Hanson, Thor. The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History. New York: Basic Books, 2012. 978-0-465-05599-9. $26.99. 304p. Gr. 9+
Popular science-style book that connects the history of the plant kingdom, and our world, with the wonder of the “baby in a box, and its mom packed its lunch,” the seed. Seeds are all around us and even those who don’t garden have sipped coffee, chewed sunflower seeds in the summer, or roasted popcorn. But most of us haven’t stopped to think about the ways seeds protect themselves from predators, travel to distant lands, stay dormant for long periods of time, or ensure reproduction of species. In the pre-human era, plants which came from spores and not seeds – ferns and conifers – dominated the Earth, but seeds won the day, why? Thor Hanson covers everything from the remarkable Methuselah date tree, alive and flourishing today, which germinated from a seed that lay dormant in ruins over 2,000 years old, to GMOs and the ways seeds genetically transform themselves for defense. You’ll enjoy Hanson’s down-to-earth writing style, his conversations with experts, and his experiments with his pre-school-aged son as he unpacks some of the greatest biological mysteries and success stories on our planet, as well as predicting some developments in the future of the seed. Thor Hanson is a conservation biologist, Guggenheim Fellow, Switzer Environmental Fellow, and winner of the John Burrough Medal for excellence in nature writing and natural history. He also wrote Feathers and The Impenetrable Forest, which I plan to read soon. Seeds would make a wonderful high school biology text but I could also see it enhancing an AP history course; spice seeds drove centuries of exploration, coffee beans helped fuel the Enlightenment, and the cottonseed was integral to the Industrial Revolution. Highly recommended.
581.467 Historical; Nature; Science Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School