Zoë Schlanger, in conversation with Annaka Harris, discusses The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth

Zoë Schlanger

Award-winning Atlantic staff writer Zoë Schlanger delivers a groundbreaking work of popular science that probes the hidden world of the plant kingdom and reveals the astonishing capabilities of the green life all around us.

It takes tremendous biological creativity to be a plant. To survive and thrive while rooted in a single spot, plants have adapted ingenious methods of survival. In recent years, scientists have learned about their ability to communicate, recognize their kin and behave socially, hear sounds, morph their bodies to blend into their surroundings, store useful memories that inform their life cycle, and trick animals into behaving to their benefit, to name just a few remarkable talents.

The Light Eaters is a deep immersion into the drama of green life and the complexity of this wild and awe-inspiring world that challenges our very understanding of agency, consciousness, and intelligence. In looking closely, we see that plants, rather than imitate human intelligence, have perhaps formed a parallel system. What is intelligent life if not a vine that grows leaves to blend into the shrub on which it climbs, a flower that shapes its bloom to fit exactly the beak of its pollinator, a pea seedling that can hear water flowing and make its way toward it? Zoë Schlanger takes us across the globe, digging into her own memories and into the soil with the scientists who have spent their waking days studying these amazing entities up close.

What can we learn about life on Earth from the living things that thrive, adapt, consume, and accommodate simultaneously? More important, what do we owe these life forms once we come to understand their rich and varied abilities? Examining the latest epiphanies in botanical research, Schlanger spotlights the intellectual struggles among the researchers conceiving a wholly new view of their subject, offering a glimpse of a field in turmoil as plant scientists debate the tenets of ongoing discoveries and how they influence our understanding of what a plant is.

We need plants to survive. But what do they need us for--if at all? An eye-opening and informative look at the ecosystem we live in, this book challenges us to rethink the role of plants--and our own place--in the natural world. (Harper Collins)

Annaka Harris is the New York Times bestselling author of CONSCIOUS: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind (HarperCollins, 2019) and host / producer of the forthcoming audio documentary series, Lights On: My Search for a Theory of Consciousness. Her work has appeared in The New York TimesNautilus Magazine, the Journal of Consciousness Studies, and IAI Magazine. Annaka is author of the children’s book I Wonder, and coauthor of the Mindful Games Activity Cards.


Event date: 
Friday, May 17, 2024 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Book Soup
8818 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Event Type: 
The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth By Zoë Schlanger Cover Image
ISBN: 9780063073852
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - May 7th, 2024

Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind By Annaka Harris Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062906717
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - June 4th, 2019