The Botany of Desire

The Botany of Desire

A Plant's-eye View of the World

Book - 2001
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In 1637, one Dutchman paid as much for a single tulip bulb as the going price of a town house in Amsterdam. Three and a half centuries later, Amsterdam is once again the mecca for people who care passionately about one particular plant -- thought this time the obsessions revolves around the intoxicating effects of marijuana rather than the visual beauty of the tulip. How could flowers, of all things, become such objects of desire that they can drive men to financial ruin? In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan argues that the answer lies at the heart of the intimately reciprocal relationship between people and plants. In telling the stories of four familiar plant species that are deeply woven into the fabric of our lives, Pollan illustrates how they evolved to satisfy humankinds's most basic yearnings -- and by doing so made themselves indispensable. For, just as we've benefited from these plants, the plants, in the grand co-evolutionary scheme that Pollan evokes so brilliantly, have done well by us. The sweetness of apples, for example, induced the early Americans to spread the species, giving the tree a whole new continent in which to blossom. So who is really domesticating whom? Weaving fascinating anecdotes and accessible science into gorgeous prose, Pollan takes us on an absorbing journey that will change the way we think about our place in nature.
Publisher: New York : Random House, c2001.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780375501296
Characteristics: xxv, 271 p. ; 25 cm.


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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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