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The Botany of Desire

Narrated by: Scott Brick
Length: 8 hrs and 49 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Biology
4.5 out of 5 stars (50 ratings)

Non-member price: $40.97

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Editorial Reviews

Why You Should Download This Audiobook: It's hard to believe how much interest one man can generate in plants, but Michael Pollan does it. And he's a bit of an iconoclast, revealing a side of Johnny Appleseed (think hard apple cider) you might not have known, and tiptoeing through generations of tulip hybridization to account for a dearth in rarity. Offbeat or unexpected nonfiction works like this are a pleasure to listen to, placing the most common of things in new light. We learned a lot from this audiobook.

Publisher's 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, the plants have also benefited at least as much from their association with us. So who is really domesticating whom?
©2001 by Michael Pollan (P)2006 by Audio Evolution, LLC

Critic Reviews

"[Pollan] has a wide-ranging intellect, an eager grasp of evolutionary biology and a subversive streak that helps him to 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....Best of all, Pollan really loves plants." (The New York Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Must Read for ALL Gardeners

Must read for Gardeners or anyone who eats fries from McDonald's!! Best read possibly ever would and have recommended to everyone interested in a great read

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Amazing again

can't believe that I waited so long to read it, another great piece by a fantastic writer

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Dominique Hackett
  • 17-01-2009

Amazing Listen - Thoroughly Satisfying

I realized my teenage children and I have listened to various parts of this book a dozen times already. Time to write a Review! Recommended to us by their high school teacher, this book discusses the history, science, and more regarding the apple, the lily, weed, and the potato. Don't miss this book - it is well read and not only very informative but a great story as well.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Theodore
  • 22-04-2012

If you have an open mind... Give it a listen

This is one of those books that just gives you a lot to think about. I would actually suggest this book to anyone. Fitting narration, excellent content, something that anyone can appreciate.

The narrator was pretty good, I wasn't falling asleep, I never thought that it was drawling on nor was I thinking it was being rushed. There were moments you can laugh at and it was also very easy to follow in the easy, cool tone the narrator had. The entire book was brought across very well.

I have some friends who studied botany in in college who I picture would find the entire book fascinating. I majored in Chemistry and I found myself channelling my inner scientist by the Potato chapter wondering how I could genetically modify a Pumpkin plant, that's how thought provoking I found this book. Also, I can see someone with no affiliation with science also appreciating this book as long as they have an open mind. The book was not complicated in any way by having overly complex concept and was broken down in a form I think anyone could appreciate.

34 of 37 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Terry
  • 02-05-2010

Surprisingly Excellent

I got this book as I like the narrator and it had so many great reviews. This book makes you think of the relationship between humans and nature - and in particular plants - in a whole different way. Johnny Appleseed is explained with many fascinating facts about apples and apple trees.
Apples, Tulips, Marijuana and Potatoes are talked about and explained. I found the discussion on potatoes would be the most provocative. The book allows you to better understand the blight,why genetic engineering of foods is gaining a foothold, and the challenges of organic farming.
Well worth the listen!




6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Z
  • 26-06-2006

Great book

This book is great. Sure it's not a textbook so don't expect to use it to pass your biology exams. It's a pop science book that will be interesting to a wide range of people, in particular anyone interested in gardening and plants.

It's basically four stories, each one about a different plant and the authors experience with them and musing on them and their history. The four plants are apples, tulips, marijuana and potatoes.

The book is well written and in some places quite funny. It kept me entertained, I picked up a few factoids on the history of these plants, and it made me think about how plants and humans depend on each other.

The narrators reading was a bit overdramatic in the introductory parts, either he settled down or I got used to it, because I enjoyed the narration through most of the stories. This narrator also did "The Traveler" (fiction), which I also enjoyed about 6 months ago.

Overall, this is one of the best books I've downloaded in the last few months.

27 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • R. Campbell
  • 25-10-2012

How Plants Make Themselves Attractive to Humans

After reading the Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food, I looked forward to reading this one. I knew it had been written earlier and was about the natural history of plants, but I enjoyed his other writings and found them insightful so I didn’t much care what it was, I’m a Michael Pollan fan. So, this turned out to be a quirky look at the history of how the Apple developed in North America, how the potato evolved and impacted Ireland and is being genetically modified today, how pot has gotten stronger as a result of the war on drugs and how the tulip evolved. Fun, funny and engaging not unlike Simon Winchester. Though, while Winchester is the proper old Englishman stumbling across interesting topics, Pollan is a stoner speculating about how plants evolve to make themselves attractive to humans for cultivation.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • S
  • 24-06-2008

Don't let the neg. reviews scare you- good book

I'm not sure where those negative reviews came from. The book was well written, informative and entertaining. It's really a history of 4 things from our daily lives: apples, tulips, potatoes, and Mary Jane.

But it's more than just a history of these four; like his other book(s), Botany of Desire makes you question things- in this case the theory that the food chain might actually 'desire' to be what they have evolved into. Although he argues this point seriously enough, and it did make me think about it, I find it difficult to equate evolution to 'desire.'

Anyhoo, I bought this book because I really like Omnivore's Dilemma. It wasn't quite as good in my opinion, but still very good. And the only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is because I read OD before and had another of his works to compare this one to.

In short, if you like apples, tulips, potatoes or wacky tobaccy, you'll like this book.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • M.
  • 15-12-2010

Good Book - Awful Narration

I greatly enjoyed the content of this book, but stopped listening to it and read a paper copy due to downright unbearable narration. I would only recommend listening to this book if you have previously listened to Scott Brick and actually like (or can suffer through) his narration style, which is characterized by inexplicably dramatic passages, comically mispronounced words and a cadence that could make you seasick. That said, some people love his style. I'm not one of them and therefore cannot recommend this book or any other book read by Mr. Brick.

13 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Steven
  • 12-10-2008

Engaging and informative

Michael Pollan has done extensive research and delivered it in an absorbing manner, of course with Scott Brick's help. He weaves history, philosophy and morality into the story of four plants. Fodder for many dinner conversations. You won't be disappointed!

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • SB Price
  • 30-06-2016

Wonderful book for a long drive

We listened to this book on a long cross-country drive and were fascinated till the last word. Each chapter took us on a journey. I read complaints about the narrator but we found his voice energetic and clear, definitely a plus when zooming along interstate highways.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Gabrielle
  • 10-03-2013

Exciting and interesting! I loved every minute!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I absolutely recommend this book! yes yes!

What other book might you compare The Botany of Desire to and why?

similar in its interesting and complex information about plants to a book I read years ago called 'The sex life of plants' which was also very cool, fun, and informative.

What does Scott Brick bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He has a beautiful voice and reads so eloquently. I remember that there were a couple of botany related words that were not pronounced the way I would pronounce them, but it could be that I am just a huge plant geek or it could be how these words are pronounced in America? I am sorry that I can't remember what they were.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me laugh loud and often, and cry out in amazement sometimes at the wonderful story and the amazing information.

Any additional comments?

I have been deeply affected by this book - it was amazingly informative and beautiful and skilfully written and well researched, and I am already a huge botany geek and I learned a very great deal from Michael. Thank you SO much for writing this book!

I also learned a lot about people's experiences of marijuana, which due to my law-abiding life to keep my very proper job, I can't and won't try, so that was interesting.

And the apples growing by the roadside are even more exciting to me now and one day I hope to go see the apple forests in Almaty.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrew Michael Watson
  • 15-10-2017

Dissapointing

As a scientist who lectures in plant biology I was really excited to see an audio book with a botany theme. I was hoping to be able to recommend it to some of my first year undergraduate students to help them develop a wider interest of the subject. This book seems to lack substance - perhaps if I had absolutely no background whatsoever to this subject I might find it of some interest. However the overwhelming majority of it just seems to be common sense (even for someone who is pre-GCSE) and then rambles on about not very much.

Please can someone add a proper book on botany/plant science. The Great Courses Biology book was great but fairly broad so wasn't able to cover this area in any detail.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Sash
  • 22-05-2019

A great listen

A fantastic book on symbiotic relationships between human and plants, quite brief as well which makes the information manageable.

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  • Stephen
  • 19-02-2019

A white noise compilation of factoids

Mostly pointless, contextually incomplete trivia.
If you want to get into discussion about cannabis with someone who knows about it, this isn’t the book to source your information from.
Otherwise, is there much call from people about how we as humans have coexisted with potatoes/tulips /apples for millennia, that we should write books about it?