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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 (1520 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Laura Philadelphia, PA, USA 04-01-09
    Laura Philadelphia, PA, USA 04-01-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good book spoiled by narration"

    Interesting and educatonal, but.....
    Maybe it is well written, and maybe not - the over-dramatic narration gets in the way and is so distracting that it was hard to tell. Every sentence sounds either like a headline or like a parent trying to entice a reluctant toddler to appreciate something suspect. It was so continuously irritating that I will avoid this reader in the future (so it looks like I'll be looking for print versions of any other Michael Pollan I'm curious about).
    Although it's a stretch to say that the themes of "which species is in charge" and "desire" really provided organization or depth for the four separate narratives of this book, they are intriguing ideas and the stories of these plants are worth reading.

    11 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MD Boston 03-08-14
    MD Boston 03-08-14 Member Since 2011
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    "What a great story teller"
    What made the experience of listening to The Botany of Desire the most enjoyable?

    Michael Pollen is a master at weaving a story that engages the reader to open their mind to to a new persecutive that is often overlooked or ignored. I listened to this book two times in a row because the writing is so rich in detail. The story of the apple, tulip, cannabis, and potato are told through the lens of history, science, agriculture and psychology. I think differently about each one now and have recommend this book to numerous people.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Vancouver, BC, Canada 01-29-14
    Julie Vancouver, BC, Canada 01-29-14 Member Since 2013

    I'm a writer and a yoga teacher with a Masters in English Literature.

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    "This book re-inspired me to eat potatoes"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely, and bought it for my brother for his birthday. It has a rare combination of poetry in the writing even though the book is nonfiction and you learn a lot about the history of agriculture and what's actually happening with the apples and potatoes that end up on our plates. It's sort of a political topic, but he manages to make the book incredibly entertaining and gorgeous to listen to. The Omnivore's Dilemma is one of my favourite books, and this one did not disappoint from my high standards of Michael Pollan.


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

    The long list of local names for apples--hilarious, sweet, gorgeous, and evocative.


    What about Scott Brick’s performance did you like?

    I think a good narrator is almost one you don't notice--his performance wasn't distracting from the story at all, so I think he really embodied it.


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

    No, but it did re-ignite my desire to eat potatoes, which I'd always thought of as kind of a boring vegetable. I didn't know how nutritious they are, and their political stance as having rescued the Irish from persecution (until monoculture ruined everything of course) gives them street cred.


    Any additional comments?

    I think you'd like this book whether you are a fiction or a non-fiction lover. Pollan really knows how to bridge the gap.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Echo 07-15-13
    Echo 07-15-13

    Oread

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    "I'm not a botanist. But I loved this."
    Would you listen to The Botany of Desire again? Why?

    I have listened to it twice. It is a wealth of information told in an interesting way.


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

    For a book about plants, he makes it seem like a beautiful fairy tail. He makes the words interesting and adds humor that is believable.


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

    Some of the history is amazing, however it was the authors tail of the cop and the marajuna behind the shed that had me rolling with laughter. I have actually told that story to many friends and all have found it just as hysterical. .


    Any additional comments?

    The first little bit may seem tedious. But every new story kept me interested. I listened to it when I went for walks and found myself enjoying nature even more because of it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Vancouver, BC Canada 06-09-13
    Amazon Customer Vancouver, BC Canada 06-09-13 Member Since 2001

    audiblefan

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    "When I grow up I want to write like this"
    What did you love best about The Botany of Desire?

    The combination of biology and the humanities in such clear, beautiful prose. Pollan breathes life into the subject


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S Willow Beach, ON, Canada 03-29-13
    S Willow Beach, ON, Canada 03-29-13 Member Since 2004
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    "Really????"

    What looked like an interesting book turned out to be a scare-mongering blast on "frankenfoods" and an exploration of the merits of cannabis. I was glad when the book was done!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melissa Ames, IA USA 02-06-13
    Melissa Ames, IA USA 02-06-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Fun with genetics"

    This book did a great job of showing how we as humans affect our plants' genetics, with or without modern biotechnology. I especially liked the handling of the apple, such a common food item. Little did I know how little I understood about the apple and its history.

    The reader does not need a background in science for this book.

    0 of 0 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 2002

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Holly Bay Area, CA USA 06-25-12
    Holly Bay Area, CA USA 06-25-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Interesting Read"

    We (3 of our family of 4) enjoy books that address non-fiction topics and this book did not disappoint. It is the first Michael Pollan book I have read, but if it had not been designated as one of my book club reads, I would have avoided it due to the narrator. I dislike Scott Brick and, unfortunately, he is a prolific narrator. However, on this book, I found that I could overlook Mr. Brick's whiney nasal tone because of the quality of the writing. Michael Pollan presents the idea that plants, he uses 4 examples, have evolved desirable traits especially for humans for the purpose of increasing the plants chances of survival. Though I was not convinced that plants are in control of us, I did earn some great historical facts. As a gardener myself, I found the author's personal gardening experiences especial appealing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexandra Berndsen 06-13-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Food for thought"

    In 4 separate stories, this book looks at the way mankind has influenced the evolution and global distribution of specific plants (apples, tulips, potatoes and marijuana). This leads the author to question who is actually using who.
    I found the stories interesting and fun.
    The narrator's voice is somewhat nasal, which annoyed me a little bit, but not such that it marred by enjoyment of the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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