I've had a request for suggestions as to garden history books for Christmas gift-giving, and am much behind on answering it. But there's always overnight shipping!
My own garden history reading at this point tends towards scholarly tomes with not nearly enough pictures. But for someone just beginning an interest in the field, my favorite is a little book called "The Garden: Visions of Paradise" by Gabrielle van Zuylen, published by Thames and Hudson. It is out of print, but readily available used, and is the best overview of time periods and styles that I've read. My only complaint is that it is in a small format and I wish the illustrations were bigger.
One of the pleasures of being a garden historian is seeing gardens everywhere, and another small format book, 'flora: gardens and plants in art and literature' by Edward Lucie-Smith, published by Evergreen, covers a wide range of time periods and geographies in a non-academic way (art books can be so overwrought). Mostly pictures, with limited text attached to each one.
If you're interested in the modern era (history begins with the last moment, after all), Katie Campbell's Icons of Twentieth Century Landscape Design, published by Frances Lincoln, is the beautifully written story of twenty-nine sites, from the Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye to Luis Barragan's Los Arboledas, that have changed the way we look at outdoor spaces.
Finally, the book on my own Christmas wish-list is In the Garden by Beth Dow, whose lovely photography has featured in the blog before, and for which she has been awarded the grand prize in the Photography Book Now competition: "a portfolio of her large platinum-palladium prints that 'examine tensions of mass, light, and perspective in highly cultivated landscapes." At $80, it is a more affordable route to her art than one of her actual prints, for which I am still saving up. Order it at blurb.