Bonsai books you read?

To develop and advance our trees we need proper knowledge on the subject.As a bookworm and a bonsai enthusiast i love to read books about bonsai. some books are truly golden and some are not. the books i really found important are,

  • The complete book of bonsai by Harry Tomlinson
  • Bonsai with Japanese Maples by Peter Adams
  • Bonsai survival manual by Colin Lewis
    what are your best bonsai reads share your ideas this maybe helpful to some of us

Has anyone read “Modern Bonsai Practice: 501 Principles of Good Bonsai Horticulture” by Larry Morton? It’s published in 2016 so the information should be up to date with today’s knowledge. I’m especially curious if the horticulture is correct and in line with what Ryan teaches on Mirai Live.

Horticulture is founded in science. The practice of horticulture is founded in art. I have never known artists to be in line with each other.

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My recommendations (in order of when I got them and loved them):
“The Bonsai Workshop” - Herb L. Gustafson
“Bonsai Techniques I” - John Naka
“Basic Bonsai Design” - David DeGroot
“Bald Cypress: The Tree Unique, The Wood Eternal” - Clair A. Brown and Glen N. Montz
“Bloody Bonsai” - Peter Abresch
“Ficus The Exotic Bonsai” - Jerry Meislik
“The Living Art of Bonsai” - Amy Liang
“Man Lung Artistic Pot Plants” - Wu Yee-Sun (1974 edition)
“Bonsai: Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy” - Deborah R. Koreshoff
“Bonsai Techniques for Satsuki” - John Naka
“Introductory Bonsai (and the care and use of bonsai tools)” - Masakuni Kawasumi
“Principles of Bonsai Design” - David DeGroot


I have a shelf full, however…
Principles of Bonsai Design, Dave Detgroot !
Bonsai Workshop, Gustafson
Knarly Branches, Ancient Trees, Robinson
And of course…Bonsai Design 1&2, John Yoshio Naka!
I have a 1963 printing of the 1957 Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes, Yoshima and Halford . I see great photos of trees I recognise; and techniques.
BILLS list is spot on… maybe add Hagadorn…

I have way too many books but for somebody fairly new to the hobby I always suggest ‘Bonsai’ by Peter Warren. A DK book.

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Next time I see Dave, I’ll call him Dr Detroit.

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Love Auto spellcheck!

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I learned a lot of basics from The Secret Techniques of Bonsai, by Masakuni Kawasumi. It has a lot of good basic information for beginners, like watering, and design, but actually explains some basic tool maintenance and other topics that usually go unmentioned.


I recommend The Art of Bonsai Design, by Colin Lewis, for case studies and info on elms, junipers, pines, and larches.

If you haven’t perused Harry Harrington’s Bonsai4me web site then I suggest you do that. He’s published lots of his articles that appear there in his Bonsai Inspirations 1 and Bonsai Inspirations 2 books.

Lots of good suggestions above, but I have always liked Peter Adam’s books. His discussion of bonsai design and case studies are very good in my opinion.

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I’m curious if anyone here has purchased or read Dan Robinson’s book “Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees: The Life and Work of Dan Robinson - Bonsai Pioneer”. Looks like a great book, and I love Dan’s trees and contributions to the art. Anyone?

I’m also wondering if anyone has ever come across a book by Robert Steven called “Vision of My Soul”. A guy I followed on YouTube, who has since mysteriously disappeared, highly recommended it and showed a brief clip of the book. Seems to be impossible to find unless you want to spend $400 on Amazon…

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I recently bought the Dan Robinson book but haven’t read it yet. A flick through looks good though.

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here is my list:

  • List item
  • Japanese Maples (original french version “Erables du Japon - 300 espèces et variétés”) - Vertrees & Gregory
    - The complete book of Bonsai - Harry Tomlinson
  • France Bonsai magazine
  • Tomes 1 & 2 - John Naka
  • Bonsai inspirations 1 & 2 - Harry Harrington
  • Bonsais - Peter Warren

For the ones who like other form of Japanese floral art - and french speaking (haven’t checked if there is a EN version)

  • Kokedama - Seguda & Sadrin
  • L’art du Kokedama - Bénard

By the way, I am in search of a good book on Kusamonos: if anyone has a good reference, please share!

ah! last but not least: Pinterest is a good tool to get a lot of ideas on design(s)

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Hi @MartyWeiser, which one or top2 would you recommend among Peter Adam’s list? Thanks!

bought! thank you @el_cheezer.

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Unfortunately there aren’t many good books on kusamono in the west.

“Bonsai, Kusamono & Suiseki” by Willi Benz - has been recently translated to French, check LR Presse :wink:
“Four seasons of bonsai” by Kyuzo Murata
“Four seasons of modern bonsai” by Kaori Yamada (who also has a book or two on kokedama)

Kyosuke Gun has a book on kusamono in his “illustrated bonsai practice” series (volume 6) and 4 books on the culture of wild grasses/flowers to use as kusamono or shitakusa. Unfortunately Guy Maillot didn’t buy the rights to that series. Maybe he could be convinced if enough people asked… but he still needs to finish the “Mini Bonsai” series first :wink:

KinBon has a seasonal off-shoot called “Sanyasou to mini-bonsai” (wild grasses and mini bonsai) that is all about kusamono and shitakusa. I’ll take a few issues at the congrès so you can have a look.


thank you @Michael_P! all references noted down in my wish list! very much appreciated! Cheers,

You’re welcome :slight_smile:

For the sake of completeness…

Kyouke Gun:
Illustrated Bonsai Practice Volume 6 - grasses
Illustrated introduction to wild grasses culture
Illustrated tips to grow 100 wild grasses
Potted wild grasses
Making a wild grasses garden

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I totally forgot Esprit Bonsai - Hors-Série No 4.

I would also recommend all the Kaori Yamada books on “saika”. It’s a cross between ikebana and bonsai… ikebana with living plants, which looks a lot like kusamono.

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