The book is called Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, which is what the movie (documentary-style) is based on.
I first encountered this book in a class called Plants and Human Affairs during my second semester in college. When we started reading it I couldn't really imagine getting into a book about plants...it just doesn't sound all that thrilling. I could not have been more wrong. This book gives you a picture of plant evolution from a plant's perspective. It asks not what we are doing to assert control over these plants but how they are actively manipulating us to evolve. We live with the idea that we "domesticate" our plants without considering how they have used us to propagate their species. That idea alone is enough to make you stop right there and wonder.
In this book Pollan explains the history of plant evolution, how co-evolution works, and how the desires and needs of humans have driven plant evolution. He takes the story of four plants - apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes. He matches these plants with four human desires - sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control, and wrote four captivating chapters filled with history, trivia, and science. You will never look at any of these plants in the same way again. He warns us against the dangers of mono-culture and the loss of variety in biological organisms that results from it.
You do not need to be a botanist or even an avid gardener to enjoy this book. Anyone who has ever been in the produce section of a grocery store will appreciate what Pollan has to say. This is a fantastic read for the non-scientist. Pollan doesn't put on heirs. He lays out his thoughts as if you were a friend sitting with him in the backyard, drinking some iced tea, watching the bees diligently making love to all their flowers, and considering what we might have in common with them.
Well since I just told you what the book is about, which is also what the documentary is about, there isn't a whole lot left to say. I can tell you that this film was one of the most enjoyable documentaries I have ever seen and watching it was simply a pleasure. It is much less in-depth while still covering the major points of discussion. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is unsure about reading the book (prepare to have your mind changed for you) and as supplementary material to the book itself. I have groups of people over every now and then and if a documentary can command the attention of a room of 20-somethings for over an hour (without even weighing the fascinating material itself) it definitely has my vote. Every time I show this movie people ask me, "Now where do I find the book???"
Review for the Book and Film Combo: A+
If you'd like to purchase the book or movie visit the link included in the title of this post. If you'd just like to check out the movie without purchasing its available on Netflix.
"How did these organs of plant sex manage to get themselves cross-wired with human ideas of value and status and Eros? And what might our ancient attraction for flowers have to teach us about the deeper mysteries of beauty - what one poet has called "this grace wholly gratuitous"? Is that what it is? Or does beauty have a purpose? (64)"