The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World is the second book I’ve read by Michael Pollan (and still, his name makes me laugh everytime…his name is ‘Pollan’…and he writes about plants…anyone?). I picked up this book because I very much enjoyed The Omnivore’s Dilemma and was hoping for something similar which, in some ways, this was.
Unlike Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Botany of Desire was not primarily about our food supply and what/how we eat, for that I’ll have to pick up his new book, In Defense of Food. In this book, Pollan was making the case that the relationship between people and plants was not as one-sided as it may seem; it is not only people that are using plants, but also plants that are using people. Essentially, the argument is that certain plants have adapted to fulfill certain human desires (hence the title), leading to their further propagation. The plants and desires he looks at are apples:sweetness, tulips:beauty, marijuana:intoxication, and potatoes:control.
Pollan really did do a good job showing how the ability of each plant to fulfill the stated desire led to its genes being spread by people, often at the expense of plants that had not adapted to fulfill any great human desires. I am by no means a botanist, so it is somewhat hard for me to determine the accuracy of all of Pollan’s statements, but the ones with which I did have familiarity seemed plausible at the least. The Botany of Desire is not a title I would typically see myself pick up, and if it had been any other author, I would have left it on the shelves for the next interested party; however, Pollan has a gift for making topics of plants and food both interesting and accessible. He is also fantastic at showing the impact of plants, food, and the topics surrounding them on the lives of normal people, without getting ‘preachy’. I was happy to find out that The Omnivore’s Dilemma was not just a fluke, and I will continue to seek out Pollan’s writing, published both in books and in the New York Times.
Buy this book on Amazon:
Paperback: The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World
Hardback: The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World