The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World (Pollan)

Great book. 4 sections – apple, tulip, marijuana, potato. They’re all remarkable and just long enough to hold the attention of a non-scientist. The last section takes a look behind much of the hyperbole around genetically modified food. Pollan still leaves a bag of their potatoes on the back porch – rather than making potato salad out of them for a pot luck picnic – but his exploration of the company is pretty even-handed. Both the marijuana and tulip sections are illuminating, but I think the apple section is the best (or maybe I was just fresher then – it is the first section).

Some of my favorite lines –

“Design in nature is but a concatenation of accidents, culled by natural selection until the result is so beautiful or effective as to seem a miracle of purpose” (xxi).

“Our grammar might teach us to divide the world into active subjects and passive objects, but in a coevolutionary relationship every subject is also an object, every object a subject” (xxi).

This notion of humans having a coevolutionary relationship with nature was  one of the most compelling strands of the book.

“[A]s the modern apple’s story suggests, domestication can be overdone, the human quest to control nature’s wildness can go too far” (56).

“There can be no civilization without wildness” (58).

Speaking of the tulip, Pollan writes, “[A]ll this useless beauty is impossible to justify on cost-benefit grounds. But then, isn’t that always how it is with beauty?” (63).

“[D]oes beauty have a purpose?” (64).

“My lawyer father, once complimented on his ability to see ahead three or four moves in a negotiation, explained that the reason he liked to jump to conclusions was so he could get there early and rest” (165).

I haven’t seen the related PBS programs, but now I will.

The book definitely made me want to get outside and dig in the dirt. If only this &^%$ snow would melt.

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One Reply to “The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World (Pollan)”

  1. One of my favorite non-fiction books from one of my non-fiction authors. I have the audiobook read by Scott Brick and it’s great. I really enjoy the plant’s perspective he takes in exploring the relationship humans have with nature.

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