Book Club Review – Botany Of Desire – GDNAL


I haven’t written that many reviews about books I wasn’t crazy about.  It’s too bad that this is one of those reviews and frankly quite surprising, given how highly my friends recommended the book.
The idea that plants are passively manipulating us in their quest for propagation is a compelling argument.  That we might be no more conscious of it than the bees who carry pollen is a fascinating idea.

I enjoyed lots of the botanical history while Pollen develops his story about how plants might fulfil the desires of man, manipulating us to aid their propagation and development.  Yet I felt badly that the book’s quality is uneven.  Even within chapters, the writing style is in turns captivating, and a monotonous drone.  Perhaps it is the “too much” flowering (flowery?) language?  And though I tend to like stories that weave together many ideas, anecdotes, and themes together, this left me weary from its choppiness.  I might lose interest somewhere in trailing the shadow of Johnny Appleseed and fail to pick it up again until we’d moved on to a new plant.  Weed? Oh, that could be a good story.

But what of the main storyline–the plants whose passive-aggressiveness manipulates us in providing unwitting aid?  I came away a little disappointed, aware that the frustration was probably self-inflicted, not realizing that the tale of passivity is a necessarily tough one to tell.  He’s successful in getting me to buy his thesis–it’s plausible that plants adjust to improve their symbiotic relationship.

For all my bitching about the writing style, the book makes me want to grow things; to overcome my fear of a non-green thumb.  Will I manage to kill the next thing I try to keep alive?  I hope not.  I’ve got this little bonsai tree in my office and have gone to the extraordinary step (for me) of getting it a little lamp.  I’ve not left it to dry out.   So far, so good.  But it’s only been a month; I don’t think the plant has had long enough to manipulate me into tendering better care.

Check out my review and the discussion.

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