Maple syrup season is here. As reliably as the new crop of syrup each spring comes a crop of books to tell us about maple. Make that more reliably, as the books aren’t weather dependent.


“Backyard Sugarin’: A Complete How-To Guide” by Rink Mann. Fourth Edition, 2016.

Have you got a sugar maple tree, or three, in your yard and a back-to-the-lander’s fantasy of making your own maple syrup? Buy this lighthearted, little book to help you figure out how. “The real challenge in backyard sugarin’ is to find ingenious ways to collect and boil down sap without spending any money,” (the late) Rick Mann writes. He precedes to outline thrifty hacks in chapters like “Trees, Taps, and Saps” and “The Boiling Down Process.” The book contains many bad yet weirdly charming black-and-white photos of jerry-rigged sugaring rigs, many simple diagrams and sketches, much folksy language, and lots of encouraging and useful information, too. After Mann relates how he refashioned an old and crusted lasagna pan into a backyard evaporator, he writes, “Experimenting, improvising, modifying. That’s what backyard sugarin’ is all about.”


“Maple Sugaring: Keeping it Real in New England,” by David K. Leff. 2015

This book is not a how-to, although it does give some basics on how to tap trees and boil sap. It’s not a cookbook, although its pages includes recipes for stalwarts, like Orange Maple Glazed Chicken and Maple Pecan Pie. And it’s not a history of sugaring, although it tells readers something about tapping way back when. What author David K. Leff, who tapped trees himself in Connecticut for 25 years, set out to do is to describe “the sugaring way of life,” as he writes, to capture “the indomitable spirit of those who tap and boil sap.”

He’s an affable and enthusiastic guide, going wide, not deep, and touching on the romance of sugaring, the tools of the trade, maple agritainment, threats to the industry (though the book’s tone is so homey the word “industry” feels ill-suited) and many individual maple syrup makers. “Maple Sugaring” is a friendly introduction to a sweet subject.