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Second Nature: A Gardener's Education [Paperback]

Michael Pollan
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 7 2003
In his articles and in best-selling books such as The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan has established himself as one of our most important and beloved writers on modern man's place in the natural world. A new literary classic, Second Nature has become a manifesto not just for gardeners but for environmentalists everywhere. Chosen by the American Horticultural Society as one of the seventy-five greatest books ever written about gardening, Second Nature captures the rhythms of our everyday engagement with the outdoors in all its glory and exasperation. With chapters ranging from a reconsideration of the Great American Lawn, a dispatch from one man's war with a woodchuck, to an essay about the sexual politics of roses, Pollan has created a passionate and eloquent argument for reconceiving our relationship with nature.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This isn't so much a how-to on gardening as a how-to on thinking about gardening. It follows the course of the natural year, from spring through winter, as Pollard, an editor at Harper's , chronicles his growth as a gardener in Connecticut's rocky Housatonic Valley. Starting out as a "child of Thoreau," Pollard soon realized that society's concept of culture as the enemy of nature would get him a bumper crop of weeds and well-fed woodchucks but no vegetables to eat. Far more serviceable materially and philosophically, he now finds, is the metaphor of a garden, where nature and culture form a harmonious whole. Pollard finds ample time for musing on how his own tasks fit in with the overall scheme of existence; thus, there are chapters titled "Compost and Its Moral Imperatives" and "The Idea of a Garden." Although serious in import, the writing is never ponderous; Pollard's wit flashes throughout, and particularly in anecdotes about his youth: one memorable incident has his father mowing his initials in the front yard after being reproached by a suburban neighbor about his overgrown lawn.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Pollan, executive editor of Harper's and self-proclaimed amateur gardener, has written a book that is by turns charming and annoying, insightful and shallow, droll and banal. His collection of a dozen essays arranged by season is based on his experiences over a seven-year period in his Connecticut garden, along with vignettes from garden history. Unfortunately, Pollan's text is characterized by dubious and unsupported generalities, self-conscious humor, and extended, labored metaphors, and his lack of gardening authority dooms the book to superficiality. Experienced gardeners and devotees of garden literature will find little here that is original. Only for comprehensive gardening collections.
- Richard Shotwell, Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, Mass.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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My first garden was a place no grown-up ever knew about, even though it was in the backyard of a quarter-acre suburban plot. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I had to read this for a college course. I didn't know what to expect, but half way into the book I was enraptured. Literally. Pollan is a very adept writer, and he has a lot of depth to what he writes. He piles metaphor on top of symbolizm on top of metaphor. If you don't pick up on everything, that's alright because the book is simply enjoyable. His anecdotes about life and gardening are the icing on this book, and I'd recommend it simply for that pleasure. But there is substance here. Pollan is making a statement about the relationship between culture and nature. He writes about how we, as a species, as a culture, try to seperate what we live in (culture, cities, whatever) from what we live near (nature, the environment, wildness). He says that that is more detrimental than any polution or destruction we could possibly do to our earth. We, as a culture, need to learn to live not simply "in" nature, but "with nature." In response to the chapter on Cathedral Pines, he uses that to illustrate how the Conservationists, the people who owned the land, were trying to save this little "virgin" land. This little area in this New England community that was untouched by humanity. It was destroyed by nature (in the form of a tornado) and they, as a community, should let nature do with the forest as it wanted. Nature knows best. What Pollan says is that that forest wasn't untouched by man. Man had inhabited the area for over two hundred years (not including Native Americans - which no one ever does) and the trees they were saving WERE affected by civiliztion. That forest, as the community knew and loved it, was destroyed by nature. The community could've possibly planted knew trees, cleaned out the old dead ones, and made everything back the way it was. Read more ›
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I beg to differ... Feb. 4 2002
By John
I don't intend to question Pollan's ability as a writer, nor do I care to check up on his interpretation of the history of hybrid roses or British garden design, but as a gardener who entered this endeavor from the ecologist/naturalist end of the spectrum, I found plenty of bones to pick with him.
A previous reviewer mentions Pollan's rant about The Nature Conservancy, which -- much to his chagrin -- declined to harvest, clean-up, or replant the trasured Cathedral Pines after they were damaged by a tornado. Pollan is clearly very comfortable with his position about how gardens fit along the spectrum between wilderness and human culture, but too often he relies on straw-men and oversimplified truisms to represent the views of those with whom he disagrees.
Examples abound, but some that galled me the most were his conclusions that: (1) the American environmental movement is too hung up about preserving Wilderness to care about the other 90+% of our lands (absurd! ever hear of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts? the Endangered Species Act?); and (2) the moral and scientific bankruptcy of this philosophy has led to the 'degradation' of Yellowstone National Park, as exemplified by the forest fires of the late 1980's (or could this just be an example of the renewing power natural process, without the hand of human 'gardeners'?).
I accept that Pollan is a journalist and a (fine) writer, not a scientist, but a little more effort to gain an deeper understanding of both the science and the philosophies of those whose view differ from his would have been greatly appreciated.
Of course, it is Pollan's book, and a popular non-fiction, not an academic treatise, so some hand-waving to help justify his mostly-sensible views is his prerogative. I appreciated the humor and passion of Pollan's writing, and I am sure I would greatly enjoy a walk down his garden path.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great summer read. June 12 2010
Great book for both seasoned and beginner gardeners, for anyone who loves nature. Interesting insights into the relationship we, as North Americans, have with nature. As always, Michael Pollan provides food for thought.
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By A Customer
Pollan is a joy to read. Looking at seed catalogues and mowing the lawn take on new meaning.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best read of all gardening books April 3 2002
You do not have to be a gardener to really enjoy this book; it's that well written and interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, funny, philosophical March 8 2002
This is a favorite that I've returned to at least twice. Pollan engages with his skill in writing, but also his interesting thoughts on the mundane that make them seem intriguing. Essays are easy to read in any order, yet are connected. Much more than a garden book, will inspire not just planting and pruning, but thinking. Worth the read, regardless of whether you have dirty fingernails or green thumb.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I pondered, I laughed, I enJOYED Dec 3 2001
This is simply a wonderful book. As a gardener, I often recognized myself in the author's reflections, although I'd not taken the time to articulate many of his thoughtful meanderings around his gardening experiences. And what a thoughtful trip it is and how much FUN it often is! In the Weeds section, when one of his final thoughts, directed at Thoreau, in Walden Pond, who couldn't bear to eliminate weeds and wild critters from his bean patch: is "Fine. Starve." I laughed out loud. Highly readable bits of history on our attitudes toward trees, use of the land and ornamental gardening both enlighten and amuse. I can't wait to tak this book to my master gardener group to share it with my friends. This would have been a PERFECT gift for me if one of my family had seen it before I did.
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