Book Review: The Life of Plants in a Changing Environment

I read Upadhyay’s earlier installation, The Secrets of Plants in the Environment, and I learned a lot from the chapters. As I said last time, that first book was very science-focused, and it felt something like a textbook. That doesn’t phase me, though: if you’re looking for information regarding plants, the above linked book is a great place to start.

And, as you probably expect, it means that this follow up is probably going to interest me as well!

The Book

The Life of Plants in a Changing Environment
Author: Rishikesh Upadhyay
2022
Amazon Link

Don’t worry: this book won’t have the same high price for a hardcover forever. Right now, that’s all the publisher is offering, but that’s likely because this (like its predecessor) probably serves as a textbook somewhere. I have assurances from Upadhyay that the e-book will be coming soon, probably this summer, and that will be more reasonably priced.

This book is with a slightly larger publishing house than the last edition (this one is Cambridge Scholars). As a result, this might not quite be “indie”, per se, but congrats! This is a big step, and I hope Upadhyay does well in the future. Like I said above, this has a textbook-like feel in many places, but it is well referenced and is chock full of interesting information.

Non-Spoiler Review

The theme of global warming and the effects of human manipulation of the environment intertwine every facet and chapter of this book. Upadhyay does a great job combining the work of many disparate authors into a comprehensive volume that, when read all together, paints a picture of desperate need for research and, as soon as feasible, human action and intervention.

His earlier book, The Secrets of Plants in the Environment, sets up a lot of the information presented here (especially regarding reactive oxygen species). If you’re not as familiar with plant biology (or biology at all!), the biggest detriment of this book is that it is best enjoyed when read with a sufficient amount of background knowledge. It’s a good thing, though, that Secrets provides much of the background you may need if you don’t already have that information.

However, even if you don’t have a good understanding of molecular biology or the various effects of different factors on plants, this book will still provide you with a kick to the gut: the environment is changing and, as a result, plants everywhere are at risk. Upadhyay goes through some of the more well-known elements of climate change, such as temperature and rain levels, but then goes into other human-generated environmental issues. Did you know that microplastics (tiny fragments of polymers, often even ones used in agriculture) can be found in an enormous range of soils, and that their effects on plants aren’t yet well understood? I hadn’t thought about how the American practice of using black plastic to cover the ground could potentially cause long-term effects on our plants!

Something I was interested in, as well, was the interaction of plants with heavy metals. During college, I had a technical writing course in which our group had to write a proposal in a field none of us were well-versed. We chose to work on a proposal for phytoremediation with heavy metals. Though nothing came of our 2010 classwork, I was astonished to see a lot of the same words in this paper. I felt way more knowledgeable when reading the chapters on how plants and metals interact, and I was thrilled to know that humans are working toward solving challenges in the environment.

This book felt incredibly well-researched, much like secrets, and it obviously took an enormous amount of effort to write. Though each of the chapters were written by different authors, there was a consistent tone throughout that I believe Upadhyay probably had a lot to do with. (Only one chapter stuck out for its tone: in Chapter 9, which was a fascinating chapter about magnetism and magnetic nanoparticles, the author clearly had a more author-focused approach than the other chapters). This book contained many great and interesting areas of plant research active today, and it’s a great addition to Upadhyay’s bibliography.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

I’m going to be releasing some of the posts I’m behind on! I never got around to the catchup I needed to do from when my computer got fixed. 🙂

Book Review: The Secrets of Plants in the Environment

Imagine you’re me: a scientist, but perhaps a niche one, who receives a book review request from another scientist. And, what’s more, this book is non-fiction. It’s a legit, researched book that’s for sale on Amazon.

I couldn’t resist.

The Book

The Secret of Plants in the Environment
Author: Rishikesh Upadhyay
2020
Amazon Link

I usually reserve this spot for things like trigger warnings or information about how to get the book. Well, there’s really only one way to get this book in America: Amazon.

What you might not know is that this was published through Notion Press, which seems to be a small press/other self-publishing thingy in India. Even though this book seems to have a publisher, I think an indie or small publisher fits the bill for the “indie months” on my blog.

Non-Spoiler Review

Upadhyay’s work is rather thorough and well-organized. Each portion of the book leads you through a different challenge that plants may have to face, from simple things such as temperature to wild things such as radiation or magnetism. He does so in such a way that brings a wide swath of history in plant biology and brings you up to date on many modern theories and work. At the same time, he uses very applied examples with common food crops (especially common in India, where he is based) so the book shows the usefulness of the knowledge.

At the same time, the surprising thoroughness for such a small volume lends to it reading like a review paper or a textbook. This lends authority to the writing, but it is not what I would classify an “easy read” for you to snuggle into a recliner with and just relax. It also requires a reader to have some level of background knowledge in biology, biochemistry, and/or plant biology. I’m rather familiar with the biochemistry part, so I found much of the work very interesting – the level of information presented was perfect for someone of my field looking to expand their interest and learn without having to struggle. I think it’d be a good book to read in a second-level college plant biology course, where you’ve already learned the basics and can now investigate the next piece.

Most importantly, the book seemed well-researched. Like I said, I’m not an expert in the field, but I did go through the citations briefly and found several journals I recognized the names of. Something like this could probably go into a peer-reviewed space, or at least would not feel out of the ordinary in such a place (save for the fact that it is long!).

Though there were a few grammar or typos present, as a whole the writing was very smooth and readable. Word choice was flawless. After having read this, I would like to put in this review that I’d 100% like to see Upadhyay write something with either a more Pop-Science feel (the quotes at the beginning of the chapters lead me to think he’d be good at that), or I’d encourage him to find colleagues who’d like to write a plant biology textbook. Obviously got the chops.

Either way, the book was good, but the audience may be limited due to requisite knowledge to understand it.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Not going to lie, the part with magnets and about pre-treating seeds with them? That was nuts. Just do a quick Google search, and you’ll see what I mean. Upadhyay did a good job explaining some of the mechanisms, and it really did blow my mind.

Next week:

I read Collective Darkness, a book published by the same press that published Collective Fantasy! I don’t have a story in Collective Darkness, but I wanted to see what kind of quality the Collective Press people put out! See you there!