Summary: 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 tulip, 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, we have also done well by them. So who is really domesticating whom?
Review: A short book (in ebook form at least) that took too long for me to read despite having some interesting facts and good points.
I was very interested in reading this book because it sounded like it would be fascinating. I suppose I didn't read the summary well enough and thought this would be more far reaching than it actually was. Having the book broken down into four desires and four plants was not necessarily a bad idea. It could provide a good overview of the plant, its evolution, and interactions and developments with humans. And while I did learn some interesting and downright fascinating facts about plants and their evolution with humans, the author did not do the best of job of staying on track.
The marijuana chapter was the one chapter guiltiest of this, but all the chapters were somewhat rambling in nature, jumping from subject or topic to another. I don't need strictly linear history, but the jumping around had me bored a number of times. My favorite chapter was the one about potatoes and made me want mashed potatoes or my grandmother's delicious potato salad while reading it. The history behind the potato is very interesting and I would like to read more about it, especially the potato blight and how it affected the Irish people.
Recommendation: I would only recommend this to people very interested in plants, gardening, and botany.