Review By Gabrielle

A fascinating look into the life of plants, The Light Eaters is a great read.

Favourite Quote:

“Increasingly, colleagues in the plant sciences are showing how complex plants really are. The surprisingly adaptive mechanics of their bodies, their ability to precisely respond to their environment, and their capacity for spontaneous decision-making suggests the old way of seeing plants as simple and predictable organisms must be tossed out.”

Goodreads Synopsis: 

Award-winning environment and science reporter Zoë Schlanger delivers a groundbreaking work of popular science that probes the hidden world of the plant kingdom and reveals the astonishing capabilities of the green life all around us. It takes tremendous biological creativity to be a plant. To survive and thrive while rooted in a single spot, plants have adapted ingenious methods of survival. In recent years, scientists have learned about their ability to communicate, recognize their kin and behave socially, hear sounds, morph their bodies to blend into their surroundings, store useful memories that inform their life cycle, and trick animals into behaving to their benefit, to name just a few remarkable talents.  The Light Eaters is a deep immersion into the drama of green life and the complexity of this wild and awe-inspiring world that challenges our very understanding of agency, consciousness, and intelligence. In looking closely, we see that plants, rather than imitate human intelligence, have perhaps formed a parallel system. What is intelligent life if not a vine that grows leaves to blend into the shrub on which it climbs, a flower that shapes its bloom to fit exactly the beak of its pollinator, a pea seedling that can hear water flowing and make its way toward it? Zoë Schlanger takes us across the globe, digging into her own memories and into the soil with the scientists who have spent their waking days studying these amazing entities up close. What can we learn about life on Earth from the living things that thrive, adapt, consume, and accommodate simultaneously? More important, what do we owe these life forms once we come to understand their rich and varied abilities? Examining the latest epiphanies in botanical research, Schlanger spotlights the intellectual struggles among the researchers conceiving a wholly new view of their subject, offering a glimpse of a field in turmoil as plant scientists debate the tenets of ongoing discoveries and how they influence our understanding of what a plant is. We need plants to survive. But what do they need us for—if at all? An eye-opening and informative look at the ecosystem we live in, this book challenges us to rethink the role of plants—and our own place—in the natural world.

As an avid gardener and amateur naturalist, I’ve long been fascinated by plants. Watching a plant go from seed through its entire life cycle always seems like pure magic. So when I heard about Zoe’s new book, I leapt at the chance to read it. Boy, am I glad I did.

It’s easy to get intimidated by science-related books, so I appreciated how easy it was to read this book. I was immediately drawn in by the introduction and eager to learn more. The chapters are well organized around a higher concept and then detailed using the latest studies by scientists worldwide. More than that, though, in plain language, Zoe tells us what the research means in an engaging way that helped me really understand it.

I can say with confidence that I’ll never look at a plant the same way again, and I have a greater appreciation for them overall. What complex organisms they are! The way they can communicate with each other, recognize kin, and pass on knowledge to future generations is nothing short of incredible. 

Beyond just the plant knowledge, Zoe also highlights how the field of plant science is evolving. How some of the new research has not been well received, as it sounds more like sociology than biology, and I find that also fascinating. How some scientists are starting to realize that Darwinism doesn’t explain all of evolution and we need some new theories. We obviously have a long way to go in our knowledge of the natural world, and all of this has profound implications for humans in understanding our place in it.

A must-read for anyone interested in nature, The Light Eaters will change the way you look at plants.

Thank you, HarperCollins for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.