Book Review: The Botany of Desire

A popular book which dissappointed me. Like Color, it does one chapter per topic:

  1. Desire: Sweetness / Plant: The Apple
  2. Desire: Beauty / Plant: The Tulip
  3. Desire: Intoxication / Plant: Marijuana
  4. Desire: Control / Plant: The Potato

I found the chapters uneven. Apple and Marijuana were quite good, the other
two quite repetitive.

The chapter on apples was
most intersting from a historical point of view — apples don't hybridize
like most plants — the discovery of a good line is seemingly always the
result of deliberate and careful horticulture, and a good apple cultivar
can make its discoverer a fortune, if properly marketed — cf. the Red

The chapter on marijuana was the most humorous, especially the bit where
the author tells of his experiements growing very (very) large plants, in a
small town where the local sheriff tends to stop by for innocuous reasons.

The story of tulips (focusing on the investing craze in europe in the
1600's) was a tad frustrating because it combined good writing about
the appeal of the plants (and I'm really not much of a flower-lover, so
it's saying something) with not-so-great writing about the historically
important 'bubble'. I don't even remember the potato chapter, which
probably means I was asleep when I read it. The book, like many
non-fiction books I've read recently,
tends to be repetitive, which gets quickly annoying.

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