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The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World (2001)

por Michael Pollan

Outros autores: Ver a secção outros autores.

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5,2671521,991 (4.02)175
Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers' genes far and wide. In "The botany of desire", Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires: sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulop, marijuana, and the potato. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind's most basic yearnings. And just as we've benefited from these plants, the plants have also benefited at least as much from their association with us. So who is really domesticating whom?… (mais)
  1. 62
    Shrinking the Cat por Sue Hubbell (lorax)
    lorax: Both books are case studies of human breeding and selection of four domestic species; while the focus of the two is different there's enough overlap to create common interest, and both books choose apples as one of the species of interest.
  2. 41
    Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities por Amy Stewart (clif_hiker)
  3. 53
    Tulipomania : The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused por Mike Dash (lorax)
    lorax: The Dutch "tulip mania" touched on in this book is explored in more detail in Tulipomania.
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So far, I always finds Pollan's take on things to be informative and transformative. ( )
  Treebeard_404 | Jan 23, 2024 |
I always both read more in the spring and enjoy reading more, because I have what feels like infinite plane time during my annual conference binge. Some books really benefit, and I think this is one -- Pollan was quite dry in parts of his exploration of the culture relationship between humans and cultivated plants and I'm not sure I would have been able to maintain interest without a plane ride sprawling in front of me.

The dryness of the writing, which in my opinion arose from bizarre literary choices, like the need to categorize every human instinct and plant behavior into Dionysian or Apollan (because...actually I never figured it out. I think it was to contrast chaos in the natural world with artificial imposition of order. But I think you can do that while still consigning Dionysus to the books about grapes.) Once I got past that, the book was actually quite good. I usually am terrified of books invoking evolutionary concepts because it's just so poorly done in most popular literature, but Pollan has a very good grasp on genetics; often he first offers an anthropomorphized or simplified hypothesis about why a trait such as sweetness evolved and then goes deeper to explore how that would actually be a competitive advantage for a plant carrying a specific gene.

I thought it was extremely interesting that most of the plants in the book were plants that don't "breed true" (i.e. have a sexual reproductive pattern resulting in genetically diverse offspring), such as apples and tulips, and how the extreme diversity that results within a single species of plant turns out to be a strong advantage. Pollen argues that this is particularly true as an artificial advantage because it makes plants adapt more quickly to human demands for cultivation. Interesting, but not completely convincing.

Anyway, I found the individual stories of each plant also interesting, in particular the story of the apple, how it was first used almost entirely for alcohol on the American frontier and the Johnny Appleseed story and the story of the tulip and the Dutch tulip mania. I was less convinced by the exploration of marijuana, which had a strong focus on why humans would evolve an endogenous cannabinoid pathway that I found overly speculative. Potatoes, the Irish potato famine and genetically-modified organisms was done in a less speculative manner and I thought Pollan explored the differences between the artificial selection already introduced in the book with GMOs in a very even-handed manner. ( )
  settingshadow | Aug 19, 2023 |
Pollan's books always sound more fascinating than they end up being for me. I did enjoy this, but I go in to these forgetting he is a journalist, not a scientist, so this is more fluff and social commentary than actual botany. I like the selection of plants he picked, apples, tulips, cannabis, and potato. There was a lot of droning on about Johnny Appleseed in the apple section, which I found strange given he was US based and apples aren't native to here. I know this book is over 20 years old, but he does make refence to esk*mos, which is known to be a slur for Inuit and other Northern Indigenous people. I don't quite understand the title still, as this seems to be just short histories of the four plants he picked, but it was still a fun peak at the world of growing and using those plants. ( )
  KallieGrace | Jul 27, 2023 |
I don't know, I may bump it up to three. This is not a terribly unlikable book; it's technically easy to read, covers interesting topics, and I agree in broad strokes with most of his points. I do appreciate the commentary on uniformity and nature as commodity, the argument for biodiversity. Probably the exploration of Monsanto is worth the whole reading.

However for each topic I think there's a much more interesting or thoughtful or well-written work. Some are cited; in some cases it's even Pollan's other work. There's something in the tone I find intensely irritating, too many moments that are in turn too general and too specific, and fairly constant in the use of 'we' instead of 'I'. Maybe it's just that I already have knowledge and opinions on these topics. Or maybe I'm just tired of the male/female order/wildness dichotomies. In the end, I would rather read Pinker, Herbert, Leopold, Gould, Dillard, Cook, and the rest. ( )
  Kiramke | Jun 27, 2023 |
disappointing. Chatty or rather informal wide ranging but loose, tending to shapeless. Not very scientific . Most of the anecdotes not new to me. ( )
  vguy | Jun 18, 2023 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 152 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
In other words, human desire shapes the plants that then shape human desire. In displaying for us, in his graceful and literate way, the intricacies of the mechanisms involved, Mr. Pollan shines a light on our own nature as well as on our implication in the natural world.
 
It's an absorbing subject, and Pollan, like his hero, brings a clutch of quirky talents to the task of exploring it. He has a wide-ranging intellect, an eager grasp of evolutionary biology and a subversive streak that helps him root out some wonderfully counterintuitive points. His prose both shimmers and snaps, and he has a knack for finding perfect quotes in the oddest places (George Eliot is somehow made to speak for the sense-attenuating value of a good high). Best of all, Pollan really loves plants.
 

» Adicionar outros autores (9 possíveis)

Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Michael Pollanautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Brick, ScottNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers' genes far and wide. In "The botany of desire", Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires: sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulop, marijuana, and the potato. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind's most basic yearnings. And just as we've benefited from these plants, the plants have also benefited at least as much from their association with us. So who is really domesticating whom?

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