“One of the distinguished gardening books of our time,” from the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma (USA Today).
Chosen by the American Horticultural Society as one of the 75 greatest books ever written about gardening
After Michael Pollan bought an old Connecticut dairy farm, he planted a garden and attempted to follow Thoreau’s example: do not impose your will upon the wilderness, the woodchucks, or the weeds. That ethic did not, of course, work. But neither did pesticides or firebombing the woodchuck burrow. So Michael Pollan began to think about the troubled borders between nature and contemporary life.
The result is a funny, profound, and beautifully written book in the finest tradition of American nature writing. It inspires thoughts on the war of the roses; sex and class conflict in the garden; virtuous composting; the American lawn; seed catalogs, and the politics of planting a tree. A blend of meditation, autobiography, and social history, Second Nature, from the renowned author of The Botany of Desire, In Defense of Food, and other bestsellers, is “as delicious a meditation on one man’s relationship with the Earth as any you are likely to come upon” (The New York Times Book Review).
“Usually when Americans have wanted to explore their relationship to nature they’ve gone to the wilderness, or the woods. Michael Pollan went to the garden instead . . . and he’s returned with a quirky and pleasing book.” —Annie Dillard
“A joy to read.” —Los Angeles Times
This isn't so much a how-to on gardening as a how-to on thinking about gardening. It follows the course of the natural year, from spring through winter, as Pollan, an editor at Harper's, chronicles his growth as a gardener in Connecticut's rocky Housatonic Valley. Starting out as a "child of Thoreau," Pollan soon realized that society's concept of culture as the enemy of nature would get him a bumper crop of weeds and well-fed woodchucks but no vegetables to eat. Far more serviceable materially and philosophically, he now finds, is the metaphor of a garden, where nature and culture form a harmonious whole. Pollan finds ample time for musing on how his own tasks fit in with the overall scheme of existence; thus, there are chapters titled "Compost and Its Moral Imperatives" and "The Idea of a Garden." Although serious in import, the writing is never ponderous; Pollan's wit flashes throughout, and particularly in anecdotes about his youth: one memorable incident has his father mowing his initials in the front yard after being reproached by a suburban neighbor about his overgrown lawn.