Incredibly passionate about food, Michael Pollan wrote bestselling books about health and diet, such as The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Pollan was born in Long Island, New York. He developed his skills with the written word as a student of English in Bennington College and Columbia University, where he earned his M.A. in English in 1981. As an intellectual with a deep interest in the environment, Pollan was concerned about what people put on their plates and where it came from. In 1991, Michael Pollan released his first book, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education, a collection of essays about gardening conveniently arranged by seasons. Although his second literary work, A Place of My Own (1997), focused on his personal efforts to build his own "writer's house," Pollan's The Botany of Desire returned his focus into agriculture by exploring the connection between human aesthetics and selective breeding of plants and vegetation. His 2006 book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, was his most critical look into the diets of modern American society. Although some of the ideas Pollan laid out in The Omnivore's Dilemma had detractors, it was still widely acclaimed; The New York Times named it one of the ten best books of 2006. Now with a growing reputation for being a food activist, Pollan released his next book, In Defense of Food, in 2008. Written in response to people asking him what they should eat after reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan concluded that people should consume naturally grown foods instead of the processed "foodlike substances" found in modern grocery stores. In Defense of Food became a national bestseller and cemented Pollan's reputation as a food and health activist. Pollan continued to advocate his dietary thinking through written essays and published another book, Food Rules, in 2009 that expanded on the premises laid out in his previous book. In 2013, Pollan's book Cooked explored his efforts to master four recipes using the four classical elements of earth, water, air, and fire.