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Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World Paperback – December 30, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (December 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452290082
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452290082
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The world's most humble fruit has caused inordinate damage to nature and man, and Popular Science journalist Koeppel (To See Every Bird on Earth) embarks on an intelligent, chock-a-block sifting through the havoc. Seedless, sexless bananas evolved from a wild inedible fruit first cultivated in Southeast Asia, and was probably the apple that got Adam and Eve in trouble in the Garden of Eden. From there the fruit traveled to Africa and across the Pacific, arriving on U.S. shores probably with the Europeans in the 15th century. However, the history of the banana turned sinister as American businessmen caught on to the marketability of this popular, highly perishable fruit then grown in Jamaica. Thanks to the building of the railroad through Costa Rica by the turn of the century, the United Fruit company flourished in Central America, its tentacles extending into all facets of government and industry, toppling banana republics and igniting labor wars. Meanwhile, the Gros Michel variety was annihilated by a fungus called Panama disease (Sigatoka), which today threatens the favored Cavendish, as Koeppel sounds the alarm, shuttling to genetics-engineering labs from Honduras to Belgium. His sage, informative study poses the question fairly whether it's time for consumers to reverse a century of strife and exploitation epitomized by the purchase of one banana. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Clear, engaging…admirable…part historical narrative and part pop-science adventure.”
San Francisco Chronicle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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This was an extremely interesting and informative book.
Giuseppe
Dan Koeppel constantly surprises the reader with the amazing connections he makes between the story of the banana and art, science, geography and politics.
Jocelyn Heaney
Anyone who enjoys reading and to learn, will most likely be very satisfied with this book.
S. Slocum

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 64 people found the following review helpful By michel.angela.martinez on January 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have sat down to write this review at least 2 dozen times. There are so many things I wish to say about this book. All of them wonderful.

While I could go on at length about technical aspects of banana farming and the endless supply of quirky "did you knows," I think that the most lasting impact that this book had on me is its ability to make me want to learn more. Koeppel's works inform--thoroughly--but they also inspire true wonder and curiosity, and that's where the gold is.

"Banana" is written in a style that, if occasionally austere, is quite quick and energetic; I found it difficult to put the book down. With the turn of every page, I felt I learned something new, and subsequently wanted to learn more: be it about bananas, trade, globalization, science, genetic coding, 20th century marketing practices, the United States' political, cultural, and economic imperialism, the covert domination of "banana republics," violent crackdowns on labor movements--all of it!

Koeppel makes sure to balance the light with the heavy and knows exactly when he's losing those of us that don't exactly find banana DNA the most thrilling topic in the world. "Banana" masterfully weaves diverse issues into a tight, delightful read, leaving the reader excited and hungry for more. I truly cannot give this piece all of the praise it deserves.
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72 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Jean A. Railla on January 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Dan Koeppel, author of the stunning To See Every Bird on Earth, turns his obsessive inclinations to the banana. Who knew such an everyday, seemingly innocent fruit could embody so much, well, drama? The banana that we all know and love, the Cavendish, is rapidly becoming infected with an unstoppable disease, which threatens to wipe out not only whole crops but whole economies. How and why this is happening and what can be done about it, is the primary--but not only--concern of the book.

More than just a food history, Banana transverses the globe, modern genetics, and past and present political struggles in a fast-paced narrative that reads more like a travelogue than a textbook. Koeppel is one of those rare authors that like Mark Kurlansky, can make any subject come alive. Rather than throw facts at the reader, Koeppel takes you by the hand and walks you through his tale. From genetic research labs in Belgium to plantations in the Philippines, to the creation of banana republics of Central America, to the banana--not the apple--as the most likely fruit in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, Koeppel weaves a rich story, where all these seemingly disconnected pieces come together. Bananas is a remarkable piece of journalism. Anyone interested in the politics and social history of food, or for those just bananas about bananas will appreciate it.
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68 of 75 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Yes, we have no bananas", goes the song, and even if you are not a devotee of tin pan alley ballads, you can probably make that catchy tune of 1923 sound in your head. It was written at a time when, yes, the world risked losing all its bananas, and yes, we ourselves might have no bananas in the future. If that means you won't have bananas to slice upon your cereal, OK, but for others in the world it means they simply won't have enough food. It isn't all a dire story, but in _Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World_ (Hudson Street Press), Dan Koeppel, a popular nature writer, has covered a huge amount of history and biology, both of which are full of dark intimations of the worst aspects of human nature. "The _____ That Changed the World" subtitle is overused, but Koeppel makes it clear that this time it accurately applies. The banana, or the way humans have cultivated and used it, has raised and toppled nations, and still affects current geopolitical forces.

Bananas have traveled around the world, starting from the wild varieties of South China, Southeast Asia, and India, giving hundreds of cultivated varieties. It is surprising that some have textures like apples, and some must be cooked, and many of them have tart or creamy flavors that American shoppers know nothing about. This is because we buy one banana, the Cavendish which has good properties to make it transportable and long-lasting, but that it forms almost all the world's commercially cultured bananas is its weakness, perhaps a dangerous one. We have been through this before; the Cavendish is not your grandparent's banana.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amos McLean on February 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up on a lark, having enjoyed another micro history work on cotton. I never imagined I would be so interested in a book on bananas, but just a few pages in and I was hooked.

Nice work.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth C. Ludmer on January 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is so informative and interesting that the reader will keep saying " I never knew that". All the common phrases that refer to the banana are explained in fascinating detail. Dan shows us the historical political and human side of the story of tha banana and its perilous journey around the world only now to be on the endangered fruit list.
It is a book that maybe you wouldn't buy by its cover, and that's why they made the comment about judging. This is one fine, enjoyable book. Read it and enjoy.
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