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THE LIGHT EATERS by Zoë Schlanger Kirkus Star


How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth

by Zoë Schlanger

Pub Date: May 7th, 2024
ISBN: 9780063073852
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Ambitious attempts to decode the manifest mysteries of plants.

Schlanger, a staff reporter at the Atlantic, has followed multiple veins of study on plant life to reveal remarkable discoveries and some potentially revolutionary conjectures. Her passion for the realm of plants—and what their lives tell us about our own—is consistent throughout this wondrous text. This is that rare book that fascinates, challenges widely held assumptions, and enlightens in like measure. The author doubtless considers the narrative an overview of current plant science (and its history) for general readers, notwithstanding the years invested in her own preparatory research, but it is hard to imagine a more thorough introduction or a writer more dedicated to her subject and provocative in the questions she asks. Schlanger chronicles her edifying interactions with dozens of scientists, describing numerous experiments. She also weighs the skepticism of botanists and biologists who think the study of intelligence in plants is folly. Many scientists, she notes, still recoil from the damage done to legitimate research by the largely spurious but immensely popular 1973 book The Secret Life of Plants, “a mix of real science, flimsy experiments, and unscientific projection.” However, this reticence pales when held against new studies of the ways in which plants communicate, defend themselves, and remember, as well as the considerations of how biological systems can replicate across the spectrum of species. What is indisputable is that plants made animal life possible in the most fundamental way, transitioning the world’s atmosphere from a toxic shroud of carbon dioxide to an oasis of oxygen. In this lovely book, the plant universe finds a human champion appreciative of its earthly role, concerned for its welfare, and amazed at its capacities.

A delightful work of popular science. You may never look at your houseplants or garden in quite the same way again.