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

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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

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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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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. 

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  • 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!

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  • Posted March 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Plants Were Never So Fascinating

    Michael Pollan continues to prove himself (in reverse: at least in so much as I have read his works in reverse order so far.) The Botany of Desire is somewhat different from Pollans more popular and familiar works; The Omnivores Dilema and In Defence of Food. Clearly once can see that natural progression into the aforementioned works after reading this work.
    Pollan take a look at the work from 4 different plants view of the world. The idea is to raise the question of who is in control of who? Do we cultivate the plants for our own desire or to the plants evolve themselves into objects of our desire in order to advance themselves by using us as their pawns? One is surely left for a moment of philosphical pause when done reading this book.
    Along the way we are fed Professor Pollans wonderful gift of prose as he paints pictures of each plant and their affect on the human desires. Its surely no secret that Michael Pollan is a Journalist but an imaginitve and brilliant writer as well.
    First we look at the apple tree and find out that Johnny Appleseed is not merely an American Folklore but also a sort of liquor store owner for puritan settlers. Then Pollan questions Darwinism in a non-theological manner while looking at the Tulip. Pollan dares to go further and answer questions sccientists wont about Cannabis and the human mind. Finally, Pollan round out the book with a look at the Potato and bioengineering and monocultures. The latter part clearly a preamble to where all the authors future works would head.
    Though this book may not nearly be what the popular Pollan fan is used to it still holds up to the authors wonderful sence of story and the ability to tell a story. The ability to tell an scientific and political story in a very intriguing manner and to engage and challenge the reader to become a part of the story when it's over.

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