The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History

by Thor Hanson

Hardcover, 2015

Call number

661 HAN



Basic Books (2015), Edition: First Edition, 304 pages


As seen on PBS's American Spring LIVE, the award-winning author of Buzz and Feathers presents a natural and human history of seeds, the marvels of the plant kingdom "The genius of Hanson's fascinating, inspiring, and entertaining book stems from the fact that it is not about how all kinds of things grow from seeds; it is about the seeds themselves." --Mark Kurlansky, New York Times Book Review We live in a world of seeds. From our morning toast to the cotton in our clothes, they are quite literally the stuff and staff of life: supporting diets, economies, and civilizations around the globe. Just as the search for nutmeg and pepper drove the Age of Discovery, coffee beans fueled the Enlightenment and cottonseed sparked the Industrial Revolution. Seeds are fundamental objects of beauty, evolutionary wonders, and simple fascinations. Yet, despite their importance, seeds are often seen as commonplace, their extraordinary natural and human histories overlooked. Thanks to this stunning new book, they can be overlooked no more. This is a book of knowledge, adventure, and wonder, spun by an award-winning writer with both the charm of a fireside story-teller and the hard-won expertise of a field biologist. A fascinating scientific adventure, it is essential reading for anyone who loves to see a plant grow.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Dreesie
3.5-4 stars. Not the most engaging book (though some parts certainly are). But this is a solid popular science work, and is interesting. The chapter on coffee is soooo much better than the coffee chapter in [book:A History of the World in 6 Glasses|3872]. There is a fair amount of botany in this
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book, and a lot of references to historical figures (Darwin, Mandeville, and more). It might help to have a bit of a background in botany--or at least a gardener's knowledge.

As usual, I wish there were footnotes. Even endnotes. Not the stupid by-chapter and page number references at the back, that are so popular these days.
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LibraryThing member MM_Jones
Wonderfully entertaining and informative. A book of knowledge, adventure and wonder by an award-winning writer. So many ways that seeds affect not just what we eat, but the very course of human history.
LibraryThing member Paul_S
An otherwise interesting book mired by constant personal digressions and anecdotes. The author cannot write a paragraph without mentioning his three year old son Noah and the wild antics he gets up to. Where was the editor during all this?
LibraryThing member Gwendydd
This is an examination of seeds: what they do, how they work, how they have evolved over the years. The title would lead one to believe that it is also a work of natural history about how human history has been changed by seeds, but Hanson fails to tell a coherent story, so his infrequent
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digressions into history feel like tangents that he put in just to fill up space.

A lot of popular science books suffer because authors put in a lot of personal information, trying to shape their science into a personal story. Sometimes this succeeds, but usually it fails, and this book is an example of the latter. I didn't learn a whole lot about seeds, and I really didn't care about the author's toddler.
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LibraryThing member Treebeard_404
I read this immediately after finishing a natural history of flowers. In my review of the flowers book, I complained that the author wandered far afield of his topic (no pun intended) and that it struck me as poorly organized. This book also wanders far afield of its topic, but is well-organized
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and (to my mind) better written altogether. Hanson brings mild humor and personal anecdotes along with his science. It was a wonderful book.
[Audiobook note: Mark Vietor is great, as always.]
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