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Around the World in 80 Plants

Full of wonder and delight, a perfect companion to Around the World in 80 Trees.
Bill Bryson, Author

Following Around the World in 80 Trees, I’ve taken another trip across the globe. In Around the World in 80 Plants, I’ve tried to bring to life the science of plants by revealing how their worlds are intricately entwined with our own history, culture and folklore. And for tree aficionados, perhaps you’ll be pleased to know that about a quarter of the species are trees, which after all, are plants too – just big and woody!

As I researched the book, using obscure historical sources and the most up-to-date academic papers, I discovered wonderful and frankly, bizarre new things about plants which seemed so familiar, like the tomato, and the humble dandelion, which is pretty much regarded as a weed here in England. And I had goosebump moments investigating plants that I’ve always found creepy, such as the eerie mandrake and Spanish ‘moss’ of Louisiana.

We humans have used plants every which way, and I had to keep reminding myself that the plants evolved for their own ends, not ours. The histories of beer and the contraceptive pill are therefore all the more surprising . Some species, such as the peacock flower of Barbados and the castor oil plant have a troubling past, while others have ignited human creativity and even enabled whole civilisations to flourish. There are comedy  parasites and carnivores and – hard to believe – a plant that seeks telephone wires and severs them.

The stories are delightfully and soulfully brought to life by Lucille Clerc‘s illustrations. Every time I look at them, I see something I hadn’t noticed before. I hope you’ll feel as I do, that Lucille has done something really special with this book. Won’t you please join us on our journey? Meet pirates and pandas; enjoy, (figuratively speaking of course!), intoxicants such as absinthe, iboga and cannabis; flavourings like the misunderstood vanilla and legendary silphium of Roman cuisine, and perhaps snigger a little at the imaginative and unflagging search for aphrodisiacs.

Around the World in 80 Plants  is available now in English, Italian, German and Spanish. Other languages are coming soon.

The pandemic has made book-signings difficult.  Sigh. But… If you are in the UK and would like to pre-order signed books, or even books with signed and personally dedicated  bookplates at no extra cost, then Liznojan books  can deal with this.  I hope to add more independent bookshops in other countries. 

Brings to life what is all around us, if we’d only learn to see. It genuinely delights me. Every page feels like being introduced to an old friend invested with new stories to light up the next few years of comradeship – it has pride of place on my bedside table and every evening I open it up with the same reverence I reserve for a box of fine chocolates.
Sir Tim Smit, Founder, The Eden Project

© 2017-2024 Jonathan Drori