The Botany of Desire – Book Review

Botany of Desire coverThe 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

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8 Responses to “The Botany of Desire – Book Review”

  1. sarah Says:

    I just started The Ominvore’s Dilemma and so far it has been eye-opening. I don’t consider myself to be a botanist (or very organic) either, but there are some really interesting truths to be told and Pollan tells them well. It’s great to read a book off one’s own beaten genre path. Thanks for the review!

  2. devourerofbooks Says:

    Sarah, do you want to be a guest reviewer on Omnivore’s Dilemma when you finish it? I’d love to have a review of it up, but probably can’t get around to reading it again anytime soon, with the wedding coming up and all the books I have listed right now as “To Be Read” (and all the new ones I am likely to buy).

  3. sarah Says:

    Will do, my friend!

  4. devourerofbooks Says:


  5. terri Says:

    Have you read Pollan’s newest book, In Defense of Food? It’s another winner from him — similar in scope to Omnivore’s Dilemma but more succinct. I’m also a big Pollan fan!

  6. Devourer of Books Says:

    Terri –
    I haven’t read it yet, but I’m DYING to! I have been trying to buy just about all of my books at Half Price Books lately to save money, but I may have to just break down and get In Defense of Food new.

  7. Flexitarian « Devourer of Books’ Weblog Says:

    […] is fantastic and I recommend highly (and I think we’ll have a guest review of it soon, right Sarah?). Secondly, I bought this BEAUTIFUL Vegetarian cookbook this […]

  8. Breanna Says:

    This book actually sounds really good. I’ll have to check it out sometime, along with his others.

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