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Editorial 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

Critic Reviews

"[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

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  • Eric
  • Maui, Hawaii, United States
  • 10-11-11

I loved this book

This is the most pleasurable audiobook I've heard on Audible. I didn't have any expectations, and I just loved this book. The author meanders through the topics of four plants, and his stories and insights are very interesting. The author's prose is beautiful and the narration is top-notch. I'll probably listen to this audiobook again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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

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Dislike the Narrator

I'm enjoying the book but I really dislike the whiny tone of the person reading it.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Derek
  • Alpharetta, GA
  • 07-15-07

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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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.

13 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A little better

I found this book a bit more interesting than The Omnivore's Dilemma. He saves his political screed against the evils of "big agriculture" until the last chapter. The chapters on the apple, cannibis, and the tulip are pretty interesting, and when he isn't preaching the virtues of organic gardening, even the article on the potato is pretty good. Still the narrative seems "padded out" with lots of extraneous literary conceits. At many points in the book, I found myself mumbling "get to the point!".

9 of 17 people found this review helpful

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More maudlin poetry than science

I gave up on this author in the chapter on flowers. He goes off on tangents that seem to take forever to connect to the main idea. In the chapter on apples, he spends quite a long time speculating on the possible truth behind the stories of Johnny Appleseed. When he started to understand the thoughts bees have when they gather nectar and the motivations of flowers in regard to humans, I had had enough.
The reader was decent.

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read everything Michael Pollan

read everything Michael Pollan. his Works allow you to view the world completely in a new lens

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Listen for the first 3 chapters.

The first three chapters are incredibly insightful, giving you a much greater appreciation for the Apple, tulip, and Marijuana plant.

The fourth chapter isn't so much about the potato as about the author's (unscientific) distrust of Monsanto and GMO food. A shame, really.

The author also has the tendency to be overly wordy, using an excess of metaphors and flowery language.

Still, with these downsides, this book is still worth your time and money.

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Didn't love the narrator choice

The content of this book is typically excellent and keeping with Pollan's tone and style but it took a while to get used to the narrator, who sounded more like he was reading the fiction of George Orwell than the storytelling journalism of this work. But eventually I got used to it!