John Reader – The Untold History of the Potato


The potato – humble, lumpy, bland, familiar – is a decidedly unglamorous staple of the dinner table. Or is it? John Reader’s narrative on the role of the potato in world history suggests we may be underestimating this remarkable tuber. From domestication in Peru 8,000 years ago to its status today as the world’s fourth largest food crop, the potato has played a starring – or at least supporting – role in many chapters of human history. In this witty and engaging book, John Reader opens our eyes to the power of the potato.

Whether embraced as the solution to hunger or wielded as a weapon of exploitation, blamed for famine and death or recognized for spurring progress, the potato has often changed the course of human events. Reader focuses on 16th-century South America, where the indigenous potato enabled Spanish conquerors to feed thousands of conscripted native people; 18th-century Europe, where the nutrition-packed potato brought about a population explosion; and today’s global world, where the potato is an essential food source but also the world’s most chemically-dependent crop. Where potatoes have been adopted as a staple food, social change has always followed. It may be “just” a humble vegetable, John Reader shows, yet the history of the potato has been anything but dull.

Author: John Reader
Narrator: Martin Hyder
Duration: 11 hours 49 minutes
Released: 10 Dec 2001
Publisher: Audible Studios
Language: English

User Review:

arsonist foreseeable

John Reader does a great job taking us through the history of the potato, both in terms of its evolution as a plant and its interesting geography.
Beyond that, you learn a great deal about what led to, as well as the tragic consequences of the Irish potato famine. Hyder delivers a terrific narration in his wonderful British accent.