The Cabaret of Plants

  • by Richard Mabey
  • Narrated by Ralph Lister
  • 11 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A rich, sweeping, and compelling work of botanical history, The Cabaret of Plants explores dozens of plant species that for millennia have challenged our imaginations, awoken our wonder, and upturned our ideas about history, science, beauty, and belief. Going back to the beginnings of human history, Richard Mabey shows how flowers, trees, and plants have been central to human experience not just as sources of food and medicine but as objects of worship, actors in creation myths, and symbols of war and peace, life and death.
Mabey takes listeners from the Himalayas to Madagascar to the Amazon to our own backyards. He ranges through the work of writers, artists, and scientists and across nearly 40,000 years of human history: Ice Age images of plant life in ancient cave art and the earliest representations of the Garden of Eden; Newton's apple and gravity, Priestley's sprig of mint and photosynthesis, and Wordsworth's daffodils; the history of cultivated plants such as maize, ginseng, and cotton; and the ways the sturdy oak became the symbol of British nationhood and the giant sequoia came to epitomize the spirit of America.

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What the Critics Say

"An unusual and vastly entertaining journey into the world of mysterious plant life as experienced by a gifted nature writer." (Kirkus)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Ideas jump about

Is there anything you would change about this book?

There's such a lot of peripheral detail that I got bogged down by unrelated happenings (how a friend photographs flowers, for instance.) There's only a scraping of information that is about 40,000 years of history: it's notable by its absence until agriculture became more prominent and records of any kind were left for us today. True, I have only listened to the first chapter, but there seems to be little of the "history" of plants and the imagination.


Would you recommend The Cabaret of Plants to your friends? Why or why not?

No. Most of my friends prefer a straightforward logical approach to information about even non-scientific topics.


How could the performance have been better?

The breathy excitement of the narrator may show his enthusiasm, but it's one-note approach was difficult to relax to.


Was The Cabaret of Plants worth the listening time?

I would rather have read it in my own way. Later chapters do sound interesting.


Any additional comments?

Perhaps I should not have had preconceived notions that could be so easily disappointed. I did listen to the online intro, but this personal odyssey was not what I expected.

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- Rosemary F "rose is"

It was ok.

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

there were parts liked, but the flowery language was a little too much for me after a while.


Was The Cabaret of Plants worth the listening time?

I probabley wouldn't listen, knowing what I know now.


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- Eric C. Cook

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-29-2016
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio