The Triumph of Seeds

The Triumph of Seeds

How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History

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 the humble peppercorn drove the Age of Discovery, so did coffee beans help fuel the Enlightenment, and cottonseed help spark the Industrial Revolution. And from the Fall of Rome to the Arab Spring, the fate of nations continues to hinge on the seeds of a Middle Eastern grass known as wheat.

In nature and in culture, seeds are fundamental—objects of beauty, evolutionary wonder, and simple fascination. How many times has a child dropped the winged pip of a maple, marveling as it spirals its way down to the ground, or relished the way a gust of wind(or a stout breath) can send a dandelion's feathery flotilla skyward? Yet despite their importance, seeds are often seen as a commonplace, their extraordinary natural and human histories overlooked. Thanks to Thor Hanson and this stunning new book, they can be overlooked no more.

What makes The Triumph of Seeds remarkable is not just that it is informative, humane, hilarious, and even moving, just as what makes seeds remarkable is not simply their fundamental importance to life. In both cases, it is their sheer vitality and the delight that we can take in their existence—the opportunity to experience, as Hanson puts it, “the simple joy of seeing something beautiful, doing what it is meant to do.” Spanning the globe from the Raccoon Shack—Hanson's backyard writing hideout-cum-laboratory—to the coffee shops of Seattle, from gardens and flower patches to the spice routes of Kerala, 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 worthy heir to the grand tradition of Aldo Leopold and Bernd Heinrich, The Triumph of Seeds takes us on a fascinating scientific adventure through the wild and beautiful world of seeds. It is essential reading for anyone who loves to see a plant grow.
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Genre: Nonfiction / Nature / Plants

On Sale: March 24th 2015

Price: $11.99

Page Count: 288

ISBN-13: 9780465048724

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“A beautifully written story of seeds. The author has a gift for explaining science in an engaging manner. Despite this lightness of touch, the book is deeply researched and explores a breadth of horticulture, history and ecology.”Garden News

“[The Triumph of Seeds] successfully blends natural history, personal anecdotes, and ‘proper' science and ties them all together seamlessly with lovely writing. Although often over-used, I think Seeds can be summed up appropriately in one word: Charming.”—Nigel Chaffey, Annals of Biology blog

“[A]n intriguing look at the acorns that grow into oaks, the orchid beans that flavor vanilla extract, and other ordinary seeds that affect the world, often in extraordinary ways.... [The Triumph of Seeds] is a mix of lively stories, adventure, natural history, botany and ecology.... Hanson's book isn't a ‘how-to,' but it is a ‘don't miss' for naturalists, from amateurs to experts, or for anyone who enjoys growing plants from seeds.”
“For the past fifty seven years I have relied on seeds for food and, throughout much of my horticultural career for earning a living. This new book has re excited my fascination for these wonderful living structures.... [I]nformative, yet readable.... [A] fascinating book.”
—Chris Allen, The Gardening Times (UK)

“Who knew that seeds could be so thrilling and dangerous? Thor Hanson is a lively storyteller, a lyrical writer, and a quick wit. The Triumph of Seeds is more than an engrossing work of natural history. It's a compelling and highly entertaining journey, populated by scientists and historians, criminals and explorers, aviators and futurists. Following Hanson's global voyage is the best sort of armchair travel, because it is filled with wonder, poetry, and discovery.”
—Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks, a New York Times Bestseller
“Hanson's writing is lively, inquisitive, and knowledgeable. He draws on his own knowledge and that of a wide field of experts, writing a clear, comprehensible book that covers a wide range of topics.”
Fangirl Nation

“[Hanson is] jocular and entertaining in his dispensing of remarkable facts about these little vessels of life-to-be.... From high-tech, high-security seed banks bracing for climate change to the story of the gum extracted from guar seeds that is used in everything from ice cream to fracking, this upbeat and mind-expanding celebration of the might of seeds is popular science writing at its finest.”
Booklist, starred review

“[A] delightful account of the origins, physiologies and human uses of a vast variety of objects that plants employ to make more plants.... A fine addition to the single-issue science genre.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Hanson writes in that breezy, enthused, confident way of good American science writers, scattering stories and analogies like dandelion seed-puffs.... [The Triumph of Seeds] is a good example of extrovert nature writing, weaving together biology, human history and ‘juicy seed lore'.”
British Wildlife (UK)

“[A] rip-roaring read.”
—Robert Krulwich, National Geographic's Curiously Krulwich blog

“Hanson delivers botanical information with wit and imagination. How seeds nurture themselves with starch, proteins, and oils may be a prosaic affair, but Hanson enlivens the explanation of their diverse nourishment strategies by examining the components of an Almond Joy candy bar: coconut palm, cacao beans, almond, corn.”

“With light, engaging prose Hanson shows how the little spheroids we tip out of a packet are in fact supremely elegant genetic time capsules. The Triumph of Seeds takes you past the casing into the extraordinary inner workings of objects without which our landscapes, dinner plates, and gardens would be unrecognisable. You will never be able to look at an orange pip or a sunflower seed in the same way again.”
New Scientist

“[An] engaging book.... What makes The Triumph of Seeds more than a routine pop botany book is the way Mr. Hanson teases out the resonances between the ways that plants and humans use seeds.... [A] lively and intelligent book.”
—Richard Mabey, Wall Street Journal
“Thor Hanson has taken the history and science of these little marvels and drawn out a fascinating account of seed culture. We should not forget the importance of seeds in the liquor cabinet, as well. From rye whiskey, to wheat vodka, to barley beer, it would be a lot harder to get drunk without our friends in the grain world.”
Home Wet Bar blog

“[Hanson's] luck for finding then writing about the magic in something common continues with The Triumph of Seeds.”
Seattle Times

“Lest you get the impression that Hanson's book is all academic grit and gruel, be advised that he has thoroughly leavened his narrative with odd facts and fascinating digressions.”
Natural History

“This is a charming book, inspired by Hanson's forays into seed identification and dispersal with his young, seed-obsessed son.... Hanson's twist of looking at human interactions with plants in their embryonic stage is new.... The Triumph of Seeds will engender thoughtful consideration of our joint future.”
“[A] delight. Composed in charming and lively prose, the book introduces readers to a variety of quirky figures – biologists, farmers, archaeologists and everyday gardeners – who have something profound to say about a seemingly mundane topic: those little kernels that, against tremendous odds, have managed to take root all around us.... The Triumph of Seeds is a remarkable, gentle and refreshing piece of work that draws readers further into the wide arms of the world and makes them grateful for it.”

“Conservation biologist Hanson's new book showcases an even more approachable style than his 2011 Feathers. Using a personalized viewpoint derived from his backyard lab and dissertation research in Costa Rica with the almendro tree, as well as visits with specialists worldwide, he describes how seeds nourish, unite, endure, defend, and travel.”
Library Journal

“[F]ast and fascinating prose.... Hanson, who has also chronicled feathers and gorillas, is a conservation biologist and Guggenheim fellow, and an ace dot-connector: He can draw a line between all the grain panics and crises and the tiny, miraculous structure of the seeds themselves, because he dives deeply into botany, economy and history. Also, he's just plain fun.”
Denver Post
“[T]he 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. Hanson...takes one of the least-impressive-looking natural objects and reveals a life of elegance and wonder.... Although he is a storyteller by nature, he also charms us with an infectious enthusiasm. The reader feels that Hanson cannot wait to tell us what comes next.... Like all good writers, he understands narrative — that a book, at its best, is a story, and that this one is built by spinning stories within stories. They are fun, sometimes they are funny, and they are always fascinating and readable.... [An] engaging book.”
—Mark Kurlansky, New York Times Book Review

“Hanson does his job well. And in the end becomes one of my favorite kind of writers – the kind who can take something so seemingly (and perhaps deceptively) simple and so oven overlooked and make it not only relevant, but fun.... People who want to get students more interested in science would do well to read The Triumph of Seeds and take note: tell stories, combine science and technology with pop culture, art, and literature, have a sense of humor, be enthusiastic.”
—Catherine Ramsdell, Pop Matters
“This beautifully written book is a magnificent read. Every page is full of surprises and illuminating insights, illustrating the fascinating evolution of seeds, and their extraordinary impact on humans, past and present. A master storyteller, Hanson has created a first-rate natural history. When you reach the end of this page-turner, you will wish there were more … and you will never look at seeds in the same way.”
—Eric Jay Dolin, author of Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America and When America Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail

“As he did in his phenomenal Feathers, Thor Hanson brings us the incredible world of seeds in a package as graceful and elegant as they are themselves, gift-wrapped in utterly seductive stories. I cannot recall a book I was so eager to finish, that I might begin it again.”
—Robert Michael Pyle, author of Wintergreen and Mariposa Road