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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)

Featured Article: The Best Audiobooks to Feed Your Ever Growing Plant Obsession


Plant ownership has experienced a huge spike over the past two years, and it’s easy to understand why. Plants are one of the best ways to experience nature from the comfort of your own home. With such a wide variety of plants appropriate for all skill levels, almost anyone can jump in. Rather than write ourselves off as hopelessly black-thumbed, many more of us are becoming confident in our ability to keep our green friends alive and thriving.

What listeners say about The Botany of Desire

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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!




10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

38 people found this helpful

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

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.

30 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • M.
  • 12-15-10

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.

27 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • S
  • 06-24-08

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.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

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 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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!

7 people found this helpful

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  • Andrew Michael Watson
  • 10-15-17

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.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Le Tigre
  • 09-10-21

Interesting but biased

Interesting but I found it strange that some things were left out such as, when he mentions witches using psychedelic plants to travel, the genocide of women and girls during 2-3 centuries precisely to take control (for men) of knowledge about nature, of medicine, birth giving, contraception therefore women's bodies, of a whole feminine centered previous but possibly tens of thousand years long spirituality (mikos in Japan are the decorative descendants of shaman - priestesses who were the mediums like in most cultures with the Underworld, the world of spirits. In 20000-30000 years old painted prehistoric caves in France, studies of foot prints in clay and hand prints with paints show that they are all smaller than male hands. Male tennagers or women using caves as portals, seen as caves look like vaginas, entering a body? Also, the oldest painted cave, Chauvet, has in its darkest and farthest corner a painting of a cow'horns over a uterus). Hence why the choice by Pollan to choose Greek MALE gods to personify Nature and Culture? Artemis, the goddess of wild animals and forests, and of metamorphosis, would have been a better choice. Which brings me to the Elysian Cult : Pollan does not mention that it was a female cult and any man who spied on it was sentenced to death. It is easy to find this in any relevant ancient history book so why has Pollan made it sound like it was just another male centered religion? Also, the Irish famine is explained with the old cliché :it was only caused by a potato disease. It was not and Irish people know it. English soldiers went from house to house to steal any food they found and used the country 's trees for ship building. Food and forests were stolen for the imperial English army. Same thing done in Scotland. A potatoes disease does not cause half of a country's population to become skeletons and lose access to dairy, hens, fruits, etc. Only an organized famine like the one done in Ukraine in 1923 does..also, people in Europe ate lots of tubers prior to the potatoes. In French, topinambours are an example... Pollan should know this.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • tamara
  • 07-14-21

An experiential documentary into specific plants

Pollen has the twinkling effect of fusing journalism, storytelling, myths and data into a narrative that educates and romances his readers. I lost my way a bit when he goes into the science and corporation of things, as my concentration dulls, but other than that, a great smaller read of his. If you're just getting into his work, start with 'The Omnivores Dilemma'

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sash
  • 05-22-19

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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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Stephen
  • 02-19-19

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?

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • patrick Goss
  • 04-20-21

not enough factual meat, more anecdotal rambling

The author goes on and on with lists and anecdotal musings rather than focussing on factual biology based content.

This is rather frustrating and although the book is peppered with interesting knowledge, it seems a bit thin on the ground. Also very patriotically American which seems irrelevant and disappointing to somebody interested in the topic of botany.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • stacey
  • 06-12-20

insightful

Interesting content. struggled to finish it as it was a bit dry in places and failed to stay on topic.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-05-20

more pop theory than plant theory

couldn't get through the first chapter with the subject droning on and on about Johnny Appleseed being Dionysus and a bunch of other unfounded musings. there's so much more interesting and relevant information about plants and their interactions with humans and other animals which I thought would be covered in this book... perhaps the first chapter put me off and I didn't give it a fair chance, it might get more grounded in reality but I can't get through the tedium to find out.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-09-19

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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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-05-19

Amazing again

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