Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire is a thought-provoking exploration of the connections between plants and humans. The twist is that Pollan looks at things from a plant's-eye view. He has chosen four common plants and focuses on how they have (metaphorically) taken advantage of basic human desires: apples (sweetness); tulips (beauty); marijuana (intoxication); and potatoes (control).

It's been more than a decade since I first read the book, but I recently listened to the audiobook edition [Audio Evolution; 8 hours, 49 minutes] available in digital format through Edmonton Public Library's OverDrive database. Narrator Scott Brick -- who does a great job with audiobooks in the thriller genre -- is not the best choice for this one because he sounds like he is pontificating. Pollan's voice is much more genuine and I would have preferred to hear him read his own work. (You can watch Pollan interviewed on the subject of The Botany of Desire on the PBS website here.) The bigger flaw is the sound quality, which is tinny and a bit fuzzy. So, avoid the e-audiobook.

The Botany of Desire is a fascinating blend of history, science and philosophy. An excellent PBS documentary of the same name is also available. Pollan is also the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, Food RulesIn Defense of Food and others. I'm looking forward to his new book, Cooked: Finding Ourselves in the Kitchen.

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