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Extended Audio Sample The Omnivores Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals Audiobook, by Michael Pollan Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (84,397 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Michael Pollan Narrator: Scott Brick Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2006 ISBN: 9780786564200
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"What should we have for dinner?" To one degree or another this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma. Choosing from among the countless potential foods nature offers, humans have had to learn what is safe, and what isn't-which mushrooms should be avoided, for example, and which berries we can enjoy. Today, as America confronts what can only be described as a national eating disorder, the omnivore's dilemma has returned with an atavistic vengeance. The cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet has thrown us back on a bewildering landscape where we once again have to worry about which of those tasty-looking morsels might kill us. At the same time we're realizing that our food choices also have profound implications for the health of our environment. The Omnivore's Dilemma is bestselling author Michael Pollan's brilliant and eye-opening exploration of these little-known but vitally important dimensions of eating in America.

Pollan has divided The Omnivore's Dilemma into three parts, one for each of the food chains that sustain us: industrialized food, alternative or "organic" food, and food people obtain by dint of their own hunting, gathering, or gardening. Pollan follows each food chain literally from the ground up to the table, emphasizing our dynamic coevolutionary relationship with the species we depend on. He concludes each section by sitting down to a meal—at McDonald's, at home with his family sharing a dinner from Whole Foods, and in a revolutionary "beyond organic" farm in Virginia. For each meal he traces the provenance of everything consumed, revealing the hidden components we unwittingly ingest and explaining how our taste for particular foods reflects our environmental and biological inheritance.

We are indeed what we eat-and what we eat remakes the world. A society of voracious and increasingly confused omnivores, we are just beginning to recognize the profound consequences of the simplest everyday food choices, both for ourselves and for the natural world. The Omnivore's Dilemma is a long-overdue book and one that will become known for bringing a completely fresh perspective to a question as ordinary and yet momentous as What shall we have for dinner?

A few facts and figures from The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

  • Of the 38 ingredients it takes to make a McNugget, there are at least 13 that are derived from corn. 45 different menu items at Mcdonald’s are made from corn.

  • One in every three American children eats fast food every day.

  • One in every five American meals today is eaten in the car.

  • The food industry burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the United States¯more than we burn with our cars and more than any other industry consumes.

  • It takes ten calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate.

  • A single strawberry contains about five calories. To get that strawberry from a field in California to a plate on the east coast requires 435 calories of energy.

  • Industrial fertilizer and industrial pesticides both owe their existence to the conversion of the World War II munitions industry to civilian uses—nerve gases became pesticides, and ammonium nitrate explosives became nitrogen fertilizers.

  • Because of the obesity epidemic, today’s generation of children will be the first generation of Americans whose life expectancy will actually be shorter than their parents’ life expectancy.

  • In 2000 the UN reported that the number of people in the world suffering from o...

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Thoughtful, engrossing…You’re not likely to get a better explanation of exactly where your food comes from.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “An eater’s manifesto…[Pollan’s] cause is just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling. Be careful of your dinner!”

    Washington Post

  • “Outstanding…A wide-ranging invitation to think through the moral ramifications of our eating habits.”

    New Yorker

  • “If you ever thought ‘what’s for dinner’ was a simple question, you’ll change your mind after reading Pollan’s searing indictment of today’s food industry—and his glimpse of some inspiring alternatives…I just loved this book so much I didn’t want it to end.”

    Seattle Times

  • “Remarkably clearheaded…A fascinating journey up and down the food chain, one that might change the way you read the label on a frozen dinner, dig into a steak, or decide whether to buy organic eggs…Besides Stephen King, few other writers have made a corn field seem so sinister…Pollan isn’t preachy: he’s too thoughtful a writer, and too dogged a researcher, to let ideology take over. He’s also funny and adventurous. He bounces around on an old International Harvester tractor, gets down on his belly to examine a pasture from a cow’s-eye view, shoots a wild pig, and otherwise throws himself into the making of his meals. I’m not convinced I’d want to go hunting with Pollan, but I’m sure I’d enjoy having dinner with him. Just as long as we could eat at a table, not in a Toyota.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Although much of this subject has been treated elsewhere, Pollan’s easy writing style and unique approach freshen this contemporary debate.”


  • A New York Times bestseller
  • Winner of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Award
  • A 2006 New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year
  • A 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
  • A 2006 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Debra Brunk | 2/18/2014

    " Absolutely LOVED this book. It is well written and clear. And it was an eye-opening read. It totally changed the way I look at food and our system of producing food here in the U.S. A must read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lakho | 2/10/2014

    " Maybe I read this book a few years too late - familiar information. Written in a very accessible way. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 ForeverKale | 2/8/2014

    " alright, i knew McDonald's was bad, but i didn't know it was that bad. i've never been so disgusted in my life. sorry, just had to put that out there. anyways, Pollan taught me many new things in this book. it was very interesting, intriguing, and demographic. overall, not as bad as i thought it'd be. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 matthew | 2/6/2014

    " how much better would this book be without the macho descriptions of hunting mr pollan himself claims to detest? well, not that much better because the rest of the book is pretty fine but still. that part was dumb. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Benjamin | 2/5/2014

    " SCARY. Read this book "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jac | 1/31/2014

    " Interesting, but couldn't shake the overall feeling of superiority. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paul | 1/28/2014

    " The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals is a nonfiction book by Michael Pollan. In the book, Pollan asks the seemingly straightforward question of what we should have for dinner. As omnivores, the most unselective eaters, we humans are faced with a wide variety of food choices, resulting in a "dilemma". Pollan suggests that, prior to modern food preservation and transportation technologies, this particular dilemma was largely resolved, primarily through cultural influences. These technologies have recreated the dilemma, by making available foods that were previously seasonal or regional. The relationship between food and society, once moderated by culture, now finds itself confused. To learn more about those choices, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us; industrial food, organic food, and food we forage ourselves; from the source to a final meal, and in the process writes a critique of the American way of eating. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cheryl Goveia | 1/8/2014

    " Anything by Pollan is thought provoking if you are conscious about what you put in your mouth...but this one I think is the best because of the history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Danielle | 12/26/2013

    " Incredibly s=dense book, but such a wonderful read, truly explains how the food system in America works. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stefanieq Banner | 11/28/2013

    " Sobering but fascinating. Section 2 was inspiring - if I hadn't already experienced farm life, I would be tempted to try it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Josek | 11/13/2013

    " An incredible book...an absolutely fascinating read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Laurie | 5/27/2013

    " This book opened my eyes to what we eat and why. Horrible and fascinating and inspiring - reads almost like fiction. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kendra Fletcher | 3/30/2013

    " Eye-opening, to say the least. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karena Nguyen | 12/19/2012

    " This was probably one of my favorite non-fiction reads of the summer. The way Pollan spins a story within the complicated network of farming and how foods get onto our plate is fascinating and thought provoking. I loved every word. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lissa Anne | 11/14/2012

    " This book will really make one criticize the way they eat! Pollan does a beautiful job of relaying "the omnivores dilemma" from a non-biased and varied perspective! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cade | 4/24/2012

    " If you eat food you should read this book. It's that simple. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Claire Lines | 10/4/2011

    " Definitely a provocative and informative book. Its limited in its scope and obviously seen through Pollan's lens. However, the book is open about this and well researched. Manages to make something so depressing and complicated (the state of food in our culture) entertaining and engaging. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kent Winward | 7/25/2011

    " Not quite as good as The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, Pollan does a significantly good balancing act between industrial food production, sustainable farming and foraging to be thought provoking as I munch on some processed food. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erin | 5/19/2011

    " Started out slow and a bit depressing, but ramped up near the middle with some very interesting information. Lots of things to take away from the book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stephanie | 5/19/2011

    " Very good read--though I do find myself thinking about food in a more paranoid kind of way! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ina | 5/18/2011

    " After reading the book, i thought twice about what to buy and where it came from. This is a fantastic book and highly educating. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lina | 5/18/2011

    " made me think -- 'nuff said. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kay | 5/17/2011

    " I read this years ago, but it's on my shelf of favorites. In its own small way, it helped kick-start the locavore movement, of which I am a passionate member. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lisa | 5/15/2011

    " Amazing book. I learned things about food that I never knew before. Worth reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ashley | 5/14/2011

    " I enjoyed this book. Topics like this make me feel hopeless at times, how did our relationship to food get so distorted? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jessica | 5/14/2011

    " All his books are great. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Eriyna | 5/11/2011

    " Really tedious read about some very interesting material. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Heather | 5/11/2011

    " This is at the top of my favourites list. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jb | 5/8/2011

    " Fascinating. Made me aware for the first time of how the responsibility for the effect of the food we eat rests primarily with the final consumer (us)... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jessi | 5/7/2011

    " A very well-written, informative book on our country's food habits. I commend the author for such dedicated, thorough research, but I suggest you NOT read this if you enjoy eating meat and don't want it ruined for weeks in your mind. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie | 5/6/2011

    " A broader more detailed version of his FOOD RULES. Interesting science and data behind our history of food and the problem of fat and poor nutrition in this country. "

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About the Author
Author Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan is the author of Food RulesIn Defense of FoodThe Omnivore’s Dilemma, and The Botany of Desire, all New York Times bestsellers. A longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine, he is the recipient of the James Beard Award and is also the Knight Professor of Journalism at Berkeley. In 2010, Time magazine named him one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.

About the Narrator

Scott Brick, an acclaimed voice artist, screenwriter, and actor, has performed on film, television, and radio. He attended UCLA and spent ten years in a traveling Shakespeare company. Passionate about the spoken word, he has narrated a wide variety of audiobooks and won over fifty AudioFile Earphones Awards and several of the prestigious Audie Awards. He was named a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine and the Voice of Choice for 2016 by Booklist magazine.