The Botany of Desire

The Botany of Desire

A Plant's Eye View of the World

Book - 2001
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The book that helped make Michael Pollan, the New York Times bestselling author of How to Change Your Mind , Cooked and The Omnivore's Dilemma, one of the most trusted food experts in America

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?
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2001]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2001
ISBN: 9780375760396
Characteristics: xxv, 271 pages ; 25 cm


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Discuss Thursday, March 19 at 12:00 p.m.

New York Times bestselling author and journalist Michael Pollan writes books and articles about the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in our minds. His bests... Read More »

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May 03, 2020

Michael Pollan has made some very scientific ideas easy and fun to understand. If ever someone has shown we are nature/nature is us Michael has here. This is a must read for any gardener, history buff or budding environmentalist. Five Stars

Jan 03, 2019

After reading about how potatoes are grown on an industrial scale in Idaho, you will never eat another non-organic Russet Burbank baking potato (or french fry) again!

Jul 13, 2016

Pollan’s premise in The Botany of Desire: a plant’s eye view of the world is that domesticated plants and humans have coevolved in ways that often benefitted plants as much as humans. To explore this premise, Pollan looks at four plants: apples, tulips, cannabis and potatoes. With apples, Pollan looks at the history of sweetness and alcohol, in the form of cider. The section on tulips examines beauty, markets and bubbles using the setting of 17th century Holland, where at one point a house was traded for a tulip bulb. In the part about cannabis, Pollan explores the history of psychotropic drugs. Finally, in the section about potatoes, Pollan describes our relationship with food, pesticides and how food production is changing. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan greatly expands on this theme.

One of the most fascinating aspects of The Botany of Desire are Pollan’s historical explanations of plants history. For example, Pollan’s vivid depiction of the potato famine in Ireland gave me an understanding of famines that I did not have before reading Pollan.

Overall this is an extraordinary and engaging meditation on plants and humans.

Wireless_Phil Dec 28, 2011

I'm hungry now.

teacupfaerie Mar 01, 2011

Who knew that pot was making us want to propagate it??

Feb 09, 2010

Humorous look at our relationships with plants. Michael Pollan turns the tables on us with this short work. We are not the masters of plants who grow them for our own desire. Instead the plants are controlling us! They evolve to satisfy our desires so we will move them, plant them, and help them thrive.


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