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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 (1601 )
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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
  •  
    R. Campbell Glastonbury, CT, United States 10-25-12
    R. Campbell Glastonbury, CT, United States 10-25-12 Member Since 2009

    Ray Campbell

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    "How Plants Make Themselves Attractive to Humans"

    After reading the Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food, I looked forward to reading this one. I knew it had been written earlier and was about the natural history of plants, but I enjoyed his other writings and found them insightful so I didn’t much care what it was, I’m a Michael Pollan fan. So, this turned out to be a quirky look at the history of how the Apple developed in North America, how the potato evolved and impacted Ireland and is being genetically modified today, how pot has gotten stronger as a result of the war on drugs and how the tulip evolved. Fun, funny and engaging not unlike Simon Winchester. Though, while Winchester is the proper old Englishman stumbling across interesting topics, Pollan is a stoner speculating about how plants evolve to make themselves attractive to humans for cultivation.

    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 2015

    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 04-24-12
    Avonelle 04-24-12
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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 2011
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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
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-29-11
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-29-11 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "Unexpectedly absorbing"

    A fascinating history of four human-cultivated plants -- the apple, the potato, the tulip, and the marijuana plant -- which have been bred over the centuries into forms very different from their natural ancestors. Pollan delves into the complex biological history of each plant and the equally complex social history surrounding it, and his own experiences with them, through the interesting question: do we use plants or do plants use us? Pollan is a good journalist and succeeds in making a topic outside my usual interests engaging.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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