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Second Nature: A Gardener's Education PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
Author: Michael Pollan
Publisher: Published August 12th 2003 by Grove Press (first published 1991)
ISBN: 9780802140111
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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In his articles and in best-selling books such as The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan has established himself as one of our most important and beloved writers on modern man’s place in the natural world. A new literary classic, Second Nature has become a manifesto not just for gardeners but for environmentalists everywhere. “As delicious a meditation on one man’s relations In his articles and in best-selling books such as The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan has established himself as one of our most important and beloved writers on modern man’s place in the natural world. A new literary classic, Second Nature has become a manifesto not just for gardeners but for environmentalists everywhere. “As delicious a meditation on one man’s relationships with the Earth as any you are likely to come upon” (The New York Times Book Review), Second Nature captures the rhythms of our everyday engagement with the outdoors in all its glory and exasperation. With chapters ranging from a reconsideration of the Great American Lawn, a dispatch from one man’s war with a woodchuck, to an essay about the sexual politics of roses, Pollan has created a passionate and eloquent argument for reconceiving our relationship with nature.

30 review for Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I am an unabashed fan of Michael Pollan. Yes, it may sound strange, but in my esteem, he is tantamount to a rock star or a Hollywood A-lister. "But Rachel!" you may be thinking, "he's just a regular guy! In fact, he's just a bald and bespectacled ol' college professor!" Despite these potentially legitimate arguments, I classify Michael Pollan among the ranks of the elite. So, when I learned that Michael Pollan published a book about gardening in the early 1990's, I seized the opportunity to get a I am an unabashed fan of Michael Pollan. Yes, it may sound strange, but in my esteem, he is tantamount to a rock star or a Hollywood A-lister. "But Rachel!" you may be thinking, "he's just a regular guy! In fact, he's just a bald and bespectacled ol' college professor!" Despite these potentially legitimate arguments, I classify Michael Pollan among the ranks of the elite. So, when I learned that Michael Pollan published a book about gardening in the early 1990's, I seized the opportunity to get a glimpse of my fave author's early years. And, as the book jacket promises, Second Nature is likely to be the most intensive - and perhaps the only - modern foray into the mind of a gardner that has been successfully reduced to print. In typical fashion, Pollan begins this "education" with his own experience as a gardner, going as far back as the watermelon in his youth to illustrate his nearly gravitational and wholly instictual pull to the act of gardening. Pollan's love affair with his soil and compost is tainted only by a rash of complex feelings that accompany the domination of nature. Should he build a fence to keep wildlife out of his garden? Should he pull the weeds, or let nature take its course? I won't spoil the outcome for you. But, suffice it to say, Pollan wrestles his demons to the ground and conquers them, all the while with a bushel of lovely organic vegetables under his arm. Despite my general adoration of the man, I have to admit that the starstruck spell under which I was formerly operating has worn just a tad. While Second Nature does not defy Pollan's inate strengths - humor, artful prose, knowledge - it is also replete with Pollan's weaknesses - primarily, the redundancy and excessive philosophizing. It's sad, but I couldn't even bring myself to read the last 10 pages - partly because I had no clue what he was getting at, and partly because I was afraid I'd fall asleep trying to figure it out. I just closed the book and decided to call it good. So, in the end, I would say this is not one of Pollan's finer works. It is good, I'm not dissing it. I'm just suggesting that readers stick to his more recent works, which have much broader appeal and much more immediate significance.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ken-ichi

    All Pollan's books explore the ways people relate to the world around them, from plants to food in general to space itself. This one's about gardens and gardening, and is probably the book in which he most explicitly addresses man's relationship to nature. The oft-repeated thesis of this book is that all American concepts of the physical world and our place in it stress a division between nature and culture, and that while this notion has been useful in its various forms (Puritan establishment to All Pollan's books explore the ways people relate to the world around them, from plants to food in general to space itself. This one's about gardens and gardening, and is probably the book in which he most explicitly addresses man's relationship to nature. The oft-repeated thesis of this book is that all American concepts of the physical world and our place in it stress a division between nature and culture, and that while this notion has been useful in its various forms (Puritan establishment to the Wilderness Act), the present demands a more holistic metaphor to guide us. Pollan proposes the garden as this metaphor, a place where humanity must both acknowledge impotence in the face of white flies and early frosts, while at the same time assert its own history, culture, and opinion in order to harvest tomatoes, appreciate a dahlia, or feel fully at peace. He explores this idea by examining various aspects of the conceptual garden and his own real, cultivated corner of Connecticut, dealing variously with vegetables, lawns, seed catalogs, weeds, etc. My reactions to Pollan's work are remarkably consistent: fascination; admiration for the quantity and diversity of historical, literary, and scientific references he can apply in his analysis of almost anything; simultaneous frustration with his dogged refusal to cite these references in a regular fashion; and dissatisfaction with his failure to distinguish the personal shortcomings of scientists from the legitimacy of science itself (i.e. science as a good, if not the best, way of learning about the world). This book was Pollan's first, published almost 20 years ago, and it pretty much hits all these points. That said, I also almost always come away from his books feeling enlightened, and more importantly, convinced. Honestly, he didn't really have to twist my arm to persuade me that romantic and/or radically preservationist environmentalism isn't a particularly useful philosophy if we want to survive the next 1000 years with both our world and our culture relatively intact, but I hadn't thought very much about gardening as a way toward a better mindset. Sentences like, "What we need is to confound our metaphors, and the rose can help us do this better than the swamp can" (p. 97) intrigued me, because I'm definitely more of a swamp kind of guy. My main critique of this book is really more of a question: if the garden is the metaphor that best embodies our relationship with nature, what does it tell us about right and wrong? The garden teaches us to engage the world instead of dominating or kowtowing to it, but it doesn't seem to tell us why we should engage, and to what end. For instance, in his discussion of a local stand of old-growth pine that was blown down in a storm, Pollan describes the conflicting views of the Nature Conservancy land owners (leave it alone, let nature take its course), utilitarians (harvest and sell the wood), and romantics (restore the grove), and then offers some of his own motives for various plans of action (restore the grove to perpetuate the locals' relationship with the land, restore to our best guess at what the pre-Colonial state might have been so people can feel connected to the pre-Colonial experience). Pollan's garden ethic might encourage us to consider a more diverse array of options beyond entrenched commercial interest or the equally inflexible (and somewhat irrational) position of the Nature Conservancy, but it doesn't actually help us choose one path. There is no one true reason to garden, so garden ethics are not particularly helpful in decision-making. I guess Pollan might argue that his garden ethic isn't meant to be proscriptive so much as informative: the absolutism of our country's childhood and adolescence needs to give way to a harder, more self-conscious way of life, one that acknowledges that the most important decisions often must declare a new righteousness rather than adhere to an existing code. Some Words Maginot Line: France's fortified border with Germany in WW2, the implication here being that it was ineffectual. (p. 53) antinomian (adj): Christian (Protestant) belief that faith alone is sufficient to achieve salvation. (p. 60) secateurs (n): pruning shears. (p. 138)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I've been a gardener my whole life and so was delighted with Michael Pollan's story of his experiences with gardening and the endless struggles we go through as nature does its best to undo our every effort. A great read and a true gem of a meditation on gardens and the human spirit. After 2012: This is my third read of Second Nature. Once again I'm impressed by Pollan's ability to weave personal history with past and present theories/ideas/politics of gardens and our changing attitudes towards th I've been a gardener my whole life and so was delighted with Michael Pollan's story of his experiences with gardening and the endless struggles we go through as nature does its best to undo our every effort. A great read and a true gem of a meditation on gardens and the human spirit. After 2012: This is my third read of Second Nature. Once again I'm impressed by Pollan's ability to weave personal history with past and present theories/ideas/politics of gardens and our changing attitudes towards the land we live on and with. Certainly not a practical gardening guide, but worth reading for all who wish to look beyond planting a few tomatoes or a casual daisy or two.

  4. 5 out of 5

    gina

    This book was, erm, okay. Just okay. There were definitely parts that I really liked about it (historical overview of gardening in the US, Pollan talking about his struggles with his five acres, reminiscing about his childhood gardening memories). But, and this is a big but, each chapter felt like it's own book, with a wrap up that left me feeling like SURELY this should be the end of the book, only to realize there were a gazzillion cds left in the case to go through. When I put in the last one This book was, erm, okay. Just okay. There were definitely parts that I really liked about it (historical overview of gardening in the US, Pollan talking about his struggles with his five acres, reminiscing about his childhood gardening memories). But, and this is a big but, each chapter felt like it's own book, with a wrap up that left me feeling like SURELY this should be the end of the book, only to realize there were a gazzillion cds left in the case to go through. When I put in the last one I actually gave a shout of rejoice that it was almost over! How can something with great tidbits of information be so blasted boring, feel like it's lasting forever... I stubbornly refused to quit listening to the cd, because see it isn't a bad book. Just something about it wasn't enjoyable in it's entirety. Only pieces were enjoyable. Unfortunately those pieces were too few and far between. And as a disclaimer- as always- reading and listening to a book often leave a reader with different impressions of the book. Perhaps a reader would not feel as if the book moved painfully slow. If you are a big Pollan fan then I'd suggest reading it. But unless you are a huge fan, or an avid and passionate gardener then I say pass on this one.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Here Pollan describes a garden as “a middle ground between nature and culture,” and explores the philosophical divide between the two. The author writes of his grandfather’s half-acre garden on Long Island and of the summer when his father defied the neighbors by not tending to the lawn. He also chronicles the first seven years of developing his own garden in Cornwall, Connecticut: deciding on the right ratio between lawn, vegetables and flowers; figuring out how compost works; fighting groundho Here Pollan describes a garden as “a middle ground between nature and culture,” and explores the philosophical divide between the two. The author writes of his grandfather’s half-acre garden on Long Island and of the summer when his father defied the neighbors by not tending to the lawn. He also chronicles the first seven years of developing his own garden in Cornwall, Connecticut: deciding on the right ratio between lawn, vegetables and flowers; figuring out how compost works; fighting groundhogs; planting a maple tree; and so on. If you’ve read his more recent books, you know Pollan is always readable on the subjects of plants and food production, but I found this somewhat dry and too focused on historical rabbit holes, especially in Chapters 10 and 11 (“The Idea of a Garden,” based on a panel discussion on environmental ethics that he moderated in Harper’s Magazine, and “‘Made Wild by Pompous Catalogues’”). Still, it was illuminating to read in small bits over the year, even for a hapless and lazy gardener like myself. Favorite lines: “A case could be made that the front lawn is the most characteristic institution of the American suburb” & “Lawns, I am convinced, are a symptom of, and a metaphor for, our skewed relationship to the land. They teach us that, with the help of petrochemicals and technology, we can bend nature to our will. Lawns stoke our hubris with regard to the land.” “Of the seven deadly sins, surely it is pride that most commonly afflicts the gardener.” “Much of gardening is a return, an effort at recovering remembered landscapes.” “maybe that is what a green thumb is, a particular form of memory: a compendium of little stories that have been distilled to the point where the gardener can draw on their lessons without even thinking about it” “The garden is an unhappy place for the perfectionist. Too much stands beyond our control here, and the only thing we can absolutely count on is eventual catastrophe.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mads P.

    A fascinating and informative read that goes way beyond gardening. Drawing from history, ecology, religion, literature, and philosophy, Pollan discusses how gardening addresses our relationship with nature. Excellent writing style. For example, he entertainingly describes "the loathsome slugs: naked bullets of flesh--evicted snails--that hide from the light of day, emerging at sunset to cruise the garden along their own avenues of slime." In addition to the lowly slug, Pollan addresses big topics A fascinating and informative read that goes way beyond gardening. Drawing from history, ecology, religion, literature, and philosophy, Pollan discusses how gardening addresses our relationship with nature. Excellent writing style. For example, he entertainingly describes "the loathsome slugs: naked bullets of flesh--evicted snails--that hide from the light of day, emerging at sunset to cruise the garden along their own avenues of slime." In addition to the lowly slug, Pollan addresses big topics here including land use, genetic engineering, and other environmental issues. He proposes a new ethic for environmental stewardship that views man's relationship to nature as that of gardener who is interconnected with the land, rather than the prevailing wilderness ethic. He posits that the absolutist viewpoints from which most view the land, with either a market aesthetic or a wilderness aesthetic, are not helpful to either cause. A must-read for environmentalists, gardeners, and anyone who contemplates the American landscape.

  7. 5 out of 5

    mark

    Written twenty-five years ago, much of what this book is about is as true today as it was then – because much of it is a history of the garden and gardening. It’s also, though, a contemporary study and self-analysis of the author’s one-year experience of putting in a garden(s) on his newly purchased (in 1984) five-acre, old farm, in Cornwall, Connecticut, with bits of social and cultural commentary sown in. Gardens are, he rightly point out, “a form of self-expression …” (p. 242) and Pollan exhi Written twenty-five years ago, much of what this book is about is as true today as it was then – because much of it is a history of the garden and gardening. It’s also, though, a contemporary study and self-analysis of the author’s one-year experience of putting in a garden(s) on his newly purchased (in 1984) five-acre, old farm, in Cornwall, Connecticut, with bits of social and cultural commentary sown in. Gardens are, he rightly point out, “a form of self-expression …” (p. 242) and Pollan exhibits this on nearly every page of this hundred thousand word “trope” of gardening. Trope/tropism is his favorite word and the metaphors are thick and heavy with much symbolism and lyricism. He also uses these words: perforce; concatenation; palimpsest; hermeneutical; and enjambed. So who is Michael Pollan? You probably know of him and his writing. He’s sixty years old now and has written several best-sellers: The Botany of Desire (2001) and The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006); among others, as well as many essays that have appeared in major magazines. He is also a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley. This was his first book. Look at his author photo and he’s exactly that guy — an NPRish, soft-spoken (sideways talking) yuppie — a late-stage wannabee hippie, i.e. a whispering, obsessive compulsive, neurotic – the kind of person who can drive me batty with his metaphors, language, and self-righteous know-it-all-ness. But that’s just me. I actually liked the book, the historical parts anyway. I could do without all his assumptions and judgments, his, this-is-the-way-it-should-be-done perfectionism. All the while said like that’s not what he’s saying. And for all his earth-toney, ‘I-am-a-whole-earth being’; he doesn’t mention his cat until page 302! There’s no smoking, drinking, talking, relaxing, f__king, sweating, cursing, or eating, in his garden –things that I loved about my gardens, when I had them. In my mind the real fun of having a garden. What he does is sort of tell you things about himself, but he really doesn’t go very deep. But, he does have the “desk up in the barn loft.” Of Course, from whence he oversees his gardens. Can he be even more clichéd? But that’s just me. You’ll probably like this book, and Mr. Pollan, and his style of writing – it’s very popular. Very “eloquent, witty, and spirited.” In short: Pollan’s prose and story is flowery – it lacks grit, true grit, the down and dirty stuff of real, but it’s pretty. Spring 2015

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Gardening gives most of us our most direct and intimate experience of nature - of its satisfaction, fragility, and power. One of Pollan's earlier works, and it shows. While there is a larger theme of gardening, there is also a lot of navel gazing. I liked the narrative historical sections on different concepts of wilderness and nature, actually preferring those to Pollan's check-in on how his zinnias are blooming... The strongest section of the book was "Planting Trees", discussing the history Gardening gives most of us our most direct and intimate experience of nature - of its satisfaction, fragility, and power. One of Pollan's earlier works, and it shows. While there is a larger theme of gardening, there is also a lot of navel gazing. I liked the narrative historical sections on different concepts of wilderness and nature, actually preferring those to Pollan's check-in on how his zinnias are blooming... The strongest section of the book was "Planting Trees", discussing the history of trees and forestry. I found his story on the local land and conservation efforts to re-establish Cathedral Grove - a historic white pine stand in his small New York town after it sustained damage in a hurricane - to be the most compelling of the book. He touches on larger questions in this chapter, whereas many of the other sections felt superficial and ridiculous. The groundhog story was particularly maddening, and it lowered my respect for Pollan - I couldn't believe some of the stuff he actually admitted to doing to rid his yard of this rodent. It was shameful - and this coming from a gardener who has been frustrated by groundhogs for years! So, some sections were great - 4/5 star territory, and others were awful. So, a 3 seems fair - right down the middle.

  9. 5 out of 5

    MaryJo

    Second Nature published in 1991 is Michael Pollans’ first book. I started reading Michael Pollan when my sister gave me Botany of Desire, and I had missed this early book about gardening. The voice is familiar to a Pollan reader, a combination of journalistic investigation, personal reflection, and an occasional zinger. The book is arranged by the seasons, a device which works well enough, as Pollan tells stories of his increasing engagement with gardening. I found myself laughing out loud, reco Second Nature published in 1991 is Michael Pollans’ first book. I started reading Michael Pollan when my sister gave me Botany of Desire, and I had missed this early book about gardening. The voice is familiar to a Pollan reader, a combination of journalistic investigation, personal reflection, and an occasional zinger. The book is arranged by the seasons, a device which works well enough, as Pollan tells stories of his increasing engagement with gardening. I found myself laughing out loud, recognizing how he was gently making fun of me and himself and all “obsessive” gardeners. I certainly recognized myself in his discussion of the obsession with old roses, an obsession I shared until a disease carried by the invasive mutliflora roses wiped out my carefully selected plants. Some of what he has to say must have been new in 1991, but is not now. A few things are out of date; for example, the comparison of the bright colors of the Southern based Wayside Garden catalog, with the more refined classic colors of the plants offered by The White Flower Farm. Much of the book is a meditation on gardeners’ complicated relationship to nature. The theme of our attempts at control and the various ways that we fail is introduced early on in a story many gardeners will recognize about a destructive woodchuck’s incursion on Pollan’s garden. As the book develops he comes to also consider the complicated arguments about “restoration” that continue to grow in relevance. The essay are thoughtful, and rarely didactic, listening to it (as an audio book) was a winter pleasure.

  10. 4 out of 5

    jess

    I haven't even read Michael Pollan's really famous work, but I always think of the Botany of Desire as one of the cornerstones of my perspective. I don't know why it took me so long to get to Second Nature. I'm so fascinated by humanity's place in the landscape and I like his style. In his typical style, Pollan brings a contemporary American ethnobotany to these classic garden icons. Michael Pollan explores such items as: his father garden vs. his grandfather's garden roses, history, modern hybrid I haven't even read Michael Pollan's really famous work, but I always think of the Botany of Desire as one of the cornerstones of my perspective. I don't know why it took me so long to get to Second Nature. I'm so fascinated by humanity's place in the landscape and I like his style. In his typical style, Pollan brings a contemporary American ethnobotany to these classic garden icons. Michael Pollan explores such items as: his father garden vs. his grandfather's garden roses, history, modern hybrids, sexual connotations trees, history, role as landscape fixtures, planting of lawns, history, maintenance, wastefulness of seed catalogs & class wilderness, as constructed by human perceptions weeds, and why Thoreau was wrong pests, how not to get rid of a woodchuck green thumbs Mr Pollan's extensive waxing about the sensuality of the roses was so hetero-focused and boring, but otherwise I loved this romp through the American garden with Pollan as the tour guide.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Radavich

    This is a revolutionary book from my perspective. It begins with the author's reflections on his grandfather's garden and his father's attitudes to yard care and continues to his own arduous garden-making. But along the way he considers the rich, fascinating history of gardens, yards, forests, and open spaces and how humans relate to them. I particularly relished his chapters on the "meaning" of trees across a broad variety of cultures and "the idea of a garden." As he says, gardens are narrativ This is a revolutionary book from my perspective. It begins with the author's reflections on his grandfather's garden and his father's attitudes to yard care and continues to his own arduous garden-making. But along the way he considers the rich, fascinating history of gardens, yards, forests, and open spaces and how humans relate to them. I particularly relished his chapters on the "meaning" of trees across a broad variety of cultures and "the idea of a garden." As he says, gardens are narratives, ultimately, about us. The ending felt weak to me, but overall, an outstanding book to keep on one's shelf.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I am a real michael Pollan fan. Fun to see the seeds of his later books, planted in this one. As a beginning gardener, I found this book fascinating, informative and very easy to read. I most particularly like his discussion of what makes a "green thumb" and the concept of "wilderness."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    As a dedicated backyard gardener, I was the perfect audience for this book, one of Pollan's earliest. I particularly enjoyed the chapters that were more memoir than philosophical reflection, the chapter about his father (who refused to cut his grass, ultimately carving his initials into the lawn after officious neighbors complained) and his grandfather (who kept trying to improve his son-in-law's lawn and who saw anything less than stark rows and weed-free beds as a personal insult) and the chap As a dedicated backyard gardener, I was the perfect audience for this book, one of Pollan's earliest. I particularly enjoyed the chapters that were more memoir than philosophical reflection, the chapter about his father (who refused to cut his grass, ultimately carving his initials into the lawn after officious neighbors complained) and his grandfather (who kept trying to improve his son-in-law's lawn and who saw anything less than stark rows and weed-free beds as a personal insult) and the chapter about his desire to be loosey-goosey and "at one" with nature as he planned his Connecticut backyard and the rapidity with which this kumbaya attitude gave way to killer instincts as he raged against the woodchuck eating all of his seedlings. The overall concept in this book--that the fantasy of untouched nature is as ecologically damaging as the ethos of development, and that the two might well be tempered by a gardener's approach, accepting a conscious custodianship of spaces that are always invested with both nature and culture--is a rich one and perhaps influenced my colleague James Barilla who wrote about preserving wildness in urban spaces in My Backyard Jungle: The Adventures of an Urban Wildlife Lover Who Turned His Yard Into Habitat and Learned to Live with It. I think both Pollan and Barilla are right to see that purity and authenticity fantasies do more to hinder our ability to see and sense the places around us than they do to preserve those spaces. Taking responsibility for impact and recognizing that we can't help but having one goes a long way towards acknowledging the interdependence of our own species with a myriad of others. (In this sense, Pollan is really attempting to develop an ethics of life in the Anthropocene, avant la lettre.) Pollan writes about the curse of lawns, the futurity of trees, the snobbery and politicism of seed catalogs. As in his more famous works, he blends memoir, literary allusion, historical background, and popular science in an engaging way. I will confess that his reflections on ornamental garden planning had me suffering some garden envy, which in turn made me realize that while he talks about botany and aristocracy and fears of miscegenation expressed through the rejection of hybrid varietals, he doesn't really talk about class privilege, land ownership, and leisure time. His schedule and his wife's schedule allow them to spend a lot of time working on their gardens and dwelling in them. One of the problems this book doesn't confront--and perhaps it would derail it to do so--is that very few people enjoy that privilege and thus that garden authorship that conveys a custodial relationship to the land. (Perhaps it is telling that one of his constant touchstones is Thoreau who also had an awful lot of privilege and leisure allowing him to live barebones near Walden Pond!)

  14. 5 out of 5

    robyn

    I would recommend the audio book - read wryly and humorously by Pollan himself - as that's how I experienced it. this has to be my favorite of his work so far! It's far ranging, covering what feels like every aspect of gardening from the general, like composting, to the very specific, like the sexual politics of roses (!). He touches on battling nature in the form of woodchucks, the social ladder of seed catalogs, puritans, his father, drops the names of Vita Sackville West and modern horticultu I would recommend the audio book - read wryly and humorously by Pollan himself - as that's how I experienced it. this has to be my favorite of his work so far! It's far ranging, covering what feels like every aspect of gardening from the general, like composting, to the very specific, like the sexual politics of roses (!). He touches on battling nature in the form of woodchucks, the social ladder of seed catalogs, puritans, his father, drops the names of Vita Sackville West and modern horticulturalists in the same paragraph - and yet it's all perfectly organized and utterly engrossing. I was just as interested in his own gardening adventures as in any of the rest of the book. There's a lot of humor (I suppose it is self-evident that an opera singer who got a melon named after her, probably did have large melons herself, but it never occurred to me) as well as a lot of actual information (DID YOU KNOW that many of the plants we consider weeds now, were not native to this continent, and actually came over with the puritans?), and also some simply beautiful flights of metaphor and descriptive writing: the essay on roses is simply amazing, and his comparison of long-blooming, girlish modern American roses to the blowsy, overblown wanton olde English roses, who give their all in a week of summer, holding nothing back - well. As I was driving, I found myself ordering rose catalogs in my mind, so I could fill them with the old, honored names of queens, ladies, and gardener's wives, and so they could fill my garden with the abandon of their scent and color and softly exploding petals, and remind me of the value of anticipation and of ephemeral things. Highly recommend, even if you're not a gardener.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Longfellow

    After being thoroughly impressed with Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, for some reason I waited nearly three years to read another of his books. Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education is equally well-written and is his first published book. This is essentially a collection of essays divided into four sections: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, and though each essay approaches its topic--of which there is quite a variety--through the lens of a gardener, as usual Pollan consistently expands specific After being thoroughly impressed with Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, for some reason I waited nearly three years to read another of his books. Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education is equally well-written and is his first published book. This is essentially a collection of essays divided into four sections: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, and though each essay approaches its topic--of which there is quite a variety--through the lens of a gardener, as usual Pollan consistently expands specific narratives and descriptions to reach broader implications, ranging from general philosophical reflection to reflections of spiritual, historical, political, and economic significance. While I enjoyed the book in its entirety, the “Summer” section engaged me least, and the “Spring” and “Fall” sections I found the most interesting. Within these, I found “Nature Abhors a Garden” to be particular entertaining, and “Compost and Its Moral Imperatives,” “Planting a Tree,” and “The Idea of a Garden” are among my other favorites. In particular, “The Idea of a Garden” evolves into what seems to me to be a brilliant proposal for a new “wilderness ethic.” Like a majority of the other essays, this one is concerned with exploring the wisest approaches for uniting humans and nature. Foundational to this purpose is the idea that humans are a part of nature rather than separate from it. To qualify for free shipping on a recent Amazon purchase, I added Pollan’s second book, A Place of My Own, to my order, which is said to include reflections on building and architecture. Heretofore, my mind has remained a satisfied virgin on this topic, but I have no doubt that I’ll be impressed once again with the insights Pollan provides.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    Before he became famous for his real-food polemics, Michael Pollan was puttering around in his New England garden. This book, published in 1993, is a pure delight and total inspiration to a gardener of my ilk (invested in a garden that balances itself with nature, values native plants and eschews foolish hybrids, and strives to eradicate the lawn in all its iterations). His presentation of a gardener’s ethics was also deeply motivating. I hope to return to it again and again in my gardening life Before he became famous for his real-food polemics, Michael Pollan was puttering around in his New England garden. This book, published in 1993, is a pure delight and total inspiration to a gardener of my ilk (invested in a garden that balances itself with nature, values native plants and eschews foolish hybrids, and strives to eradicate the lawn in all its iterations). His presentation of a gardener’s ethics was also deeply motivating. I hope to return to it again and again in my gardening life, and I recommend it heartily to anyone who enjoys nurturing plants and a small plot of land.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rashmi

    A delightful book exploring the relationship between American culture and nature--full of funny anecdotes, rich history, and engaging discussion. Pollan ensures that his view on the discussed issues is very clear to the reader, which occasionally can be a bit overbearing, but not annoyingly so. It is definitely an informative and enjoyable read for those who like plants and gardening, but these are not necessary prerequisites. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning m A delightful book exploring the relationship between American culture and nature--full of funny anecdotes, rich history, and engaging discussion. Pollan ensures that his view on the discussed issues is very clear to the reader, which occasionally can be a bit overbearing, but not annoyingly so. It is definitely an informative and enjoyable read for those who like plants and gardening, but these are not necessary prerequisites. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about attitudes towards nature, the outdoors, and plants in American culture.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    The first of Pollan's books, I put this one off because I figured it would be uneven and because it was not easily found. I ultimately tracked down a copy through inter-library loan and I'm glad I did. It's everything Pollan's fans could want on gardening. While a lot of his recent work has focused on food, this one and A Place of My Own stand apart and are good bets for fans of MP's writing but are tired of the overlap in the food books.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Such sweet garden musings. The section on his Dad vs the lawn mowing fanatics reminded me of a couple of former neighbors. And the worrisomeness of planting a tree reminded me of myself.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anna Kander

    .

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Barkey

    Michael Pollan's captivating meditation Second Nature has claimed a place in my heart right next to the works of Wendell Berry.

  22. 5 out of 5

    sofie jacobsen

    This book was so rad. It really made me think about the philosophy of gardening and consider man's relationship with nature and nature's relationship with man. I listened to it and will be buying a hard cover copy so I can highlight my favorite sections 😂.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan Sink

    This book gets five stars from me because I really believe it is a modern classic. It belongs up there with Izaak Walton, Aldo Leopold and yes, even Thoreau, with whom he argues throughout the book. It's not just about gardening; it's about Americans' relationship to the land-- including their suburban front and back yards. I think the fact that he starts with his Long Island suburban plot is what really engaged me. We suburbanites grow up with a very limited view of nature and often a diminished This book gets five stars from me because I really believe it is a modern classic. It belongs up there with Izaak Walton, Aldo Leopold and yes, even Thoreau, with whom he argues throughout the book. It's not just about gardening; it's about Americans' relationship to the land-- including their suburban front and back yards. I think the fact that he starts with his Long Island suburban plot is what really engaged me. We suburbanites grow up with a very limited view of nature and often a diminished view of things like architecture and design as well. I am new to gardening, but I am not new to thinking about American nature and landscape. I have long loved reading and thinking about the debate between Romanticism and more Classical approaches to the American landscape. The tension between absolute wilderness (no human intervention) and absolute cultivation (think Roundup Ready corn and hybrid roses) leaves sometimes little room for a new view of the land. Pollan begins with a critique of the very idea of wilderness: the dandelions planted by early Eastern settlers, for example, had carpeted the frontier before the covered wagons arrived. Pollan has a strategy he seems to use in all his books. He writes essays, taking a single slice of a topic, in this case trees, roses, garden, seed catalogs, etc. Then he does a full philosophical, cultural, literary and scientific exploration of the topic. If it were anyone else doing this, it would be dry and dull, but not so Michael Pollan. He is so engaged with each of these topics, and so able to weave in his own experience, that he writes full of humor and passion-- something is at stake here. He is not just thinking this through but basing decisions about what he will do with his own property on his ideas. I learned two major things about my own property from this book: a) a prairie with paths running through it is the highest order of landscaping we could do on our own property; and b) I am a total Philistine when it comes to flower gardening! This book was rooting and affirming in a very real way. I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand America's relationship to this beautiful, wild, productive land.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nicki

    One of my summer reading goals is to read through all of Michael Pollan’s work; so I started with Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, his first book, which was published in 1991. Second Nature takes readers through the explorations, tribulations, and revelations of Pollan himself, as he works to leave his mark on his personal landscape. This is not a “how-to” garden book. Here you will not find natural remedies for warding off common garden pests, or how to produce more tomatoes per plant. Wha One of my summer reading goals is to read through all of Michael Pollan’s work; so I started with Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, his first book, which was published in 1991. Second Nature takes readers through the explorations, tribulations, and revelations of Pollan himself, as he works to leave his mark on his personal landscape. This is not a “how-to” garden book. Here you will not find natural remedies for warding off common garden pests, or how to produce more tomatoes per plant. What you will find is a personal struggle to accept man’s domination of nature, the social implications and evolution of the suburban lawn, the benefits of buying heirloom varieties over hybrids, and a consideration of domination vs. acquiescence, developer vs. naturalist. You’ll find out why American gardens tend not to have walls and how the Dolly Parton rose bush came to be. Pollan’s writing style is both engaging and accessible. However, I don’t think that this book has universal appeal as some professional reviewers tend to suggest. There is a very specific audience that this book will appeal to. Second Nature will most likely resonate with readers, like myself, who are interested in gardening as a social and environmental act; and who enjoy a good account of one man’s relationship with his land. I’d also recommend it for readers of Thoreau and Emerson, both of whom Pollan quotes often. Others however, will likely tire of Pollan’s endless philosophizing and his frequent dissertations, such as the 20+ pages devoted to the politics of seed catalogs. Pollan is thoughtful, deeply introspective, and romanticizes the act of gardening to the nth degree. As I was reading the book, I felt like I was witnessing the conception and emergence of Pollan’s current environmental and agricultural positions. Second Nature is an insightful and meditative book that is about so much more than just gardening.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Patti

    What a great book. Not only did I discover several new garden supply stores, but I also was awakened to the oddity of the all encompassing front yards of grass throughout the US and how that came to be and how hard it is to break away from the tyranny to conform to it. Pollan discusses the conflict between having a garden and allowing the weeds and creatures to live their lives and how we actually act as weeds ourselves in changing the landscape around us. "Native grasses proved poor forage for Eu What a great book. Not only did I discover several new garden supply stores, but I also was awakened to the oddity of the all encompassing front yards of grass throughout the US and how that came to be and how hard it is to break away from the tyranny to conform to it. Pollan discusses the conflict between having a garden and allowing the weeds and creatures to live their lives and how we actually act as weeds ourselves in changing the landscape around us. "Native grasses proved poor forage for European livestock, which at first did not fare well in America. Yet colonists noted that after a few years the grasses-and in turn the health of the livestock-seemed to improve. What had happened, according to Crosby, is that Old World livestock had overgrazed the native grasses. Because these species were unaccustomed to such heavy grazing, they had trouble regenerating themselves. This left them vulnerable to the onslaught of European weed grasses which, having co-evolved with the goat and sheep and cow, are better equipped to withstand the grazing pressure of these animals. The European grasses soon conquered American meadows, thereby providing European livestock with their preferred forage once again. Today most of the native grasses have vanished." My eyes glazed over reading the last chapter on garden design, but I found the rest of the book fascinating and thought provoking. "The ladybug is not smart, but she knows one thing exceedingly well:how to catch forty or fifty aphids every day without hurting anybody else. If you think of evolution as a three-and-a half-billion-year-long laboratory experiment, and the gene pool as the store of information accumulated during the course of that experiment, you begin to appreciate that nature has far more extensive knowledge about her operations than we do. The trick is to put her knowledge to our purpose in the garden"

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Buckley

    This garden essay was like most of my gardens: teeming with promise at the start, becomes overrun with weeds and in the end, you're happy it's finished. Couple fun chapters, there's a sense of humor here, that seems ready to unfurl like a spring tulip, but in the end, the cool weather keeps its glory at bay.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Adams

    I honestly love every book I have read by Michael Pollen, and I am late to the game on this one (published in the early 90s, when I was more interested in college parties than gardening). I am glad that I took the time to read this one, because it is as inspirational a gardening book as I have come across. It is a philosophical book without being overbearing. There is one chapter in which he engages in what I would call a marxist rhetorical criticism in his review of different garden catalogs. H I honestly love every book I have read by Michael Pollen, and I am late to the game on this one (published in the early 90s, when I was more interested in college parties than gardening). I am glad that I took the time to read this one, because it is as inspirational a gardening book as I have come across. It is a philosophical book without being overbearing. There is one chapter in which he engages in what I would call a marxist rhetorical criticism in his review of different garden catalogs. He talks about how Kenneth Burke's form can be applied to the garden. He considers how the tree might be a trope. And, thankfully, he explains in a really careful and easy way the problems that the romantic nature-writers have unwittingly constructed by worshiping a nature that is "out there" and somehow removed from our every-day environment (and how by protecting special spaces we seem to allow ourselves the right to decimate the rest of nature). There is no real gardening advice here, no real directives or pieces of advice to follow, but it does get one thinking about one's own garden and their relationship to it!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    So apparently Michael Pollan existed before he wrote "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Shocking, I know. What's more, he actually wrote other books, including this gardening memoir. He shares his own history in the garden, some historical background of gardening in America (and is particularly fond of bagging on Puritans), expounds on what we love roses so much, and explores environmental questions such as: Is it ever acceptable for man to alter nature, and if so, how and why? One of my favorite section So apparently Michael Pollan existed before he wrote "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Shocking, I know. What's more, he actually wrote other books, including this gardening memoir. He shares his own history in the garden, some historical background of gardening in America (and is particularly fond of bagging on Puritans), expounds on what we love roses so much, and explores environmental questions such as: Is it ever acceptable for man to alter nature, and if so, how and why? One of my favorite sections was his description of the differences between the various seed catalog companies, which is hilarious if you're a gardener, and maybe even if you're not. I kept reminding myself that this book came out in the early 90's, which amazes me since I had never even heard the term "heirloom" until the next decade. But Pollan, as a long-time fan, was surely ahead of the mainstream heirloom craze. As a writer, he is often astoundingly articulate, and his formidable grasp of language makes him alternately impressive and a bit of a slow read. However, his sense of humor shines through much more in this work than in "Omnivore", and I enjoyed seeing that aspect of his personality.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    "Second Nature" is Michael Pollan's first book (and the last of all his offerings to date that I have read.) It is a book of the author's attempt to more deeply understand his connection to his gardens on his (now former) property in rural Connecticut. The story travels from his boyhood exposure and fascination to his grandfather's suburban garden. It all culminates in a tour of his own gardens as an adult. Along that form he discusses the many stops we all take in our own gardens. In typical Poll "Second Nature" is Michael Pollan's first book (and the last of all his offerings to date that I have read.) It is a book of the author's attempt to more deeply understand his connection to his gardens on his (now former) property in rural Connecticut. The story travels from his boyhood exposure and fascination to his grandfather's suburban garden. It all culminates in a tour of his own gardens as an adult. Along that form he discusses the many stops we all take in our own gardens. In typical Pollan style, the simplest of topics is more deeply explored for its factual, historical, cultural and philosophical content. Weeding or not weeding to be ecologically correct. The class war implications of plantig roses. The historical musings of planting a tree. Even the marketing strategies of seed catalog companies. Pollan helps us see our gardens and landscapes in ways we've never thought of looking before. Read this book and discover the Versailles that could be hidden in your own garden.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Finished a while ago but I had a hard time articulating how I felt about the book until I read some other reviews, and someone hit it spot-on: I was expecting a book about gardening, and this isn't one. This is characteristic (though early, and still good) Pollan, one part anecdotal, one part educational, and several more parts careful theorizing and philosophizing. His thesis is interesting (though repetitive), that the American relationship with nature has evolved into an either/or, mutually e Finished a while ago but I had a hard time articulating how I felt about the book until I read some other reviews, and someone hit it spot-on: I was expecting a book about gardening, and this isn't one. This is characteristic (though early, and still good) Pollan, one part anecdotal, one part educational, and several more parts careful theorizing and philosophizing. His thesis is interesting (though repetitive), that the American relationship with nature has evolved into an either/or, mutually exclusive wilderness versus culture, at the expense of real preservation and our potential enjoyment of or symbiosis with nature. I enjoyed it, but much more slowly than I would have liked to enjoy it. There are some fantastic moments (such as a hilarious discussion on the classist and political nature of seed catalogs) but the evolution of his own garden gets the short shrift. I would have appreciated hearing more about his carrots, for instance, AND -- WAS THE WOODCHUCK ACTUALLY IN THE BURROW WHEN HE FIREBOMBED IT?? This question will haunt me forever.

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