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

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The book that helped make Michael Pollan, the New York Times bestselling author of Cooked and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, one of the most trusted food experts in America

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—though 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.


From the Hardcover edition.
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More by Michael Pollan

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#1 New York Times Bestseller from the author of How to Change Your Mind, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and Food Rules 

Food. There's plenty of it around, and we all love to eat it. So why should anyone need to defend it?

Because in the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion--most of what we’re consuming today is longer the product of nature but of food science. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American Paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we see to become. With In Defense of Food, Pollan proposes a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.

"Michael Pollan [is the] designated repository for the nation's food conscience."
-Frank Bruni, The New York Times

" A remarkable volume . . . engrossing . . . [Pollan] offers those prescriptions Americans so desperately crave."
-The Washington Post

"A tough, witty, cogent rebuttal to the proposition that food can be redced to its nutritional components without the loss of something essential... [a] lively, invaluable book."
--Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"In Defense of Food is written with Pollan's customary bite, ringing clarity and brilliance at connecting the dots."
-The Seattle Times

Michael Pollan’s most recent book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation--the story of our most trusted food expert’s culinary education--was published by Penguin Press in April 2013, and in 2016 it serves as the inspiration for a four-part docuseries on Netflix by the same name.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Random House
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Published on
Jun 12, 2001
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9781588360083
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Plants / General
Science / Life Sciences / Botany
Science / Life Sciences / Horticulture
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A penetrating, page-turning tour of a post-human Earth

In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity's impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us.In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; which everyday items may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe.
The World Without Us reveals how, just days after humans disappear, floods in New York's subways would start eroding the city's foundations, and how, as the world's cities crumble, asphalt jungles would give way to real ones. It describes the distinct ways that organic and chemically treated farms would revert to wild, how billions more birds would flourish, and how cockroaches in unheated cities would perish without us. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders from rabbis to the Dali Lama, and paleontologists---who describe a prehuman world inhabited by megafauna like giant sloths that stood taller than mammoths---Weisman illustrates what the planet might be like today, if not for us.
From places already devoid of humans (a last fragment of primeval European forest; the Korean DMZ; Chernobyl), Weisman reveals Earth's tremendous capacity for self-healing. As he shows which human devastations are indelible, and which examples of our highest art and culture would endure longest, Weisman's narrative ultimately drives toward a radical but persuasive solution that needn't depend on our demise. It is narrative nonfiction at its finest, and in posing an irresistible concept with both gravity and a highly readable touch, it looks deeply at our effects on the planet in a way that no other book has.

“One of the distinguished gardening books of our time,” from the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma (USA Today).
 
Chosen by the American Horticultural Society as one of the 75 greatest books ever written about gardening
 
After Michael Pollan bought an old Connecticut dairy farm, he planted a garden and attempted to follow Thoreau’s example: do not impose your will upon the wilderness, the woodchucks, or the weeds. That ethic did not, of course, work. But neither did pesticides or firebombing the woodchuck burrow. So Michael Pollan began to think about the troubled borders between nature and contemporary life.
 
The result is a funny, profound, and beautifully written book in the finest tradition of American nature writing. It inspires thoughts on the war of the roses; sex and class conflict in the garden; virtuous composting; the American lawn; seed catalogs, and the politics of planting a tree. A blend of meditation, autobiography, and social history, Second Nature, from the renowned author of The Botany of Desire, In Defense of Food, and other bestsellers, is “as delicious a meditation on one man’s relationship with the Earth as any you are likely to come upon” (The New York Times Book Review).
 
“Usually when Americans have wanted to explore their relationship to nature they’ve gone to the wilderness, or the woods. Michael Pollan went to the garden instead . . . and he’s returned with a quirky and pleasing book.” —Annie Dillard
 
“A joy to read.” —Los Angeles Times
 
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