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Second Nature

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3.93  ·  Rating details ·  5,326 Ratings  ·  531 Reviews
In his articles and in bestselling 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. Chosen by the American Horticultural Society as on ...more
Hardcover, 279 pages
Published July 25th 1996 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 1991)
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Rachel
Feb 23, 2008 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
...more
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
...more
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
...more
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 ...more
Mads P.
Aug 21, 2008 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
...more
mark
Mar 14, 2015 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
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
...more
MaryJo
May 12, 2015 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
jess
Jul 11, 2012 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
...more
David Radavich
May 19, 2014 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
Susan
Feb 16, 2009 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."
Cat
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Longfellow
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Rashmi
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: garden-related
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 ...more
Ryan
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Hannah Barkey
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Pollan's captivating meditation Second Nature has claimed a place in my heart right next to the works of Wendell Berry.
sofie  jacobsen
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 😂.
Susan Sink
Jun 29, 2013 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
...more
Nicki
Apr 13, 2010 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
...more
Patti
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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.
Jennifer Adams
Jun 14, 2014 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
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
...more
Frank
Jul 24, 2011 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
...more
Sarah
Jul 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul
Aug 10, 2009 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
...more
Bill
Nov 23, 2009 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
Steve H
Michael Pollan is talented at looking at a patch of dirt and speaking from a kaleidoscope. To me, this has mixed effects. In his garden, Pollan builds an intriguing, poetic module -- the garden as the balance between nature and culture. At the same time, he often risks over-analysis and occasionally overlooks a few critical narratives.

I found his prose laced with lyrical bits that brightened and sharpened my lens upon the cultivated landscape. For this, I am grateful. I most appreciated Chapter
...more
Ammie
May 05, 2011 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
Phillip
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't expect a book about gardening to be quite so engaging. Pollan takes the reader on a journey starting with his earliest memories of being in the garden through the establishment of his own garden. In the end though it is less about gardening tips and techniques and more philosophical. Pollan explores why we garden and some of the similarities and differences between British and American gardens.

I've read many of Pollan's other books and I enjoyed this one almost as much as the others. Th
...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...
“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.” 49 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.”
32 likes
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