Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent Paperback – March 29, 2011
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From The New Yorker
This enjoyably meandering history looks at the potato as a plant of paradox. It has been revered as an aphrodisiac and feared as a cause of leprosy. Populations rise dramatically wherever it is introduced, but reliance on it “ensnares more people in poverty than it lifts out.” Reader traces the evolution of the potato from poisonous Andean weed to global staple, offering adept disquisitions on whatever captures his attention: the mysterious origins of agriculture, the economic history of Peru, the domestic arrangements of the Irish. There are glimpses of the Reign of Terror, when the ornamental gardens of the Tuileries Palace were planted with potatoes, and the Great Potato Boom of 1903 and 1904, when an investment bubble grew as a result of false claims made for a potato strain known as Eldorado. This is a story of invisible systems and unintended consequences, concerned with how the New World transformed the Old.
"[This] accessible account embraces the latest scholarship and addresses the failings of previous works on the subject. Indeed the book, like the tuber it describes, fills a void: the spud now has the biography it deserves."—Economist
"John Reader's superb history traces the potato's rise from mistaken identity to the basic food now cultivated in 149 countries."—Robert Collins, Sunday Times
"As a staple of the global diet, the potato is worth this digestible book . . ."—Iain Finlayson, Times
". . . rarely has this kind of thing been done so well."—Giles Foden, Conde Nast Traveller
"A riveting new history . . ."—Toby Morison, Sunday Telegraph Stella Supplement
"A very thorough historical treatment of the tuber."—Billy Heller, New York Post
"Photojournalist Reader traces the humble potato from its roots in the Peruvian Andes to J.R. Simplot's multibillion-dollar-a-year French fry business. . . . Recommended for academic and large public libraries."—Library Journal
"Potato is more than a history of the spud. . . . [This] is a history of colonialization, industrialization, and globalization whose perspective is determined by the evolutions and adaptations of the 'propitious esculent.' . . . Highly recommended."—A. B. Audant, Choice
"[Potato is] the story of the power of a species of plant to influence and to shape the development of world cultures."—James P. Hammersmith, Southern Humanities Review
Top customer reviews
Reader takes us to colonial South America where we see early growers, agronomists, and scoundrels in action. Then potatoes come to Europe. Eventually they take over since they provide four times the calories per acre and are less likely to be disturbed by the marauding armies so prevalent in war-torn 18th century Europe. The impact of potatoes on social history is clear as the cheap calories swell the Irish population. Potatoes eventually go bad briefly in the 19th century leading to the Irish migration and the modernization of the English economy. And now today we have research under way on GM potatoes driven by claims of reducing potentially carcinogenic component levels.
It is a well written, often interesting, set of disconnected anecdotes and stories about all things potato. It begins with the origins in the Andes, spends a good bit of time on the Irish, and ends with pommes frites in China. There is a little bit on botany, a little bit of plant pathology, quite a lot on nasty Spaniards and Brits, and lots more. Was I bored? No. Did I have a sense that I had wasted my time. YES. Am I disappointed with Yale Press? You bet!
Most recent customer reviews
He likes it a lot.
Extremely well written.Read more