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

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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.

About the Author

Thor Hanson is a conservation biologist, Guggenheim Fellow, and author of award-winning books including Buzz, Feathers, The Impenetrable Forest, and The Triumph of Seeds. He lives with his wife and son on an island in Washington State.

Praise For…

fascinating, inspiring, and entertaining book.... Hanson takes one of the least-impressive-looking
natural objects and reveals a life of elegance and wonder."—Mark Kurlansky, New York Times Book Review

"[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

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

"With light, engaging prose
Hanson shows how the little spheroids we tip out of a packet are in fact
supremely elegant genetic time capsules.... You will never be able to
look at an orange pip or a sunflower seed in the same way again."—New Scientist

"Thor Hanson has taken the
history and science of these little marvels and drawn out a fascinating account
of seed culture."—Home Wet Bar blog

"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."


"[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

"[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

"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

"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

"If you eat seeds of any
kind, you must read this book! Ecologist Hanson gives us a rich Darwinian view
of how seeds came to be the most important nutritional resource for human as
well as older than human species. He is at his best when we are in the field
with him, learning like detectives the 'whodunnits' of seed
dispersal. You will never look a seed in the eye again without thanking Thor."—Gary Paul Nabhan, Franciscan brother and author of Enduring Seeds and Food, Genes, and Culture

"Thor has done it again. In
a page-turner, he tells the stories of seeds, their ecology, evolution and
histories and why each of us every day depends on, relies on, delights in or
suffers from seeds. This book will change the way you think about your coffee,
your chocolate or even just the weed growing stubbornly (from a seed) out of
the crack in the sidewalk. Seeds are everywhere--a reality that you will never
forget again after reading this book."—Rob Dunn, author of The Wild Life of Our Bodies
Product Details
ISBN: 9780465097401
ISBN-10: 0465097405
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication Date: March 8th, 2016
Pages: 320
Language: English