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The Botany of Desire | [Michael Pollan]

The Botany of Desire

Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers' genes far and wide. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why You Should Download This Audiobook: It's hard to believe how much interest one man can generate in plants, but Michael Pollan does it. And he's a bit of an iconoclast, revealing a side of Johnny Appleseed (think hard apple cider) you might not have known, and tiptoeing through generations of tulip hybridization to account for a dearth in rarity. Offbeat or unexpected nonfiction works like this are a pleasure to listen to, placing the most common of things in new light. We learned a lot from this audiobook.

Publisher's Summary

Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers' genes far and wide. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires, sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control, with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind's most basic yearnings. And just as we've benefited from these plants, the plants have also benefited at least as much from their association with us. So who is really domesticating whom?

©2001 by Michael Pollan; (P)2006 by Audio Evolution, LLC

What the Critics Say

"[Pollan] has a wide-ranging intellect, an eager grasp of evolutionary biology and a subversive streak that helps him to root out some wonderfully counterintuitive points. His prose both shimmers and snaps, and he has a knack for finding perfect quotes in the oddest places....Best of all, Pollan really loves plants." (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (1519 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Steven Puyallup, WA, USA 10-12-08
    Steven Puyallup, WA, USA 10-12-08
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    "Engaging and informative"

    Michael Pollan has done extensive research and delivered it in an absorbing manner, of course with Scott Brick's help. He weaves history, philosophy and morality into the story of four plants. Fodder for many dinner conversations. You won't be disappointed!

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Anne Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada 01-24-07
    C. Anne Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada 01-24-07 Member Since 2006
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    "FANTASTIC!"

    I love a book that makes you think about things in a new way, from a different perspective. This book is about so much more than the history of our relationship with four plants. It is really about our relationship with Nature, our drive to conquer, when we should perhaps be taking a more respectful, sustainable stance. Fascinating.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gabrielle 03-10-13
    Gabrielle 03-10-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Exciting and interesting! I loved every minute!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I absolutely recommend this book! yes yes!


    What other book might you compare The Botany of Desire to and why?

    similar in its interesting and complex information about plants to a book I read years ago called 'The sex life of plants' which was also very cool, fun, and informative.


    What does Scott Brick bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He has a beautiful voice and reads so eloquently. I remember that there were a couple of botany related words that were not pronounced the way I would pronounce them, but it could be that I am just a huge plant geek or it could be how these words are pronounced in America? I am sorry that I can't remember what they were.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It made me laugh loud and often, and cry out in amazement sometimes at the wonderful story and the amazing information.


    Any additional comments?

    I have been deeply affected by this book - it was amazingly informative and beautiful and skilfully written and well researched, and I am already a huge botany geek and I learned a very great deal from Michael. Thank you SO much for writing this book!

    I also learned a lot about people's experiences of marijuana, which due to my law-abiding life to keep my very proper job, I can't and won't try, so that was interesting.

    And the apples growing by the roadside are even more exciting to me now and one day I hope to go see the apple forests in Almaty.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    wendy Minneapolis, MN, United States 04-30-12
    wendy Minneapolis, MN, United States 04-30-12 Member Since 2010

    Grand parent. Organic gardener. Love biking, swimming, camping, fishing, canoeing, dancing, traveling, & of course reading. Artist. Improv actor. Student.

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    "Listened to this twice!"
    Where does The Botany of Desire rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Though I am often most enthusiast about the latest reads, I read this book last summer while I was gardening/landscaping... twice. So, it is right up there on the top of the heap. Thanks Michael Pollen.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The format. Each section is a book in itself: Tulips, potatoes, apple trees... it is all so very interesting. The way human-kind has affected how what plants grow where - it literally pertains to you/me personally and gives you pause (and concern) about the future of our planet and food of today/tomorrow.


    What about Scott Brick’s performance did you like?

    Though a long read. Scott Brick manages to keep up the pace and deliver a great performance.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Michael Pollan gives us 'food for thought' about genetically modified foods, a humorous account on America's history with marijuana, and a valuable lesson from tulips.


    Any additional comments?

    Michael Pollen has managed to write an interesting and entertaining historical account of the plants/foods we all take for granted. Must read. Even if you think you are not a botanist at heart... you will be with this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Avonelle White Plains, NY, United States 04-24-12
    Avonelle White Plains, NY, United States 04-24-12 Member Since 2010
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    "I've talked about this book at every party"

    If you're a history, sociology or anthropology nerd, this book is a fun, light listen, in the vein of the $64 Dollar Tomato. I think the first section, on the evolution of the modern apple, is the most fascinating of the book.

    I'm a big fan of Scott Brick's narration - he's easily one of my favorite male narrators.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roxanne Calgary, Alberta, Canada 03-26-12
    Roxanne Calgary, Alberta, Canada 03-26-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Fascinating New Perspective"
    If you could sum up The Botany of Desire in three words, what would they be?

    Intriguing, enjoyable and wonderful


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Botany of Desire?

    Looking at the extraordinarily beautiful maladaptive strategy of the tulip that eventually dies of the bacterium from the perspective of the selective strategy of the bacterium. We are so sure that the world is all about us and our


    Which character – as performed by Scott Brick – was your favorite?

    I didn't have a favorite and wondered if the tone of his narrative was similar to the personality of author. Somewhat wry in humour but perhaps a bit smartypants.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The potato farmer looking at this fields of depleted soil and the number of chemicals he must use on them for the only marketable crop and how he felt about manipulating the potato gene and making a living. He won't even eat what he grows! Is he really just a dependent pawn in the big system?


    Any additional comments?

    I enjoyed the cross disciplinary nature of the book, which is part botany, part history, part cultural linguistics and part geography. Its terrific and demonstrates and breadth and depth of learning that is brilliantly explained in terms that anyone can absorb.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    itinerant here and there 12-20-11
    itinerant here and there 12-20-11 Member Since 2007
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    "Great book"

    The premise is provocative, the research thorough, the anecdotes fascinating. Listening to this book is like having a conversation with an old friend who's smarter and more interesting than onesself.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jay 11-23-11
    Jay 11-23-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Thought provoking."

    It is interesting to step away from our human centric view for a bit, and put ourselves into the perspective of the other life forms that we encounter all the time. It is a bit deflating to think we are doing the bidding of plants, but there are some very valid points here.

    This viewpoint is put forth with enough humor and personal insight to take a somewhat dry topic and turn it into a engauging narrative.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chang Oakland, NJ, United States 09-16-11
    Chang Oakland, NJ, United States 09-16-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Great book ruined by unimaginably awful reading"

    It is difficult to say I enjoyed this book when I could barely stomach the awful narration by Scott Brick. I think having him narrate this (as well as all the other Michael Pollan books) is a huge disservice to MP fans. I think having my eyes poked out would be preferable to listening to another book by this reader, even if it were my most favourite book ever.

    The sing-songy and overly dramatic (in random places that have nothing to do with the storyline) reading completely take away any pleasure to be gained from Michael Pollan's clear, insightful writing. I actually had to abandon the book after the second section because I just couldn't take it any longer. I feel cheated - of my time, of my money, and of what could have been a wonderful listening experience. Audible.com should have a free short listening sample from each book so you can make sure the narrator is not going to ruin it for you before you spend your money on the whole book!

    If you can tolerate his nasal, whiny narration, go for it - the material is fantastic, and everything one would expect from Michael Pollan.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Derek Vashon, WA, United States 07-15-07
    Derek Vashon, WA, United States 07-15-07 Member Since 2006
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    "Not what I hoped"

    I should have read the other reviews before buying this book. The introduction was interesting and I looked forward to the science behind the themes it presented. It was not to be. Way too many musings about the character of Johnny Appleseed for a book I thought would be more about evolution and genetics. Perhaps if I was expecting something different, I would not be as disappointed. I gave up after the Apple chapter.

    10 of 15 people found this review helpful
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