Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
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Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  3,517 ratings  ·  405 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 258 pages
Published August 12th 2003 by Grove Press (first published 1991)
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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...more
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...more
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...more
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.
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...more
"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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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
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....more
Mike Prochot
Michael's cosmology is in perfect tune with my own.

Gardening is "hands on" involvement with nature and the planet that makes you more aware of life around you - (it creeps up on you silently and effortlessly!)

I do not enjoy or agree with much coming from the "greenies" or "environmentalists" these days, and Michael has helped me flesh out and organize the thoughts about the planet and nature that roll through my head when I am amending soil, planting seeds and seedlings, choosing plants, harve...more
I chose this because I'm currently designing my own garden. and I like Pollans outlook on nature. This was very informative as to how to start planning a garden. He weighs many historical perspectives and systems on natures scales, and points out the fact that humans ARE a part of nature, yet our culture separates us from as purely a domineering outsider to it
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."
May 21, 2007 Carley rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: intellectual gardeners
A very heavy book about gardening - history, philosophy, ethics. Especially liked the bits about letting nature do it's thing versus our inevitable effect we have on nature. To weed or not to weed ~
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Finally finished! I started this book months ago. I love Michael Pollan; he is a combination of all of my favorite things about science, history, and literature, not to mention humor--I never imagined laughing out loud to myself so many times during a discussion of seed catalogues. I really enjoyed seeing the seeds of Botany of Desire and Omnivore's Dilemma in this now twenty year old (!!!) work. Definitely some moments of philosophical meandering, but hey, that's why I like him. I will never lo...more
I really loved this book! Going in, I wasn't sure how much about gardening and how much about nature this book would be, but it turns out it's really a book about environmental ethics.

Having read up on often completely anthropocentric gardening practice and having apparently researched plenty into more classical philosophy about nature (e.g. Thoreau and Emerson) which esteems wilderness untouched by humans, Michael Pollan describes his frustration as an enthusiastic gardener (and in general as a...more
This is a wonderful book. Pollan is a brilliant science writer. As much as the book deals with gardening, flowers, shovels, pestering woodchucks & weeds, and everything that can make it a gardener's book, what I thought really made it more than just that was Pollan's daring to engage with the philosophical debate about the positionality of humans vis-a-vis nature. Are we inside or outside of it? Why do we see it these ways? How does the gardener see it? How does someone of such a calling rec...more
Mar 10, 2013 Alex rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Claire
Shelves: garden
This is an interesting philosophy book considering the relationship between man and plant with gardening as the frame.

One of the two most thought provoking sections for me were the anthropologic take on the evolution of the European garden into the American lawn. This one has changed how I approach the concept of a lawn and has helped to lead me to my outlandish decision to replace all my grass with clover this year.

The second discussed environmental conservation. The case study was a stand of h...more
This was my first Michael Pollan book, and I just loved it! He has become one of my favorite authors. I really enjoyed his writing style (blended with humors) and appreciate his passion on the subject. In one chapter he described how woodchuck was coming into his garden to eat his seedlings and his hesitation to use "unnatural" convention to get rid of the woodchuck:
A rodent whose brain could fit in a thimble might win a battle or two, but finally the war must go to the larger brain. ... What is
I am unabashed about my newest author crush--Michael Pollan. His writing is so funny, so well-researched, so pertinent, so personal... I can't imagine enjoying a book about gardening more than this. It's fascinating in its facts, but Pollan's autobiographical experiences add even more. Some of it is laugh out-loud hilarious and some of it is historically poignant and most of it is just plain interesting. He gives the impression of so much ease in his writing--even when he's tackling the metaphys...more
I really, really like Michael Pollan's writing and this book is no exception. However, this book suffers from the same problem that I've noted on his other books that I've read: sometimes he just doesn't know when to stop.

Pollan calls himself on this tendency in his introduction:
"It may be my nature to complicate matters unduly, to search for large meanings in small things..."

My favorite sections:
Chapter 1: memories of his father and grandfather's very different approaches to gardening. His da...more
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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...
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World Food Rules: An Eater's Manual Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

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“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.” 16 likes
“The green thumb is equable in the face of nature's uncertainties; he moves among her mysteries without feeling the need for control or explanations or once-and-for-all solutions. To garden well is to be happy amid the babble of the objective world, untroubled by its refusal to be reduced by our ideas of it, its indomitable rankness.” 14 likes
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