I'll start by saying that even though this is a great 2-volume set, it scared me away from actually creating a forest garden for years. The first volume gives an extremely detailed and comprehensive overview of the theory behind forest gardening. If you start reading this book and think that you actually need to understand all this stuff in order go and plant a forest garden, you'll probably throw in the towel and never do it. There are a million details covered, and understanding it all to me seems like a daunting task.
I also found it for the most part very boring and even redundant. Based on some of the other reviews, other people seem to disagree with this. But to me in terms of excitement this book is just a shade above a technical manual (except the first section on "Vision," which I found very interesting)
And the thing is, you don't need to know everything in this book to start a forest garden. If you actually want to know what you need to know about making a forest garden, I highly recommend Martin Crawford's Creating a Forest Garden: Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops. When I read that book, I realized that I already basically knew what I needed to know in order to actually get started and put plants in the ground. Before I read Crawford's book I felt almost hopelessly lost. I had only been reading Edible Forest Gardens, which makes creating a forest garden seem like a superhuman task. Martin Crawford's book puts it on a more human level. In the end, there really aren't that many really key points to consider in making a forest garden. And the rest is mostly practical common sense. (I'm oversimplifying here. . . there's a thousand different nuances to the theory, but in the end most of these nuances don't directly affect what you're going to put in the ground. They are intellectual candy).
OK. I've blasted the book enough. On to the praise.
I'm very glad to have this 2-volume set. The appendices of volume 1 and 2 are extremely valuable to anyone wanting to create a forest garden, and I personally think that it's worth the purchase price of these books just to get the appendices. The appendices to volume 2 contain all sorts of data about plant species you may want to put in your forest garden (though I've learned that if you really want to make certain about any particular stat, verify it with other sources if you can. . . it's not uncommon to get different data if you look at another source). That being said, it is by far the best compilation of data of its kind. It's an absolutely wonderful resource, and I'm sure it took a tremendous amount of tedious labor to create (I believe Eric Toensmeier is the one to thank there). I have yet to find a species I've been interested in planting in my forest garden that has not been in the appendices.
Also I absolutely love the appendix to volume 1, which is what the authors call the "Top 100" species for forest gardening. If you are new to forest gardening, you will love this. It goes into detail about all of these cool species you can plant, and it's useful later on as well since you can look to this list to find species which for the most part "play well" in the forest garden.
I do also enjoy browsing through the body of Volume 2 (the "practice" volume, as opposed the the "theory" of volume 1) to find material on specific topics of interest, but I would not recommend to anyone that they read it straight through. There's lots of interesting things to consider. It's more of a browsing book than a sit-down-and-read book (at least for me. . . I'm sure there are some out there who would disagree). It's almost like a reference manual, but not exactly.
There's a quote of Peter Bane that's on the back of the book which I find particularly apt in describing it. "This book will define the intellectual territory of it subject for at least a generation." If I knew how to italicize the word "intellectual" I would. I agree with this quote. It's a very important book on this subject, but it's very heady and is not really practical as a "how-to" kind of book, at least not for mere mortals like me. It's a great reference, and belongs on the shelf of any really serious forest gardener, but if you are looking for something that will tell you the basics of forest gardening and get you up and running and putting plants in the ground, this is not the book for you.