08 October 2013

Book Review: Seed to Seed

Seed to Seed is a year-long narrative of a thale-cress plant that the author found in a churchyard. The book starts quite sparsely with a loose idea of documenting the life of a thale-cress plant and the entries for the first couple of months tend to be shorter and mainly filled with weather reports with some natural history writing. The author makes clear that this book is really for his children, so when reading I tried to keep this in mind.

I started this book at a bad time. Our cat was ill and subsequently we lost him, to what seems to be heart failure. I didn't know if I would continue reading this book, due to the writing not motivating me and the sadness of the time.

I thought this book would be a year in the life of a plant scientist and in the end it does sort of become this. While the natural history writing and the entries about the holidays the author takes with his family can be quite drawn out, Nicholas Harberd really comes into his own when communicating science. While the book, I felt, was a bit long; I did enjoy the entries about the plant biology research the author has been performing.

We hear a lot about the thale-cress plant research at John Innes Centre, especially about DELLAs which seem to restrain the growth of the plant so that it can respond to the environment rather than grow far too quickly regardless of environmental conditions and then die, perhaps without successfully creating seeds for the next generation.

For the science, this book is worth reading. But I learned that I could miss the first paragraph of most entries, which were weather reports, and many of the entries written while the author was on his holidays - without missing the science writing. Overall, I'm glad that I persevered as I feel that it is an important book.


  1. I nearly bought this book last year, browsed it on Amazon but decided against it. Reading your review - I'm glad I did!

    1. I think you made the right choice. I don't like making any book sound bad - I certainly couldn't write one! If you have time, perhaps your local library has a copy?

  2. I do like reading your book reviews. Always a shame when a book isn't quite as good as you had hoped.

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment, Lou Mary :)
      I enjoy writing them. Sadly, it's the last one for a while - but will hopefully be back at them soon.


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