Customer Reviews for

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

Average Rating 4
( 72 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(34)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(16)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(2)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

fantastic!

The Botany of Desire is a fantastic book about the co-evolution between us and the plant world. The book is written in four chapters, each chapter being an example of a plant and it's relationship with us. Pollan writes about the apple, the tulip, marijuana and the pota...
The Botany of Desire is a fantastic book about the co-evolution between us and the plant world. The book is written in four chapters, each chapter being an example of a plant and it's relationship with us. Pollan writes about the apple, the tulip, marijuana and the potato. He starts with the apple and writes about John Chapman (better known as Johnny Appleseed) and his love of "wildness". He planted apples not in the rows we see now at apple orchards. He appreciated the more disorderly nature of wilderness. Pollan talks about the tulip and the desire for beauty in chapter two. Chapter three is marijuana and the almost universal desire for intoxication....not only of humans but animals as well. By the end of the book Pollan writes about the potato. We see the opposite end of the spectrum from Chapman's "wildness". We see men in lab coats genetically modifying the potato, taking control of it's genes and having their way with them. Pollan's writing is very passionate. His anecdotes along the way (especially his attempt at growing marijuana) are laughable. His love of gardening is saturated in these pages and by the end I was thinking seriously about starting my own garden!

posted by songcatchers on October 25, 2008

Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review

Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Not what the title implies

The author brings up a very interesting concept, but relies solely on history to back his points up rather than incorporating scientific data. This would be fine if the title implied that it was a historical account, but botany is a science. He is also very redundant in...
The author brings up a very interesting concept, but relies solely on history to back his points up rather than incorporating scientific data. This would be fine if the title implied that it was a historical account, but botany is a science. He is also very redundant in his historical accounts, reitterating the same points with slightly different examples. This would be a much easier and interesting read if the points weren't so drawn out.

posted by Anonymous on March 14, 2007

Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 72 Customer Reviews
Page 1 of 4
  • Posted October 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fantastic!

    The Botany of Desire is a fantastic book about the co-evolution between us and the plant world. The book is written in four chapters, each chapter being an example of a plant and it's relationship with us. Pollan writes about the apple, the tulip, marijuana and the potato. He starts with the apple and writes about John Chapman (better known as Johnny Appleseed) and his love of "wildness". He planted apples not in the rows we see now at apple orchards. He appreciated the more disorderly nature of wilderness. Pollan talks about the tulip and the desire for beauty in chapter two. Chapter three is marijuana and the almost universal desire for intoxication....not only of humans but animals as well. By the end of the book Pollan writes about the potato. We see the opposite end of the spectrum from Chapman's "wildness". We see men in lab coats genetically modifying the potato, taking control of it's genes and having their way with them. Pollan's writing is very passionate. His anecdotes along the way (especially his attempt at growing marijuana) are laughable. His love of gardening is saturated in these pages and by the end I was thinking seriously about starting my own garden!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2001

    Superbly Written.

    'The Botany of Desire' is a tour de force. I understand this book as a carefully crafted warning about the dangers of setting genetically engineered plants loose in the world ecosystem. The author uses the first three chapters to discuss the co-evolution with humans of the apple, the tulip and cannibis. These fascinating stories serve to educate the reader to botany and ecology and bring him or her up to speed for the final chapter that discusses the genetically engineered potato and the adverse or even disasterous effects it may have on the ecosystem. He summarizes the many unanswered scientific questions that have been raised about this technology and demonstrates that many important questions aren't even being asked. Throughout, the author beautifully describes the mating of plant culture with human culture, the never-ending dance of Dionysus with Apollo. This is great literature.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2002

    An Incredible Book

    When I was given this book as a gift I thought Pollan's entire concept sounded bizarre. However, once I began reading, I couldn't put it down. His writing style is superb and his ideas are fascinating and haunting. I highly recommend this book to everyone. You'll never think about nature the same way again.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2001

    Enlightening

    Now I know why I spend so much time in my garden... my plants (it is ¿my human¿ to them) are manipulating me to help propagate them through their appeals to my sense of beauty, sweetness, or heaven forbid some ~other~ characteristics that you will read about in this book. All speculation aside, this book was a joy to read (even though it was also ~very educational~). Plant lovers, read this book and I bet you'll love it as much as I do!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2003

    a good read

    I especially enjoyed this book not only because of his style but also because of his historical perspective. I would love if he did another book that tracked the impact other plants have had. The only reason I take off a star is because I was not in full agreement with his premise. But I still loved the book, nonetheless.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2010

    Love this book!

    I was fascinated by the topics in this book. I am going to use it in a critical thinking class I teach. Something new and fresh as well as different.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2007

    Not what the title implies

    The author brings up a very interesting concept, but relies solely on history to back his points up rather than incorporating scientific data. This would be fine if the title implied that it was a historical account, but botany is a science. He is also very redundant in his historical accounts, reitterating the same points with slightly different examples. This would be a much easier and interesting read if the points weren't so drawn out.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2001

    I do not have time to talk, but.........

    This was an incredible book. Like the synopsis on the back cover says, when you walk away from this book, you will have a whole new perspective of life in general. I thorougly enjoyed this. This book is for anyone, but it would be most enjoyable for those who enjoy science. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2001

    The interelationship of plants and man...

    Michael Pollan's, THE BOTANY OF DESIRE,is an exceptionally good read. It can be read by the historian for its history, the botanist as a study of plant life and the ecologist for his warnings. All will be entertained with his prose and lively style. From Pollan's own garden comes his premise: does man choose the plant or did the plant inspire, conspire to get man to plant a particular vegetable, flower within the confines of his garden? Pollan chooses just four plants (or did the plants choose him) the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato for their desirous traits. The apple's sweetness, the tulip's beauty, cannabis's ability to intoxicate and the potato's ability to produce nutritious food and land unsuitable for anything else. Especially enjoyable and successful was the chapter on the apple. Pollan debunks the myth of Johnny 'Appleseed' Chapman. Chapman is portrayed as an entrereneur of exceptional ability, not just an odd philanthropist planting little apple orchards across Ohio. The tulip's beauty and the story of how it affected the entire Dutch economy during the 1630's certainly will give dot-commers of the 21st century plenty to think about. The consumer of the potato will be sent scurrying to the organic produce aisle at your local grocery story after reading of man's tampering of this humble, diverse vegetable. Pollan's discussion of Ireland's dependence upon the potato, which was for a while its nutritional savior, became a catastrophe for Ireland with the arrival of the potato blight in 1846. The reliance upon the potato monoculture or any monoculture should send a strong warning to humans as to the pitfalls of reliance on a single crop. Pollan's humor is evident throughout the book and the marijuana chapter has a couple of humorous incidents that the peace generation will relate to and bring back memories of a time past. As a historian/landscape designer I heartily recommend THE BOTANY OF DESIRE for its entertainment and educational value.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2001

    Plants and Humans Influence Each Other for Mutual Benefit!

    'What existential difference is there between the human being's role in this (or any) garden and the bumblebees?' 'Did I choose to plant these potatoes, or did the potato make me do it? With profound questions like these, Michael Pollan pollinates your mind with a new world view of our relationships with plants, one in which humans are not at the center. The book focuses on four primary examples of how plants provide benefits to humans that lead humans to benefit the plants (apples for sweetness, tulips for beauty, marijuana for intoxication, and the potato for control over nature's food supply). You will learn many new facts in the process that will fascinate you. The book's main value is that you will learn that we need to be more thoughtful in how we assist in the evolution of plant species. The book builds on Darwin's original observations about how artificial evolution occurs (evolution directed by human efforts). So-called domesticated species thrive while the wild ones we admire often do not. Compare dogs to wolves as an example. Mr. Pollan challenges the mental separation we make between wild and domesticated species successfully in the book. The apple section was my favorite. You will learn that John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) was a rather odd fellow who was actually in the business of raising and selling apple trees. He planted a few seeds at the homes where he stayed overnight on his travels. Mr. Chapman had apple tree nurseries all over Ohio and Indiana, which he started 2-3 years before he expected an influx of settlers. Homesteading laws required these settlers to plant 50 apple or pears trees in order to take title to the land. And these apples were for making hard apple cider, not eating apples. He was the 'American Dionysus' in Mr. Pollan's view. Apple trees need to be grafted to make good eating apples. Chapman's trees produced many genetic variations, which are good for the species. Apple trees became more narrow in their genes after other sources for alcohol and sweetness became available (from cane sugar). Now, the ancient genes of apple trees are being kept in living form from Kazakhstan, before they are lost due to economic development. Tulips were the source of the famous Tulipmania in Holland. Rare colors occurred due to viruses. Those became extremely valuable during the tulip boom market in the 17th century. Now, growers try to keep the viruses out and we have much more dull, consistent species. We have probably lost much beauty in favor of order in the process. The intoxicants in marijuana are probably caused by toxins that the plants make to kill off insects. Because the plant is a weed, it grows very rapidly. There is a hilarious story about the author's experiences in growing two plants that you will love. As the antidrug war progressed, marijuana became a hothouse plant and was bred and developed to grow much more rapidly under humid, high-light conditions indoors. You will read about modern commercial farms in Holland. The potato story is the most complex. The Irish potato famine related to monoculture. The Incas had always planted a variety of potatoes to avoid the risk of disease. Now, biotechnology has added an insecticide to the leaves of potato plants, taking monoculture one step further. Interestingly, the insects are already becoming resistant to the insecticide. Are we building a new risk to famine with this approach? How will genetically altered potatoes affect humans? Is having consistent french fries at fast food places enough of an incentive to take this risk? These are the kinds of questions raised by this chapter. Mr. Pollan has described a 'dance of human and plant desire that left neither the plants nor the people . . . unchanged.' His key point is that we should be sure to include strong biodiversity in our approaches. Nature can create more variation faster than fledgling biotechnology industry can. Time has proven that biodiversity has many advantages

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2014

    a must read for anyone who loves plants

    actually a boatload of good common sense information on plants . keeps you interested, in these days of struggle always good to know how to grow your own food even in the worst of conditions.I highly recommend this book for the beginner or a seasoned plant lover.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 7, 2014

    Have not read this yet

    This is such an interesting premise so I am looking forward to settling down with it soon.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 29, 2014

    I've been a fan of Michael Pollan since I read the Omnivore's Di

    I've been a fan of Michael Pollan since I read the Omnivore's Dilemma in college. He doesn't disappoint here. His exploration into the history of the apple, tulip, potato, and cannabis is fascinating and well-written. Of all the chapters, the apple and the potato were my favorite. The thought of a potato that creates its own pesticides is incredible AND incredibly scary.  It is a bit meandering at times, and as one of his earlier books, it's not as riveting as his later works. But it's still very good. 

    I should add that I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Scott Brick while reading. The narration was excellent and really added to the experience. If your reading time is limited, I would recommend it. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2014

    Very Intriguing!

    I work at a coffee shop and had a customer give this book to me one day. From that moment this has become one of my top favorite books. Micheal Pollan is an amazing author with very inspiring view points on food and health topics. I would highly recomend this to anyone!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    I love Michael Pollan!

    I'm a big fan... especially of Omnivore's Dillema! The Botany of Desire certainly doesn't dissappoint!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Comfortable, fascinating, informative and curious: The co-evolut

    Comfortable, fascinating, informative and curious:
    The co-evolution of plants and mankind seems designed to be viewed from the perspective of the seven deadly sins, but Michael Pollan takes a nicely squared-off look at the topic through just four plants. Sweetness (the apple), beauty (the tulip), intoxication (marijuana) and control (the potato) form the human basis of this tale of mutable and mutating flora and fauna. Combining familiar stories (including Johnny Appleseed), history (including the Irish potato famine),botany, genetics and more in a pleasingly readable text, the author successfully challenges social assumptions (insect-free harvesting is good for example) without digressing into radical condemnation. A very human curiosity invites the reader to ponder and wonder delightfully, while enjoying a text rich with fascinating digressions and just deep enough to impart the odd lesson in science, myth and history.
    Yes, I know that plants don’t “care,” and the author knows it too. But the image of plants manipulating us, rather than us enjoying the imagined power of manipulating ourselves, is certainly one that awakens the mind and inspires the reader to stop and think a bit. Next time I see a field of potatoes I might ponder on how we harvest sheep as well, and wonder if they too might be vulnerable to the great unknown that can suddenly wipe out a monocultured crop.
    I’d like to see the TV series, but I’m reviewing this from the point of view of someone who hasn’t. I enjoyed the smooth writing, the self-deprecating tone, and the gentle lessons imparted. I’m still not an expert, but I am at least a slightly more interested and educated amateur in this fascinating world of co-evolution.
    Disclosure: Our book group chose to read this book and I enjoyed it. I’m hoping I might enjoy the discussion too.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 30, 2011

    Great following to"Omnivors Dilemna"! While you might become distracted by the many focuses discussed.

    Tulips looked at in a amazing light for us.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 15, 2011

    Cant keep a common theme, too many digressions, but simultaneously informative.

    I liked the factual information in this book BUT this guy digresses too much. If this were an argumentative ( or even informative) essay, he would fail. I wanted facts, history, and argument; however, I got off-topic banter instead.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 4, 2011

    In My Top Ten of All Books

    I read this book when it was first published and have remembered parts and used parts of it ever since. Part of mu job is giving presentations to large groups and I find there are "trivia" topics from this book that I can use in almost every one. If you are interested in unusual/uncommon information, this book is for you. The section on apples was especially interesting to me... I just downloaded a copy to the Nook that I got for Christmas so I could reread.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 7, 2010

    Evolution from a different angle

    When they teach evolution in schools, one of the things they discuss is how humans have had a profound effect on natural selection. What they don't talk about is how some plants have managed to manipulate our behavior in order to advance their own survival. This is evolution from a totally different view point, and one that really makes you think.

    Written in the form of several stories about various plants, this book is an easy but mind provoking read. The author has done some heavy duty research to determine how several plants have been manipulating us over the years. Non-fiction about scientific subjects doesn't get much better than this.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 72 Customer Reviews
Page 1 of 4