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The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World Paperback – May 28 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 1 edition (May 28 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375760393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375760396
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 1.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #52,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
If you happened to find yourself on the banks of the Ohio River on a particular afternoon in the springs of 1806-somewhere just to the north of Wheeling, West Virginia, say-you would probably have noticed a strange makeshift craft drifting lazily down the river. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Virginia on June 2 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the tomato, suspected of poisonous intentions to the tulip, creator of financial frenzy, on to marijuana and the political machinations that surround it, to the potato and the frightening effects of genetic manipulation, The Botany of Desire informs, illuminates, entertains and cautions us about plants and our relations with them. Only the section on marijuana deviated from the title, giving us more of the author's point of view than the plant's. The final section on the potato, Monsanto and the practices of factory farming should be required reading for consumers, producers and those who are taxed with making decisions about pesticides, fertilizers and land use.

Virginia Winters, author of The Facepainter Murders, available on Amazon.com.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Nov. 17 2003
Format: Paperback
The Botany of Desire presents an innovative way to think about how plants have propagated. The ideas are fresh, but, unfortunately, too few for an entire book. This subject matter would have been better served in essay format. The history presented about the tulip, rose and potato is fun and interesting--worth the read in these parts, even though one has to wade through the interspersed philosophical musings of the author that are reiterated one too many times in (dare I say it?) overly-flowery language. The self-deprecating, blushing tales of pot smoking experimentation were silly and not worth the time to read. Honestly, I cannot recommend this book unless you want to be bored most of the time while reading it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anne Holcomb on June 15 2004
Format: Paperback
While you probably wouldn't want to use "The Botany of Desire" for scientific research purposes, this excellent nonfiction book effectively combines elements of science with those of history, cultural theory and mythology (from the early Greek to the Frontier American varieties). The tone is casual, not scholarly. Pollan is also a gardener, and his passion for growing things and his curiosity about life from the plant's-eye view shines through his text.
"The Botany of Desire" is a nonfiction book with an innovative structure: instead of telling a straight chronological story of the domestication of plants, Pollan instead selects four plants and tells each of their stories in turn, describing how their progress through the world has been shaped by human desires -- and the changes in those desires through history.
This book is also a travelogue of sorts: Pollan journeys through the Midwest in search of Johnny Appleseed's true life story, to Holland for the Cannabis Cup and the historical sites of "tulipomania," and to corporate factory forms to learn about genetic modification of the potato.
Most importantly, Pollan shows us around his own garden and introduces us to the plants that live there. Each of the four historical narratives begins and ends with the plant's history in his own backyard. As a host and a travel guide, Pollan takes on a fascinating journey through time, nature and culture.
I highly recommend this book to plant lovers and gardeners of all varieties, and to those who are interested in the shaping of nature by cultural forces (and vice versa). If this isn't you, it would still probably make a great gift for someone you know.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Suez on May 12 2004
Format: Paperback
Wildly Enthusiastic Recommend: Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
This book is really different from your average reading fare. It's a delightful mix of facts both scientific and historical, fantastical meanderings, and just plain fun. The catching premise is that plants have co-opted man into promoting their prosperity. Pollan uses four plants to illustrate this premise: apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes. Each chapter is a wonderfully readable story about the plant and its history intertwined with its relationship to man. The apple chapter has amazing information about Johnny Appleseed, and because as a child I wanted to be Johnny Appleseed, I found this fascinating. It reinforced my belief that I had good instincts as a kid. Then the tulip chapter gives you the details of tulip-mania in the Netherlands in the 1600s (think Internet bubble), making it seem amazing that this sort of thing keeps happening. The marijuana chapter is the funniest and most sinister in that it makes you want to get some good stuff, now. The potato chapter is the scariest - genetically modified foods.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Quine on Sept. 15 2007
Format: Paperback
Listened to the audio version, I recommend this very highly if you are interested in issues such as evolutionary theory, genetic engineering and genetically modified food, biodiversity, and even the fascinating true story of Johnny Appleseed.

Pollan has some interesting insights about a popular concept in evolution, psychology, and even religious studies - the idea of intentionality. Yes, we have through artificial selection modified species such as the potato and the tulip, but has the apple, for instance, modified us to advance its own survival as a species? And if so, can we say it did so with intentionality? And if not, can we say that homo sapiens modified the apple with intentionality?

Well-written and easy to read and listen to, and I'm kinda fussy - I say buy it...
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Format: Paperback
As always Michael Pollan shows a point of view that isn't neccessarily obvious. He enlightens, entertains with his humour and offers a fresh, informative perspective. A pleasure to read!
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