Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Secret History of SUNFLOWERS

Joe Pappalardo'a informative and entertaining treatise on SUNFLOWERS is the perfect Spring book. And Booklist agrees: “What do Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Osama bin Laden have in common? OK, besides the obvious. Would you believe sunflowers? Ironic, isn’t it, that this cheerful symbol of nature’s purity and wholesome goodness has influenced plans for world domination wrought by modern history’s most reviled despots? Few know that Hitler’s invasion of Russia was largely motivated by a desire to deprive Stalin of a crucial source of cooking oil, or that bin Laden calculatedly established his nascent al-Qaeda in the Sudan through the creation of sunflower oil production facilities. Fascinating as such arcane is, however, it’s secondary to the trove of entertaining lore Pappalardo spins throughout his engaging and expansive look at a flower so ubiquitous that its critical role in cultural development since the dawn of time often goes overlooked. A glib, upbeat writer and fiercely determined researcher, Pappalardo intrepidly investigates everything from the sunflower’s genetic history and recent bioengineering discoveries to its influence on global economies from the U.S. to Uganda.”

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