I'm not a gardener. Yet. I have a small, inner city backyard that has run to weeds, with a few wild raspberry bushes in it, and I haven't known where to start to get it under control.
I got this book, and have been reading it like a novel for the past couple of days. It's strange to say that about a permaculture/gardening theory and how-to book, but seriously, I can't put it down! I'm so inspired by it. Not only that, but there are some really practical ideas for getting started, ideas that even a beginner like me can figure out. For instance, instead of doing the back-breaking weeding I kept thinking I had to do in order to get my backyard in order (and which we did some of last year, only to find the weeds growing back as fast as we could get rid of them), Hemenway suggests sheet mulching. Not to mention some rethinking about what "weeds" are, and what their role is in your garden ecosystem.
And I like the fact that the book really explains permaculture and the principles behind it, and how plants and trees and bugs and animals and people interact with each other. It starts from the very beginning, for beginners like me, but I think that even experienced gardeners will love this book because of all the examples and ideas Hemenway seeds through all of his writing.
If you need not only an introduction, but a thorough understanding of permaculture, this is your book.