has written a book about him. But it's not just about Nigel. Monty has always had dogs, and here he writes about many of them. As he does so, he tells us quite a bit about his life, and particularly about Longmeadow. But the focus is the dogs, and his relationship with them. It's full of a sort of calm wisdom, and in a completely un-pushy sort of way, he passes on advice about how to live with dogs (and how to deal with the pain when the time comes when you must part with them). He's gentle but unsentimental, amusing and kind. It's a delight to be in his company as you wander through the book, following Nigel as he hunts out tennis balls, swims in flooded fields and flops down close to wherever Monty is working.
If you're interested in gardening and in dogs, this is a book you will thoroughly enjoy. Or it would make a perfect Christmas present for the right person. Reading it is like spending time in that sunshiny garden - without having to do any of the work!