librariphile, October 21, 2012 (view all comments by librariphile)
This is the first book I finished after a long hiatus from "fun" reading. Each chapter presented well-researched, new information as well as charming anecdotes from the author.
whoseblues1, June 28, 2007 (view all comments by whoseblues1)
Really 4++ stars. I decided to read this book (from 2001) before reading the author's most recent book, The Omnivore's Dilemma. This book discusses 4 different plants, demonstrating how 4 different human desires have operated to make them so successful. The apple tree and the apple come first, and, among other points, the real story about Johnny Appleseed is very interesting. The tulip is discussed next, along with the rabid financial speculation involved in its rise. Marijuana is third, and the chapter includes thoughts on the ubiquitous nature of human use, over time and across cultures, of consciousness-altering plant chemicals, and the possible connection of this use to the development of religion generally. Finally, the potato is last, with a look at the nature of genetic modification that is both sobering and thought provoking. The book posits that, while we pat ourselves on the back for domesticating these (and other) plants, we really have functioned much in the capacity of bees to fulfill the reproductive imperative of the plants themselves. In breeding these plants as we have to fulfill our own narrow desires, however, we may be paying too high a price in lost biodiversity, to our own eventual disadvantage. Well written, a clean, fast read.
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The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World
Used Trade Paper
0 stars -
Random House Trade -
"Review A Day"
by Adrienne Miller, Esquire,
"A lovely book that succeeds in attaining that most elusive of states: grace." (Read the entire Esquire review.)
by Richard Ford,
"I find this book to be inspirational — curiosity and gentleness of spirit forming genius."
by The New York Times,
"Pollan shines a light on our own nature as well as on our implication in the natural world."
by Alice Waters,
"Michael Pollan is a sensualist and a wonderful, funny storyteller. He is so engaging that his profound environmental messages are effortlessly communicated. He makes you fall in love with Nature."
by Bill McKibben, author of Long Distance and The End of Nature,
"This book is as crisp as an October apple, as juicy as an August tomato, as long-awaited as the first flower of spring. Michael Pollan has conceived a new and powerful understanding of who we are, and how we stand in relation to everything else — and the stories he tells to prove the point make the world seem a richer place."
by Mark Kurlansky, author of The Basque History of the World,
"It is a rare pleasure to read a book of ideas so graceful and witty that it makes you smile — at times even laugh out loud — with delight as it challenges you to rethink important issues."
by Edward Hoagland, author of Compass Points,
"Like Tracy Kidder, Michael Pollan is a writer to immerse in. He's informed and amusing, with a natural sort of voice that spools on inventively beyond expectations into a controlled but productive and intriguing obsessiveness (whether on Johnny Appleseed or marijuana). A fine book."
by William Cronon, editor of Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature,
"No one else writes about the human environment quite like Michael Pollan: we can be grateful indeed that one of our wittiest writers about nature is also one of our wisest. In The Botany of Desire, Pollan makes a persuasive case that the plants we might be tempted to see as having been most domesticated by humanity are in fact also those that have been most effective in domesticating us. It is a stunning insight, and no one will come away from this book without having their ideas of nature stretched and challenged."
by The New Yorker,
"A wry, informed pastoral."
Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers genes far and wide. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires — sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control — with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind's most basic yearnings. And just as we've benefited from these plants, we have also done well by them. So who is really domesticating whom?
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