Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Second Nature” as Want to Read:
Second Nature
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Second Nature

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,837 Ratings  ·  484 Reviews
More than eight years ago, Harper's editor Michael Pollan bought an old Connecticut dairy farm. He planted a garden and adopted Thoreau's viewpoint: Do not impose your will upon the wilderness, the woodchucks or the weeds. Here is his timely meditation and social history on man's relationship with nature and the environment.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 5th 1992 by Delta (first published 1991)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Second Nature, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Second Nature

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 04, 2008 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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 ...more
Mads P.
Sep 01, 2008 Mads P. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Apr 01, 2015 mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pollan fans, gardeners, NPRers
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 ...more
David Radavich
May 19, 2014 David Radavich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
May 13, 2015 MaryJo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 13, 2009 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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."
Jennifer Adams
Jul 10, 2014 Jennifer Adams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 24, 2011 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
May 04, 2010 Nicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
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
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
Susan Sink
Jul 20, 2013 Susan Sink rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 10, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it
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 ...more
Nov 23, 2009 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is one of Pollan's earlier books and it is fun to see his early thinking, ideas leading eventually to Botany of Desire (co-evolution) and his other books. This one looks at gardening and explores it as a useful metaphor for breaking the dichotomy between Preserving Nature (i.e. pretending that we are separate from nature and can wall it off from human influence) and dominating our environment (i.e. pretending that we can control it without ultimately destroying ourselves). He doesn't dwell ...more
Jul 20, 2012 jess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: growing, 2012
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
Aug 14, 2009 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of Pollan's earlier titles, I started reading this because for the first time I was to create and tend to my own little 10x10 garden this year. I figured having another perspective on this would be nice.

The book follows Pollan's own thoughts and musings on gardening in America. The main theme is that too often there are extremes in the environmental debate. Either we steadfastly preserve "wilderness" or we bulldoze the forest and put up condos. Pollan puts forth the idea that there needs to
Patrick O'Connell
After having read "The Botany of Desire", enjoying "A place of My Own" and this book having come highly recommended, I was really looking forward to reading it. Frankly, I was a little disappointed.

It's really more about Landscape Architecture than "gardening". Even so, I might have found that topic interesting had I not already been a matriculating student of that subject. Having said that he, does seem to be very well informed and this would make a very good read for the first semester Landsc
Jul 17, 2011 Ammie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are so many books I want to give four and a half stars to, books that are way better than a four--my fallback rating--but not quite as mind-blowing as a five. This is one of those. It's a collection of essays about gardening, but along the way it touches on everything from rose-growing snobbery (I'm a florist, and since I read this many people have received an impromptue lecture on hybrid vs. old variety roses)to how to negotiate the nature-culture split in a mindful way both in and out of ...more
Jul 22, 2016 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Pollan's, "Second Nature: A Gardener's Education" is a quiet work on the education of himself as a gardener. Sometimes erudite, sometimes funny, sometimes familiar, Second Nature is like talking with a good friend about how they developed their garden and why. If you're looking for a light, easy read on one of your favorite subjects, you can't go wrong with Second Nature. I read it before going to sleep, and it eased my troubled mind enough to sleep without being boring. Give it a try. I ...more
Dec 12, 2013 Kiirstin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brave, necessary, and thoroughly-researched document proposing a new ethic to govern the relationship between humans and nature. Also a gardening memoir, a history of nature and culture, and a meditation on the meaning of a garden. I don't think Pollan's got it all exactly right, but he's got to be close. In addition, this is funny, fascinating, and very easy to listen to, even as it makes you think really hard about our place on, and our responsibilities to, this planet we call home.

full revi
Mar 12, 2008 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I am not a gardener--I joke that I have a black thumb, I do understand the attraction and love to walk through communal gardens and so forth. In this early book, Michael Pollan, known now for his two bestsellers on food (one reviewed by me), writes about gardening, the idea of gardens and the false dichotomy we make between nature and culture. A wise, thoughtful book that seems to me to reflect the attitude we need to deal with our environmental problems, from invasive species to global ...more
Nov 15, 2015 Alfred rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
my first Michael pollan book. I grabbed this book because I wanted to get introduced to gardening, a subject of which I know nothing of. I wanted to get some perspective, what challenges I'll face, what I need to know, what to expect, etc, to become a successful gardener (mainly for food production)- and because I know that many times when we get into something new that we don't know well we tend to romanticize it, I clearly wanted to dispel those from me.

this book delivered most of what I sough
Sep 30, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Pollan's first book prior to his mega best sellers was a gardening book that explored mankind's' relationship to nature. Second Nature tells of his attempts at permaculture (i.e. vegetable and fruit production with as little outside input to his garden such as water and chemicals and, or course, composting or sharing unneeded output).
He concluded that grading was human centric with esthetic and nutritional goals and not nature centric. Likewise he argues against wilderness areas that do
May 10, 2015 Derek rated it really liked it
I accidentally (though I'm not willing to discount the power of the subconscious) started Michael Pollan's wonderful Second Nature: A Gardener's Education while in the midst of buying my first house. This had two results: it took me dreadfully long to finish a book I loved, and it gave me an appreciation of the ownership of land that I surely wound't have come by otherwise.

The book is a lot of things, but the parts I connected with the most were the things I've loved about Pollan for as long as
Jan 27, 2015 Rj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just as I had read Ruth Reichl's book in reverse order I have been doing the same with Michael Pollan. While I was not anticipating finishing Reichl's first book, I did not want to turn the last page, I found Michael Pollan's first book, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education (New York: Dell Publishing, 1991) awaiting me at the library. Pollan is as good and entertaining a writer as Reichl, drawing readers into his quest to develop a garden on what was his new property in Cornwall, Connecticutt. ...more
Gwendoline Van
It's always interesting to read well-known author's earlier works, so when I stumbled upon Second Nature by Pollan, I was beyond intrigued.

Indeed, as an earlier work, it reveals the author's thought process and growth and does pave the way for his more developed ideas and books in more recent years. At times a bit too poetic for its own good, Second Nature nonetheless drops of nugget of fascinating detail about the American landscape and gardening overall.

For instance, did you know that most o
May 09, 2014 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do you garden? Do you tend to plants and work the soil each day? Well then, this book is for you, since it's about gardening. However, it's about a lot more than that. When the author starts to garden, he also starts to speculate about things much deeper than just a pretty little flower. No, the author does more than that. He compares and contrasts America's view of nature with the reality of gardening; he shares his experiences with the American lawn; he battles a woodchuck; and much more. Whil ...more
Apr 22, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
Lately I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about food, ecology, natural places and farms. These thoughts inevitably led me to writers such as Michael Pollan. Second Nature is the fourth Pollan book that I’ve read and I probably plan on reading several more for the same reason that I like this book.

Pollan’s style is easy, laid back and non-controversial reminding a bit of Wendell Berry without the outbursts of frustration and religious piety that I get from Berry’s writings.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
  • Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden
  • Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community
  • Noah's Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards
  • Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long
  • Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens
  • It's a Long Road to a Tomato: Tales of an Organic Farmer Who Quit the Big City for the (Not So) Simple Life
  • Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners
  • Down the Garden Path
  • This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader
  • Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, a Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles
  • Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth
  • Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture
  • The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-Reliance Series)
  • Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times
  • Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden
  • Gardening at the Dragon's Gate: At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World
  • Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, and Fair
Michael Pollan is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also the director of the Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.
More about Michael Pollan...

Share This Book

“A garden should make you feel you've entered privileged space -- a place not just set apart but reverberant -- and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.” 36 likes
“Anthropocentric as [the gardener] may be, he recognizes that he is dependent for his health and survival on many other forms of life, so he is careful to take their interests into account in whatever he does. He is in fact a wilderness advocate of a certain kind. It is when he respects and nurtures the wilderness of his soil and his plants that his garden seems to flourish most. Wildness, he has found, resides not only out there, but right here: in his soil, in his plants, even in himself...
But wildness is more a quality than a place, and though humans can't manufacture it, they can nourish and husband it...
The gardener cultivates wildness, but he does so carefully and respectfully, in full recognition of its mystery.”
More quotes…