The Plant Hunter: New Read

My new book came in the mail yesterday, The Plant Hunter: A Scientist’s Quest for Nature’s Next Medicine by Cassandra Leah Quave.

the plant hunter

Remember when I said that I was going to read the books I already have on TBR shelf before I buy more? I lied. Ok, I didn’t “lie,” I changed my mind. Certain things have come to my attention that hadn’t occurred to me at the time I made that previous statement. Several times this past month I’ve sat there looking at those books, most of which came to me free when my friend moved out of state, and I thought, “I don’t want to.”

Choosing which book to read next is a complicated and sometimes emotional process. I find my books through podcasts, articles, and other books. Instagram and Facebook posts are another great source. But always, always, I feel like my next book calls to me from the now. So, I’ve decided to run with that. Those books on my TBR shelf are for when they come up in other ways or when I’m between leads. I’ll always have something to read on hand.

I started reading The Plant Hunter this morning and I’m every bit as entranced with author as I was when I heard her interview last week on People I (Mostly) Admire. I wrote about it in Legacy, Science, and Coincidence: A Podcast Roundup.

I love history and science wrapped up in personal stories, and this book fits that bill perfectly. It’s about her journey, where she came from, what she’s been through, AND the science of medicine that she loves so much. With every page, so far, her passion for medicine and people comes shining through. This is a person I can trust.

I’ve already learned so much about antibiotics that I had to interrupt my husband’s reading this morning to tell him. He’s not going to read it, so I MUST inform him! And I’ll try to show you some highlights as I read as well, in the hopes of enticing you to read it yourself.

I’ve heard about “superbugs” and the growing resistance to antibiotics, but I always thought I was safe. I’ve rarely been prescribed any anti-biotics and I can’t remember the last time my sons had any. Any bugs in our bodies can’t be resistant. Ignorance, yep.

The over-prescribing and misuse only speeds up the process of bacteria evolving to be immune to the antibiotics we have. Bacteria are just like us in that way, they learn to stay alive by trial and error. Those superbugs are out there, and they can get in me and then any antibiotics won’t work on them. The only way to solve that problem is to create new ones.

And that’s what this book is about. She’s on the hunt to find them based on plant medicine. You know, the way we found penicillin in the first place?

“…since the 1980s no new chemical classes of antibiotics have been discovered and successfully brought to market.”

I know antibiotics are a new thing in the world, but I didn’t realize HOW new. Only since the early 1940s has penicillin been commercially available. Another example of thinking how we live now is fundamentally how we have always lived. Like she said in the book, the invention of antibiotics was a game changer in much the same way harnessing fire was.

One more quote from The Plant Hunter before I run off to enjoy my warm Sunday in the desert. Sorry to all you cold climate people, I’m so excited to see spring that I can’t stand it!

“At the heart of science is the unalloyed thrill of discovery.”

It’s lines like this, scattered throughout the chapters, that spur me on to read through the more complicated science of it. It’s much the same reason I loved reading The Secret Life of Dust! Anything explained by someone who is in love with the topic is far more interesting than any other story, fact or fiction. This is stuff we should all know and understand, not just “experts” and “professionals.” This is how we make intelligent decisions for ourselves, not blindly follow the leader.


  1. […] The Plant Hunter by Cassandra Leah Quave is every bit as good as I had hoped it would be, even better. It’s more of an autobiography of a scientist than anything else. It’s showing me a whole world I didn’t even know existed, its processes and struggles. The science is one thing, but the story behind it is just so interesting. […]

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