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The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World (2001)

by Michael Pollan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,6021361,804 (4.04)172
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 tulop, 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, the plants have also benefited at least as much from their association with us. So who is really domesticating whom?… (more)
  1. 41
    Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart (clif_hiker)
  2. 52
    Shrinking the Cat by Sue Hubbell (lorax)
    lorax: Both books are case studies of human breeding and selection of four domestic species; while the focus of the two is different there's enough overlap to create common interest, and both books choose apples as one of the species of interest.
  3. 53
    Tulipomania : The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused by Mike Dash (lorax)
    lorax: The Dutch "tulip mania" touched on in this book is explored in more detail in Tulipomania.
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» See also 172 mentions

English (135)  German (1)  All languages (136)
Showing 1-5 of 135 (next | show all)
I was going to give this 5 stars, but the marijuana chapter brought it down for me. I felt that chapter was a tad long-winded (no pun intended), becoming somewhat repetitive.

As always happens when I read a Michael Pollan book, I think of the parts of my life that can be changed. By the end of the last chapter (the potato chapter), I was envisioning the garden I want to plant this year, and it became about 10 times larger in my head than I really have time or energy for this year. but, the farmer's market will be doing well by us this summer.

If this book can get you thinking about our relationship with the natural world, I think it is a read well spent. ( )
  ssperson | Apr 3, 2021 |
I read this a few days after "The Omnivore's Dilemma", and began it the day after picking up "In Defense of Food". I loved the former, thought the latter was thin and a resaying of what he'd already said. This book was a beautiful book, though not the tome that O.D was, it's beautifully written. It also sets the stage nicely for O.D.

Here, using apples (with their amazing capacity to evolve based on seeds that don't grow true to the parent), tuplips, cannabis and potatoes Pollan sets out plainly the case that Richard Attenborough made several years before: that both humans and the foods they eat co-evolve. In the final chapter, he begins to describe the connundrum of monoculture that he deals a death-blow to in O.D (in that anyone who reads it will understand for once and for all what a death-blow to humanity monoculture is).

I loved this beautiful book. ( )
  wickenden | Mar 8, 2021 |
Interesting, fun, fairly quick...the PBS special is (in my opinion) as good as the book since you aren't going to remember the detailed details anyway :) ( )
  mcsp | Jan 25, 2021 |
21,95 ( )
  MRMP | Jan 9, 2021 |
21,95 ( )
  MRMP | Jan 9, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 135 (next | show all)
In other words, human desire shapes the plants that then shape human desire. In displaying for us, in his graceful and literate way, the intricacies of the mechanisms involved, Mr. Pollan shines a light on our own nature as well as on our implication in the natural world.
 
It's an absorbing subject, and Pollan, like his hero, brings a clutch of quirky talents to the task of exploring it. He has a wide-ranging intellect, an eager grasp of evolutionary biology and a subversive streak that helps him root out some wonderfully counterintuitive points. His prose both shimmers and snaps, and he has a knack for finding perfect quotes in the oddest places (George Eliot is somehow made to speak for the sense-attenuating value of a good high). Best of all, Pollan really loves plants.
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Pollanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my parents, who never doubted (or if they did, never let it show); and my grandfather, with gratitude
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The seeds of this book were first planted in my garden--while I was planting seeds, as a matter of fact.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

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 tulop, 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, the plants have also benefited at least as much from their association with us. So who is really domesticating whom?

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Book description
This work explores the nature of domesticated plants from the dual perspective of humans and the plants themselves. Pollan presents case studies that mirror four types of human desires that are reflected in the way that we selectively grow, breed, and genetically engineer our plants. The apple reflects the desire of sweetness, the tulip beauty, marijuana pleasure and the potato sustenance.
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