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Working in his garden one day, Michael Pollan hit pay dirt in the form of an idea: do plants, he wondered, use humans as much as we use them? While the question is not entirely original, the way Pollan examines this complex coevolution by looking at the natural world from the perspective of plants is unique. The result is a fascinating and engaging look at the true nature of domestication.
In making his point, Pollan focuses on the relationship between humans and four specific plants: apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes. He uses the history of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) to illustrate how both the apple's sweetness and its role in the production of alcoholic cider made it appealing to settlers moving west, thus greatly expanding the plant's range. He also explains how human manipulation of the plant has weakened it, so that "modern apples require more pesticide than any other food crop." The tulipomania of 17th-century Holland is a backdrop for his examination of the role the tulip's beauty played in wildly influencing human behavior to both the benefit and detriment of the plant (the markings that made the tulip so attractive to the Dutch were actually caused by a virus). His excellent discussion of the potato combines a history of the plant with a prime example of how biotechnology is changing our relationship to nature. As part of his research, Pollan visited the Monsanto company headquarters and planted some of their NewLeaf brand potatoes in his garden--seeds that had been genetically engineered to produce their own insecticide. Though they worked as advertised, he made some startling discoveries, primarily that the NewLeaf plants themselves are registered as a pesticide by the EPA and that federal law prohibits anyone from reaping more than one crop per seed packet. And in a interesting aside, he explains how a global desire for consistently perfect French fries contributes to both damaging monoculture and the genetic engineering necessary to support it.
Pollan has read widely on the subject and elegantly combines literary, historical, philosophical, and scientific references with engaging anecdotes, giving readers much to ponder while weeding their gardens. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Starred Review. On the sixth anniversary of its original publication, Pollan's scientific twist on the human/plant symbiosis makes its audio debut. Pollan preaches a unique sort of romantic environmentalism where humans and plants satisfy each other's desires for survival, enjoyment, satisfaction and escape. He uses the apple, tulip, Cannabis and potato to develop his ideas, offering the histories of each and how they developed reciprocal relationships with the humans with whom each interacted. Scott Brick exudes excitement and breathes life into the recording—the timbre of his voice offering just the right touch of humor and depth. Listeners will feel like Brick truly loves the book and loves reading it aloud. It's a great combination for listeners: interesting subject, great writing and wonderful reading. Definitely not to be missed. (Reviews, Apr. 9, 2001)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is one of my book club selections. Looking forward to our discussion regarding it !Published 9 days ago by Clarli
If you want to learn about how Johnny Appleseed was a really weird guy that spread AppleJack (hard cider) across the frontier, this will give you a great picture, along with other... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ditch Farrington
Such an interesting book. Love the presentation. I loaned my first copy to a friend and never got it back, so I had to order another. Really thought provoking.Published 1 month ago by P Janere
Fantastic book! The writing is informative, clever, and entertaining.
I wish more books were written like this. I learned so much, too!
I thoroughly enjoyed the sections on apples and tulips, but the section on marijuana just couldn't hold my attention. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Christin M. Mulligan
The traditional view of horticulture is that humans domesticate plants to serve the needs of people, but Michael Pollan suggests that we are serving the plants, helping to spread... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Thomas J. Elpel
Pollan is one of the best. Intensive research, insightful comments, sprinkled with his wonderful sense of humor. I love this book.Published 2 months ago by Marquita B.