Insightful and arresting, this book offers an achievable road map to a more “radiant future.”


A renowned scientist delivers a simple yet urgent call to action on behalf of Earth’s multitude of plants: Use us to save humanity.

As leading plant neurobiologist Mancuso writes, “plants are what make Earth the planet we know. Without them, our planet would very much resemble the images we have of Mars or Venus: a sterile ball of rock.” Sadly, the author demonstrates how humans have inflicted unimaginable damage on all varieties of plants during the short time we have controlled Earth. From deforestation to underestimating the fullness of plant life, humans “behave like children who wreak havoc” because of their “total incomprehension of the rules that govern the existence of a community of living beings.” In this slim but powerful book, which advances similar arguments as The Incredible Journey of Plants and The Revolutionary Genius of Plants, Mancuso responds to this threat by imagining a constitution written by plants, complete with specific articles to serve as the pillars on which plant life rests. Despite the author’s sometimes tongue-in-cheek writing style, which most readers will find refreshing and pleasant, the subject matter is dead serious. Each article of the constitution builds on the idea that plants have brilliantly evolved to thrive through symbiosis with other ecosystems, as opposed to the human tendency to lay waste to them. Mancuso concludes his elegant and cogent argument with straightforward advice accessible to anyone: “There should be just one simple rule: wherever it is possible for a plant to live, there must be one. Unlike many of the alternative proposals, this measure would require only negligible costs, would improve people’s lives in myriad ways, would not demand any revolution in our habits, and would have a great impact on the absorption of carbon dioxide. Let’s defend our forests and cover our cities with plants. The rest will not take long to follow.”

Insightful and arresting, this book offers an achievable road map to a more “radiant future.”

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63542-099-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

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Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A straightforward, carefully detailed presentation of how ``fruit comes from flowers,'' from winter's snow-covered buds through pollination and growth to ripening and harvest. Like the text, the illustrations are admirably clear and attractive, including the larger-than-life depiction of the parts of the flower at different stages. An excellent contribution to the solidly useful ``Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science'' series. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-020055-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1991

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