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Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World Paperback – December 30, 2008
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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.
“Required reading.”—New York Post
“Ambitious in scope… both fascinating and disturbing... I’ll never walk through the produce aisle the same way again… [Banana] is at once a political and economic treatise, a scientific explication, and a cultural history.”—The Boston Globe
“Clear, engaging… admirable… part historical narrative and part pop-science adventure.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] brilliant history.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“A fascinating and surprising history of our most ubiquitous fruit.”—Edward Humes, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Monkey Girl and Mississippi Mad
“The history of oil has nothing on that of the yellow fruit.”—Salon.com
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Top customer reviews
Koeppel's book illustrates the value of narrative non-fiction in presenting history and science at street level. As one reader remarked, "I learned more geography and science from this book than I did in high school, though I must say I wasn't the best of students. It proved to me that geography and science can be very interesting if they are put into a form that you understand," or "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." Other reviewers had high praise for the book and often were interested in the place in history of the banana and what the future holds.
This is just one more example of the latest trend in contemporary popular science treatises, a trend that we hope continues for a long time.
Something I didn't know before I read this book: Bananas are not grown from seeds. Cuttings are taken from existing banana plants and nurtured into yet more banana plants from which cuttings will eventually be taken et cetera et cetera et cetera.
The book would have benefited tremendously with the addition of more pictures and maps, plus a list of every known banana type and the odds of anyone getting his or her hands on one. Although the author mentions various banana varieties, he typically does not show you what they look like. Color plates of the top bananas (pun intended) along with their region of origin in the caption would have enabled a further grasp of how different some bananas really are from others. That creamy purple Tahitian one is something I'd like to check out. Sounds tasty. Wish I knew what it looked like.
At the end of the book, there is a short timeline of the banana and the people, countries and companies involved with its business or scientific development.
All in all, very interesting and informative. Left me wanting more. As another reviewer complained, by the end of the book, you're really not sure how much longer the currently consumed (yet endangered) supermarket banana (the Cavendish) has before extinction. Maybe no one really knows.
Worth a look if you've ever been curious about the banana.