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American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn
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American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  92 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
The rise of the perfect lawn represents one of the most profound transformations in the history of the American landscape. American Green, Ted Steinberg's witty exposé of this bizarre phenomenon, traces the history of the lawn from its explosion in the postwar suburban community of Levittown to the present love affair with turf colorants, leaf blowers, and riding mowers.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2006)
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Kristina Gibson
Jun 19, 2010 Kristina Gibson rated it liked it
Pretty interesting - I may never roll around in the grass ever again.
A gripping page-turner about your lawn? Yes it is possible. Steinberg looks at every facet, from corporate interests to cold war history to color to see why Americans are so obsessed with their lawns when they come at such a price. I learned a lot from his book, such as that fertilizer companies can petty much get away with any pollution they want, that clover is great for the soil because it is a nitrogen producer, and that golf courses make turf specialists live off tums and spite. He argues p ...more
Dec 01, 2009 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nature
Despite clichés about watching grass grow, American Green is riveting and compelling, and much to its credit concludes with concrete ideas about what can and should actually be done to address the problems of turf-mania. Steinberg approaches the subject from a variety of perspectives including chemistry, economics, environmentalism, and cultural history, which makes for both breadth and depth. The one area I would have liked more attention to is the psychological or metaphorical origins and impo ...more
Collin A.
Nov 04, 2013 Collin A. rated it liked it
Who knew that lawns such a history! Ted Steinberg's fascinating and black comedy-infused piece is a true trip down history lane. Cataloging the rise in lawn culture from the initial aspects of European exploration to the consumerist culture of post World War II suburbanite America, Steinberg weaves an educational and enlightening story about pop culture, ecological consequence and mankind's obsession for even the small objects of our daily routine.
Karen Snyder
Jun 05, 2014 Karen Snyder rated it it was amazing
In this book I learned as of 2002 there were 26 million leaf blowers in the U.S. I don't remember how many lawn mowers or how much pesticide was bought, but that just skims there surface to the problem. The increased obsession with the "ideal" lawn landscape is truly a degradation of our society, the earth and life on our plant. If I had a lawn I'd turn it into a food forest, veggie garden or native plant arboretum in a heartbeat.
Sep 27, 2007 O rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like Americana and history
Who knew that a book about grass growing could be so interesting!

I got this book on a lark after watching a segment on CBS Sunday morning, because I like non-fiction books about off beat subjects, and this seemed to be one of that type.

But it proved to not be just cut and dried (a grass joke for you)but rather humorous and informative, and easy to read.

I might not purchase it, but I'd get it from the library, for sure!
Sep 11, 2009 Juli rated it liked it
The suburban lawn tale inside an out...funny and disturbing. I particularly liked the tale of the Wisconsin woman who brandished a butcher knife at town officials who tried to convince her to mow her overgrown lawn (she backed down only after a police officer drew his weapon).
Aug 28, 2008 Carol rated it really liked it
Loved the history of why we have lawns and why so many "my neighbors" need a perfect monoculture to constantly tend to and devote coutless hours and dollars toward.
May 27, 2013 Vickie rated it it was amazing
A Very interesting history of the lawn. Who knew how interesting that could be?
Jan 19, 2011 Christian rated it really liked it
Readable and fun. Scary to see the extent of the lawn fetish.
Brad Austin
Nov 18, 2015 Brad Austin rated it it was amazing
Masterful! Steinburg is a superb storyteller.
Mar 22, 2009 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Excellent book! Anyone who owns a yard should read this. Reads quickly with a good mix of story and facts.

It is wrong to draw a sharp line in one's imagination between the "nature" present on the Rocky Mountain front and that available in the suburbanite's own front yard. The natural world found on even the most perfect and stylized of lawns is no less real than that at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Different, yes, but to draw too sharp a distinction between the sparsely settled w
Sep 06, 2008 Denise rated it liked it
Who knew grass could be so interesting? I picked this book up on a whim from the Staff Picks shelf at the library. It looked quirky, and I like quirky. It gives the history of the American lawn, from its beginnings as a luxury of the wealthy to the democratization of turf for everyone. Yes, I skimmed a few parts because I really don't care about some of the details; for instance, I don't want to know what amounts of which chemicals are in my fertilizer. But I do want to know how they affect us ( ...more
Sep 21, 2011 Matt rated it liked it
Steinberg just doesn't like lawns. He uses some pretty outrageous examples in an attempt to paint the lawn care industry as reckless and dangerous. For example, he gives examples of people who improperly used their lawn mowers and lost digits or limbs. Look, some people are stupid. Some people are stupid when it comes to raising their kids; does that mean we should blame their kids for the stupid ways in which they are raised? Lawn mowers can be dangerous if used improperly. If you can't use a l ...more
Mar 11, 2009 Kristen rated it liked it
An interesting read...but a little dry.
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“It is wrong to draw a sharp line in one's imagination between the "nature" present on the Rocky Mountain front and that available in the suburbanite's own front yard. The natural world found on even the most perfect and stylized of lawns is no less real than that at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Different, yes, but to draw too sharp a distinction between the sparsely settled world of Alaska and the dense suburbs of Levittown is a prescription for the plundering of natural resources. It is easy to see how the yard, conceived as less natural and thus less important than the spotted owl, is easily ignored. The point is underscored by research showing that, surprisingly, people who evince concern for the environment are more likely to use chemicals on their yards than those who are less ecologically aware. ” 3 likes
“Even in the wake of Rachel Carson's best-selling Silent Spring, Americans in 1963 spent nearly as much money fighting crabgrass with chemical weed controls as they contributed to the American Cancer Society. ” 2 likes
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