Around the World in 80 Plants by Jonathan Drori
Verdict: Plants are really fucking cool.
Also, this book is so good that I bought myself a copy to have halfway through reading my copy from the library. Can’t wait to dip back in and savor it all over again. ^.^
for curious people, for gardeners, for people who like science, animals, traveling, and/or learning, for a fascinating set of plant vignettes that are easy to dip into and savor
An inspirational and beautifully illustrated book that tells the stories of 80 plants from around the globe.
In his follow-up to the bestselling Around the World in 80 Trees, Jonathan Drori takes another trip across the globe, bringing to life the science of plants by revealing how their worlds are intricately entwined with our own history, culture and folklore. From the seemingly familiar tomato and dandelion to the eerie mandrake and Spanish “moss” of Louisiana, each of these stories is full of surprises. Some have a troubling past, while others have ignited human creativity or enabled whole civilizations to flourish. With a colorful cast of characters all brought to life by illustrator Lucille Clerc, this is a botanical journey of beauty and brilliance.
Fun fact about me: I generally dislike touching plants. It’s a weird little aversion, and maybe it’s from that time I pet a cactus as a child and learned what “regret” meant, but regardless of the reason, it’s a thing for me. Buuuuut I also really love nature and plants and learning and science. This is a fantastic little book, and what I most want to emphasize is that I truly think anyone can read and enjoy this!!! For a very factual nonfiction book on a very sciency topic, that is quite impressive!
So what makes it so accessible? It comes down to a few things: short chapters, cultural and societal stories about each plant, and gorgeous illustrations.
Short chapters make this super easy to read one or two sections of whenever you have some time. This is not a book that you have to read in a particular order — and in fact, Drori encourages readers not to! He wants you to explore this book like you would travel the world. Do you feel like going somewhere tropical today? Are you seeking a seemingly barren desert? Are you climbing a mountain? Pick a country, find it’s page, and go there through it’s plant life. For people who struggle to sit with a book, this is a great choice, as it is easy to sample in small tastes when you feel like it.
The descriptions are lush, as is fitting a book about plant growth. Yes, the factual science portion is in here, complete with Latin names and etymology and words like “stamen” and “inflorescence” and even the occasional “secretions.” But the bulk of it is about the impact of the plant on animal and human life. Did you know that there was once a DEATH PENALTY for illicitly growing or selling nutmegs? Did you know that vanilla has been done dirty by becoming synonymous with “boring” when it’s really one of the most truly exquisite flavors around? Did you know that all bamboo in the world flowers simultaneously no matter where they are and we STILL have no idea why? Look, this is what I found interesting, and there’s so much more. The chapter on tomatoes blew my mind. But this is just a hint of what’s packed into these pages.
The illustrations absolutely make this book. The clever and gentle commentary on the plants themselves are the bones of the book, but the illustrations are the heart. They are generous, with every plant having at least on page and often more, showing the shoots, the variations, the way humans and animals use them, the flowers, everything about it you can imagine. They are stunning and make me almost want to reach out and touch these plants.