I read a galley copy of Oliver Morton's Eating The Sun: How Plants Power The Planet very quickly a few months ago, as I was finishing up Invention Of Air, in part because the two books have many shared obsessions, and because I knew I had a great deal to learn from Oliver's writing and thinking. I was very impressed with it then, but I when I went back to read it more slowly last month, I realized what a masterpiece the book was: a kind of epic poem to the power and potentiality of photosynthesis.
Oliver and I met years ago -- thanks to the sublime Denise Caruso -- and have kept in touch loosely since then, but there's no need for a full disclosure here; this book is so great I'd be singing its praises even if we were arch rivals. Eating The Sun is many things. It's a story of scientific discovery told with great clarity and narrative drive, and it's a mind-expanding rumination on life, energy, and the future of our planet. The book has descriptions of natural and semi-natural landscapes (including Priestley's haunts at Bowood) that are just exquisite. And it's a refreshingly optimistic call-to-arms that talks about our climate crisis as something that is both immense and potentially manageable, making the most compelling case for radical innovation in solar energy that I've read to date. I hope there are Obama people who are reading this book right now--it should be required reading for anyone entering the White House, right up there with the Michael Pollan and the Doris Kearns Goodwin. But those of you who aren't currently going through the screening process should pick up a copy too; it's still early, but I think this may be my favorite book of 2008.