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Second Nature Paperback – April 5, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This isn't so much a how-to on gardening as a how-to on thinking about gardening. It follows the course of the natural year, from spring through winter, as [Pollan], an editor at Harper's , chronicles his growth as a gardener in Connecticut's rocky Housatonic Valley. Starting out as a "child of Thoreau," [Pollan] soon realized that society's concept of culture as the enemy of nature would get him a bumper crop of weeds and well-fed woodchucks but no vegetables to eat. Far more serviceable materially and philosophically, he now finds, is the metaphor of a garden, where nature and culture form a harmonious whole. [Pollan] finds ample time for musing on how his own tasks fit in with the overall scheme of existence; thus, there are chapters titled "Compost and Its Moral Imperatives" and "The Idea of a Garden." Although serious in import, the writing is never ponderous; [Pollan]'s wit flashes throughout, and particularly in anecdotes about his youth: one memorable incident has his father mowing his initials in the front yard after being reproached by a suburban neighbor about his overgrown lawn.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Pollan, executive editor of Harper's and self-proclaimed amateur gardener, has written a book that is by turns charming and annoying, insightful and shallow, droll and banal. His collection of a dozen essays arranged by season is based on his experiences over a seven-year period in his Connecticut garden, along with vignettes from garden history. Unfortunately, Pollan's text is characterized by dubious and unsupported generalities, self-conscious humor, and extended, labored metaphors, and his lack of gardening authority dooms the book to superficiality. Experienced gardeners and devotees of garden literature will find little here that is original. Only for comprehensive gardening collections.
- Richard Shotwell, Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, Mass.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (April 5, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385312660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385312660
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Pollan is the author of five books: Second Nature, A Place of My Own, The Botany of Desire, which received the Borders Original Voices Award for the best nonfiction work of 2001 and was recognized as a best book of the year by the American Booksellers Association and Amazon, and the national bestsellers, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food. A longtime contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, Pollan is also the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. His writing on food and agriculture has won numerous awards, including the Reuters/World Conservation Union Global Award in Environmental Journalism, the James Beard Award, and the Genesis Award from the American Humane Association.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 104 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 24, 1996
Format: Paperback
Many of us fall into the trap of thinking that our relationship to the land must be one of either two choices: either we ruthlessly exploit it, with no regard for any but short term use, or we refuse to "meddle" in it at all, letting nature do what it will. _Second Nature_ explores the third alternative, that of working with nature respectfully to produce something that we intend. Believing that our relationship with nature can not be broken down into simple nature versus culture arguments, Pollan explores the overlapping of nature and culture. To that end, he discusses Americans' historical and contemporary ideas of what makes a garden a garden and attitudes toward gardening and wilderness. There is wonderful, thought-provoking commentary on the tyranny of the American lawn, the sexuality of roses, class conflict in the garden, privacy, trees, weeds, and what it means to have a green thumb. Pollan's stories of his own adventures in the garden are interesting and often amusing. His writing is thoughtful and his insight frequently unexpected, as when, in the chapter " 'Made Wild by Pompous Catalogs' ", he points out that garden catalogues are selling not merely seed but their ideas about gardens. Pollan is also highly readable. It is hard not to like an author who says things like "...the Victorian middle class simply couldn't deal with the rose's sexuality" or "...there is a free lunch and its name is photosynthesis". _Second Nature_ is well worth reading
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132 of 139 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book for a college course, "Religion, Ethics, and the Environment." Most of the books were (as the course title suggests) very heavy texts...yawn. However, when assignments from Pollan's book came up, I would laugh out loud while reading. My classmates & I would discuss the book at any given opportunity, and the bookstore sold twice as many copies as there were students in the class, because we recommended it to everyone. How many philosophy books can you say that about?
Pollan makes his philosophical points with vivid stories from his childhood on Long Island and his adult experiences in his garden. His garden-centered view of nature provides an excellent counterpoint to most environmental philosophy, which has been written from a preservationist's point of view.
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65 of 68 people found the following review helpful By elanorh on December 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. I grew up in a family which gardens, and have my own garden today. I also grew up in an agrarian family, and went on to get a master's in cultural anthropology - all that to say, I suppose I am well-suited to enjoy Pollan's perspectives.

I don't agree with everything he wrote, but I do agree with most of it. And the book is very well-written, very entertaining, and it really makes the reader pause to consider choices made in their own life.

So much of the information about gardening is "how-to", and this book delves into the philosophy, the motivations, the rationales, and the environmental impacts of gardening .... It's written on a higher level, and as worthwhile for readers as the "how to" books, too.

I highly recommned this book - for those who enjoy gardening, and also for those who are concerned about the environment. Pollan will be a good read for both.

I absolutely disagree with the previous reviewer who disparaged Pollan's take on the environmental movement as a whole. Perhaps that person is so deeply enmeshed in environmental causes that he can't see the big picture- but for me, the big picture looks much more as Pollan describes it, than not.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By M. Riley on December 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
This was probably the first book I read that dealt with relations to nature on a practical and philosophical level. I'm not sure if Pollan counts as a philosopher, but the views he presents are very accessible and bring a lot into question.

I've heard his writing described as piecey, which surprised me. I will agree that the seperation of the chapters into seasons didn't really seem to fit, but ignoring the headers fixed that problem. Overall it was an enjoyable and informative read. There's a very strong sense of humor that runs through the whole book and many good points are made.

Anyone interested in gardening would love this book, and I think that anyone interested in environmental issues or ethics would too. It's a good place to start off if you've ever wondered about societal attitudes to the land but wavered on learning more by the writing style of people like Emerson or Singer.

I was so pleased reading this book that I bought Pollan's A Botany of Desire, as well, and though the check-out girl gave me a funny look because of the title, it was well worth it.
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106 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on February 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
SECOND NATURE by Michael Pollen is a collection of esays that are not always well-connected or well-written. Mr. Pollen has won awards for his essays and some of them are quite good, however, the book is uneven. I think many of the readers who provided glowing reviews must have concentrated on the front half of the book which is autobiographical and hysterically funny.
NATURE contains several distinct sections Pollan calls "Spring-Summer-Fall-Winter" but his essays do not "follow" the gardening year. For example, "Fall", the third section of the book is about the destruction of Cathedral Pines, a nature preserve owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. Mr. Pollan thinks the local town folk (he is one) should have decided "what to do" in the aftermath of the storm which toppled the old pine trees that had inhabited the Cathedral Pines since the days of the American Revolution. Pollan would have done better to call this section "Why I think I understand Mother Nature better than the Nature Conservancy." And, maybe he does, but his essay is angry, and his anger affects his argument. After reading his essay, I am not persuaded the Nature Conservancy failed since Pollan fails to provide their side of the argument which might have been quite reasonable.
The best part of Pollan's book contains his autobiographical essays about life with his father who refused to mow the lawn much to the consternation of his upscale neighbors; life with his maternal grandfather who made mega-bucks as a professional gardener and green grocer; and Pollan's own attempts to take up gardening as an avocation. Anyone who has ever gardened will enjoy these sections because as all good gardeners know, most folks learn through trial and error. Mr.
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