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In this lesson you will learn about author Michael Pollan, including his books, research interest and activism. If you’ve never read one of Pollan’s books, this just might peak your curiosity.

Acclaimed Author

Michael Pollan is an acclaimed author and natural food advocate. He has won many awards and encourages people, through his writing and speaking, to eat healthier and cleaner. Pollan has been writing about various aspects of food consumption and production for decades. His topics vary to include: whether GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are bad for you, the benefits of eating grass-fed beef and whether or not you should drink organic coffee.

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He has written about where and how food is grown on a global scale, who has access to it, and ultimately, who controls production.


Michael Pollan at Yale

Michael Pollan was born in 1955 in Long Island, New York.

He attended Oxford University and Bennington College for his undergraduate degree. Pollan completed his Master’s Degree in English at Columbia University in 1981.He has written articles for magazines such as Harper’s, New York Times Magazine, and National Geographic. Pollan has worked as an executive editor for Harper’s, and many of his articles are published in anthologies. Since 2003 he has also been a professor of journalism at U.C.


Writing and Accolades

What really brought Michael Pollan into mainstream popularity was his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. This book shared perspectives and research behind different food sources and what it takes to provide various meals on the table for someone to eat. Pollan addresses what is good for our bodies and what benefits and harms our environment. The book advocates ‘sustainable eating’ – making changes not only for our overall health, but for long-term environmental impacts.

Many of Pollan’s other books have been on the New York Times bestseller list, and he has won numerous awards for his books and articles over his career – too many, in fact, to eat up in this short biography.

Pollan was listed in 2010 as one of the world’s most influential people by TIME 100. His accolades also include a California Book Award for The Omnivore’s Dilemma and 2001 Book of the Year by Amazon for The Botany of Desire.The Botany of Desire is not only a book, but also became a PBS documentary in 2009. Pollan looks at the evolution of apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes over centuries and around the globe. His science-based narrative gives insight into how human impact and movement have influenced these crops.A favorite book of foodies and health-enthusiasts is Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.

This short and useful book goes through a list of things an eater can do to sustain and improve his or her habits, eat healthier, and eat more eco-friendly. One memorable point he makes is to not eat any processed food with any ingredients that you have trouble pronouncing, like thiamin mononitrate or lecithin.Pollan has authored the following:

  • Second Nature (1992)
  • A Place of My Own (1997)
  • The Botany of Desire (2001)
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006)
  • In Defense of Food (2008)
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Young Readers Edition (2009)
  • Food Rules (2009
  • Food Rules: Illustrated Edition (2011)
  • Cooked (2013)


Michael Pollan has been a very successful author, not only in the numbers of books he has sold, but in the amount of speaking engagements he is requested for. He’s also made appearances in several food-related documentaries. However, some people have been critical of his work and his viewpoints.

There is a group of food theorists and people in the meat industry who don’t believe it’s beneficial to be a vegan, vegetarian, or eat clean. Others have criticized his research and his negative stance against GMO products and corn genetics. Although some scrutinize him, Michael Pollan has been described as approachable and willing to discuss his viewpoints with farmers and advocates who may think he is attacking them.


Michael Pollan can be considered a health food enthusiast. He is educated and passionate about bringing food truth to the average American. He is an acclaimed author, editor, professor, and speaker.

Although some in the agriculture industry find his viewpoints aggressive, his popularity proves otherwise. You will find his books at every bookstore and library, so go check one out and read it while you eat your next meal.

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