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Oranges Paperback – January 1, 1975

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reissue edition (January 1, 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374512973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374512972
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

While many readers are familiar with John McPhee's masterful pieces on a large scale (the geological history of North America, or the nature of Alaska), McPhee is equally remarkable when he considers the seemingly inconsequential. Oranges was conceived as a short magazine piece, but thanks to his unparalleled investigative skills, became a slim, fact-filled book. As McPhee chronicles orange farmers struggling with frost and horticulturists' new breeds of citrus, oranges come to seem a microcosm of man's relationship with nature.

Like Flemish miniaturists who reveal the essence of humankind within the confines of a tiny frame, McPhee once again demonstrates that the smallest topic is replete with history, significance, and consequence.


"Fascinating. A sterling example of what a fresh point of view, a clear style, a sense of humor and diligent investigation can do to reveal the inherent interest in something as taken-for-granted as your morning orange juice." --Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal
“It is a delicious book, in a word, and more absorbing than many a novel.” --Roderick Cook, Harper's

More About the Author

John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965. The same year he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with FSG, and soon followed with The Headmaster (1966), Oranges (1967), The Pine Barrens (1968), A Roomful of Hovings and Other Profiles (collection, 1969), The Crofter and the Laird (1969), Levels of the Game (1970), Encounters with the Archdruid (1972), The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed (1973), The Curve of Binding Energy (1974), Pieces of the Frame (collection, 1975), and The Survival of the Bark Canoe (1975). Both Encounters with the Archdruid and The Curve of Binding Energy were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science.

Customer Reviews

This book is by far one of my all time favorites.
Every time I eat one in public I get questions about their color, but most people refuse to even try them.
Take a bite out McPhee's "Oranges", you'll love the taste.
Sven Allenbach-Schmidt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Lovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on March 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Oranges" (1967) was Pulitzer-prize-winning author John McPhee's third book and it begins simply 'in medias res' -- as a pungent celebration of oranges and orange juice. This is a mouth-watering introduction to the different types of oranges, and how various humans consume them. Then, in the following chapter the author takes us to the geographical heart of his story in a Florida orange grove.

All is not sweetness and orange juice in this book, which was written when LBJ was President. Frozen orange juice concentrate was make large inroads into the fresh orange market, much to McPhee's dismay. He stopped at a Florida Welcome Station on his way into the state, and was given "a three-ounce cup of reconstituted concentrate." The motel where he stayed also served reconstituted orange juice so McPhee finally had to buy himself a plastic orange reamer and a knife, and pick his own oranges from a nearby grove.

We meet the 'Orange Men' in the following chapter and learn the details of the citrus-growing industry. You might think this is the boring bit, but nothing McPhee writes is ever boring. Pomologists are an eccentric lot, most of them migrants to Florida from cold places like Kansas, Minnesota, and Great Britain. At the time this book was written, Englishman William Grierson, Ph.D, a former officer in the Royal Air Force, was "trying to keep growers and shippers interested in fresh fruit...despite the tidal rise of concentrate." He considered himself "the leader of His Majesty's loyal opposition."

We also learn from Grierson that, "a citrus fruit is, botanically, a berry" and "The sex life of citrus is something fantastic." (Citrus is so genetically perverse that oranges can grow from lime seeds.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Mary P. Reeve on January 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
You might think that a whole book on oranges was just too much, but I read this book as eagerly as if it was a mystery and I couldn't wait to see what was on the next page. It is worth reading for the writing alone, as McPhee's style brings the groves to life and makes you laugh aloud at times with subtle humor.
In addition to describing the origin of oranges, their cultivation and rising popularity from when the Hesperides would watch them to the present of the book (1967), he explains how it came to be that most of us have orange juice for breakfast. There is some very interesting science in the book as well, and it seems quite thorough in every respect (after all, it is an entire book on oranges!). There are some excellent character descriptions of the original settlers and orange barons as well: "The Indians hated Russell and always had. One of them fired at him and nicked him the arm. Feeling pain that night, Russell went into the boat's cabin and groped in the dark for a bottle of salve. Picking up a bottle of ink by mistake, he poured it over his arm. When the sun came up, he thought he had gangrene. The others knew that it was ink, but they thought even less of Russell than the Indians did, and they said nothing." It is a must-read for anyone who is traveling to FL and wants to know more about the real FL and less about theme-parks!
The only disappointment might be for those who live in California, as although CA oranges are given a place, the main focus is on FL.
A great read!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By John Anderson on December 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Every time someone asks me about John McPhee (I am, I admit a total fan) I find myself saying "Look, Here is a guy who can take a subject like, say ORANGES, and make it fascinating." This is the book where he does just that. I gather that ORANGES started out as a short magazine piece & like so many of McPhee's books became an obsession. Here we can get the history, the ecology, the landscape of orange groves along with discussions of the effects of oranges and orange growing on both the culture and the surroundings, all in McPhee's eminently readable prose. This is a fast read about a subject that you probably haven't though much about, but you will walk away from this book not only better informed about the fruit but also taken with the infinite possibility of the wonder that can be found in what seem to be every-day things.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Banner on February 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
For twenty years I have given this book to recent high school graduates, carefully inscribing each book to encourage them to see what McPhee reveals here.

What he reveals most vividly is the idea that there is no such thing as an uninteresting subject; there is only an uninterested reader.

What also impressed me, decades ago, was the notion of connectedness, and the idea that one thing-an orange, a diamond, iron, oil, lead-could reveal everything about our world.

Finally, he deserves five stars because he never gets in the way of his subject, and he has moments of such brilliance-his devotional to Otto, the restauranteur, still ranks as a great moment in writing, fiction or non-that everyone should read him.

My favorite of a shelfull of McPhees, with the Headmaster in a virtual dead heat.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By hassnick on February 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read this book based on the other glowing Amazon recommendations and my past experiences with John McPhee. I got everything I expected, and then some.
Like many of his books, McPhee succeeds in distilling somtimes complex--seemingly dry--concepts (tree grafting, juice concentration, etc.) into fascinating subjects. Who would have thought that a book about oranges would be a page-turner?!
This is a slim volume (I read it in two sittings), and one worth reading. Indeed, you'll never drink your morning OJ quite the same way agian.
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