The Botany of Desire

by Michael Pollan

The best word to sum this book up: Meh. There were definitely some things to like in The Botany of Desire, and there were also quite a few things to dislike. Michael Pollan is a great journalist who knows how to tell a story, and I was excited to read this book after having enjoyed both How To Change Your Mind and The Omnivore's Dilemma. However, this one fell a bit flat for me.

The Botany of Desire is an exploration of humans and their relationships with for different plants: Apples, Tulips, Canabis, and Potatoes. Pollan's argument is that each of these plants fulfills a basic human desire that is being expressed through the cultivation of each plant. Apples for sweetness, Tulips for beauty, Canabis for intoxication, and Potatoes for control. Pollan also leads off by saying that somethign about the evolution of these plants lead them to domesticate us as well as the other way around. If it was only humans doing the cultivation, why can't be domesticate the Oak tree?

So there's some good stuff happening here. The book brings up some interesting facts I did not know, such as the fact that all Apples have 5 seeds and each of those seeds will grow a wildly different tree. There are a lot of good points about genetic diversity and how we are creating a scarcity of it, which in the long run could have disasterous effects. He brings up gerat points about McDonalds and humans general desires for control, and how that is leading to potatoes being grown while ebing doused in kinda of herbicdes and fungicides, and how it is destorying soil.

However, the book gets lost in it's own stories. The book slumps when its attention diverts away from plants and lands on more historical and social subject matter (there's way too much about Johnny Appleseed in the first part). I understand Pollan wants to provide context and weave a story in with facts, but there just arent enough pages to fully explore these stories. Or maybe the stories just don't hit great. Either way, this book was a mixture of great knowledge and lackluster drivers. Meh.