Thursday 7 May 2020

The Botany of Desire Michael Pollan

 The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World

Subtitled A Plant's-Eye View of the World, this book looks at selected plants and their role in human history. The book is arranged into four chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of desire and a different plant:

Chapter 1: Desire - Sweetness; Plant - Apple
Chapter 2: Desire - Beauty; Plant - Tulip
Chapter 3: Desire - Intoxication; Plant - Marijuana
Chapter 4: Desire - Control; Plant - Potato

Each chapter is full of intriguing facts and stories, drawn together into satisfying essays. Along the way we find out the truth about Johnny Appleseed who planted apples across the early states of America, the effects of the war on drugs on the availability and qualities of marijuana, the Amsterdam tulip fever of the 1630s and genetic engineering.

Pollan uses these familiar species to show how these plants have evolved to satisfy human desires. These plants though, have also done well out of their relationship with humans, in terms of being propogated across the world. So who is really domesticating whom?

Pollan is a fine writer and the book is engrossing and beautifully written.

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan published by Random House.

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