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.
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More by Michael Pollan

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“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
#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 food 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 served as the inspiration for a four-part docuseries on Netflix by the same name.

Pollan is also the author of How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence 
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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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"Highly entertaining…Mabey gets us to look at life from the plants’ point of view." —Constance Casey, New York Times

The Cabaret of Plants is a masterful, globe-trotting exploration of the relationship between humans and the kingdom of plants by the renowned naturalist Richard Mabey.

A rich, sweeping, and wonderfully readable work of botanical history, The Cabaret of Plants explores dozens of plant species that for millennia have challenged our imaginations, awoken our wonder, and upturned our ideas about history, science, beauty, and belief. Going back to the beginnings of human history, Mabey shows how flowers, trees, and plants have been central to human experience not just as sources of food and medicine but as objects of worship, actors in creation myths, and symbols of war and peace, life and death.

Writing in a celebrated style that the Economist calls “delightful and casually learned,” Mabey takes readers from the Himalayas to Madagascar to the Amazon to our own backyards. He ranges through the work of writers, artists, and scientists such as da Vinci, Keats, Darwin, and van Gogh and across nearly 40,000 years of human history: Ice Age images of plant life in ancient cave art and the earliest representations of the Garden of Eden; Newton’s apple and gravity, Priestley’s sprig of mint and photosynthesis, and Wordsworth’s daffodils; the history of cultivated plants such as maize, ginseng, and cotton; and the ways the sturdy oak became the symbol of British nationhood and the giant sequoia came to epitomize the spirit of America.

Complemented by dozens of full-color illustrations, The Cabaret of Plants is the magnum opus of a great naturalist and an extraordinary exploration of the deeply interwined history of humans and the natural world.

Anyone who works with the vascular plants of Iowa—researchers, conservationists, teachers, agricultural specialists, horticulturists, gardeners, and so on—and those who are simply interested in knowing more about the state's plants have long felt a need for a comprehensive flora of Iowa. This meticulously researched volume is a giant first step toward such a flora.

This book consists of an extended essay on the natural history of the vascular plants of Iowa, a discussion of their origins, a description of the state's natural regions, and a painstakingly annotated checklist of Iowa vascular plants. The data, which apply to over 150 years, took more than 15 years to collect.

All known vascular plants that grow and persist in Iowa without cultivation are included in the checklist. These are native plants, primarily, but a large number of introduced species have become established throughout the state. Also included are Iowa's major crop plants and some of its common garden plants. The lengthy checklist provides an accurate and up-to-date listing of species names and common names, synonyms, distribution, habitat, abundance, and origin; county names are given for very rare species, and the most complete information has been provided for all rare plants and troublesome species.

The wealth of information is this well-organized, practical volume—which describes more than two thousand species from Adiantum pedatum, the northern maidenhair fern of moist woods and rocky slopes, to Zannichellia palustris, the horned pondweed of shallow marshes and coldwater streams—makes it possible to identify Iowa plants correctly. All midwesterners will want to own a copy of The Vascular Plants of Iowa.

A captivating personal inquiry into the art of architecture, the craft of building, and the meaning of modern work

“A room of one’s own: Is there anybody who hasn’t at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn’t turned those soft words over until they’d assumed a habitable shape?”

When Michael Pollan decided to plant a garden, the result was the acclaimed bestseller Second Nature. In A Place of My Own, he turns his sharp insight to the craft of building, as he recounts the process of designing and constructing a small one-room structure on his rural Connecticut property—a place in which he hoped to read, write, and daydream, built with his own two unhandy hands.

Invoking the titans of architecture, literature, and philosophy, from Vitruvius to Thoreau, from the Chinese masters of feng shui to the revolutionary Frank Lloyd Wright, Pollan brilliantly chronicles a realm of blueprints, joints, and trusses as he peers into the ephemeral nature of “houseness” itself. From the spark of an idea to the search for a perfect site to the raising of a ridgepole, Pollan revels in the infinitely detailed, complex process of creating a finished structure. At once superbly written, informative, and enormously entertaining, A Place of My Own is for anyone who has ever wondered how the walls around us take shape—and how we might shape them ourselves.

Praise for A Place of My Own

“A glorious piece of prose . . . Pollan leads readers on his adventure with humor and grace.”—Chicago Tribune

“[Pollan] alternates between describing the building process and introducing informative asides on various aspects of construction. These explanations are deftly and economically supplied. Pollan’s beginner status serves him well, for he asks the kind of obvious questions about building that most readers will want answered.” —The New York Review of Books

“By shrewdly combining just the right mix of personal reflection, architectural background, and nuts-and-bolts detail, Michael Pollan enables us to see, feel, and understand what goes into the building of a house. The result is a captivating and informative adventure.”—John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

“An utterly terrific book . . . an inspired meditation on the complex relationship between space, the human body and the human spirit.”—Francine du Plessix Gray

“A tour de force.”—Phillip Lopate
“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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