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Cross-Pollinations: The Marriage of Science and Poetry, 2004


A pioneering ethnobotanist, Gary Paul Nabhan credits the arts with sparking unlikely scientific breakthroughs and believes that such “cross-pollination” engenders new forms of expression that are essential to discovery.

In this highly readable book, he tells four stories to illustrate this idea. In the first, coping with color blindness in art class leads to his career as a scientist; in the second, ancient American Indian songs, when translated, reveal an understanding of plants and animals that rivals modern research; in the third, a poem inspires an approach to diabetes using desert plants; and in the fourth, a coalition of scientists and artists creates the Ironwood Forest National Monument in the Sonoran Desert.

Tequila!: A Natural and Cultural History (with Ana-Guadalupe Valenzuela-Zapata), 2004


The array of bottles is impressive, their contents finely tuned to varied tastes. But they all share the same roots in Mesoamerica’s natural bounty and human culture.

The drink is tequila—more properly, mescal de tequila, the first mescal to be codified and recognized by its geographic origin and the only one known internationally by that name. In ¡Tequila! A Natural and Cultural History, Ana G. Valenzuela-Zapata, the leading agronomist in Mexico’s tequila industry, and Gary Paul Nabhan, one of America’s most respected ethnobotanists, plumb the myth of tequila as they introduce the natural history, economics, and cultural significance of the plants cultivated for its production.

Valenzuela-Zapata and Nabhan take you into the agave fields of Mexico to convey their passion for the century plant and its popular by-product.

San Francisco Chronicle

Lyricism for all things agave infuses the prose, a rhapsody tempered by hard botanical science.

Singing the Turtles to Sea, 2003


Singing the Turtles to Sea vividly describes the desert, its phantasmagoric landforms, and its equally fantastic animals.

This book contains important new information on the origins, biogeography, and conservation status of marine and desert reptiles in this region. Nabhan also discusses the significance of reptiles in Seri folklore, natural history, language, medicine, and art.

This book is a magnificent ethnobiology that also succeeds in linking the importance of preserving ecological diversity with issues such as endangered languages and human rights. Singing the Turtles to Sea ultimately points the way toward a more hopeful future for the native cultures and animals of the Sonoran desert and for the preservation of indigenous cultures and species around the world.

Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods, 2001 Paperback 2009


“Nabhan makes us understand how finding and eating local foods connects us deeply and sensually with where we are [and] why the everyday choices we make about food are the most important choices we make” –Alice Waters, chef owner of Chez Panisse

Since Coming Home to Eat was first published in 2001, the local food movement has exploded, and more people than ever are “going green” in an effort lead healthier, more eco-friendly lives. Gary Nabhan’s year-long mission to eat only foods grown, fished, or gathered within 220 miles of his Arizona home offers striking, timely insights into our evolving relationship with food and place—and encourages us to redefine “eating close to home” as an act of deep cultural and environmental significance. As an avid gardener, ethnobotanist preserving seed diversity, and activist devoted to recovering native food traditions in the Southwest, Nabhan writes about his long campaign to raise awareness about food with contagious passion and humor.

Los Angeles Times

[Nabhan] offers a fascinating, enlightening, and moving account of his own experiences . . . prompting us to think twice about everything from the value of so-called ‘health foods’ to the decline in the percentage of American families who have dinner together at home.

Efrain of the Sonoran Desert: A Lizard’s Life Among the Seri Indians(with Amalia Astorga and Janet Miller), 2001


“The very first thing that you see when you reach the beach and leave your boat behind in the shallows of the Sea of Cortez is a lizard running away from the water. It curls its tail high so the waves won’t get it wet.” That’s what Gary Paul Nabhan remembers about his first visit to the Seri village in Kino Bay. There he met storyteller Amalia Astorga. She tells him the bittersweet history of Efra, a sun-blotched lizard.

In so doing, she helps him to understand how the Seris have protected a species that everywhere else is endangered. Together Amalia and Gary give young readers an insight into the life and culture of the Seris, an endangered people themselves, but a people who know how to love their land and its inhabitants.