Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World

by Dan Koeppel


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In the vein of Mark Kurlansky's bestselling Salt and Cod, a gripping chronicle of the myth, mystery, and uncertain fate of the world’s most popular fruit

In this fascinating and surprising exploration of the banana’s history, cultural significance, and endangered future, award-winning journalist Dan Koeppel gives readers plenty of food for thought. Fast-paced and highly entertaining, Banana takes us from jungle to supermarket, from corporate boardrooms to kitchen tables around the world. We begin in the Garden of Eden—examining scholars’ belief that Eve’s “apple” was actually a banana— and travel to early-twentieth-century Central America, where aptly named “banana republics” rose and fell over the crop, while the companies now known as Chiquita and Dole conquered the marketplace. Koeppel then chronicles the banana’s path to the present, ultimately—and most alarmingly—taking us to banana plantations across the globe that are being destroyed by a fast-moving blight, with no cure in sight—and to the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes, in a race to save the world’s most beloved fruit.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452290082
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/30/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 436,380
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Dan Koeppel, a 2011 James Beard Award winner, is a science and nature writer who has written for National Geographic, Outside, Scientific American, Wired, and other national publications. He has discussed bananas on NPR's Fresh Air and Science Friday.

Paul Woodson holds a BFA in acting from Boston University and has been acting and singing since the age of thirteen. He has recorded close to 150 audiobooks in many different genres--including romance, fiction, history, biography, and mystery-and has performed in over 100 stage productions across the USA and Europe.

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Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
TJA90 More than 1 year ago
Heard Koeppel interviewed on NPR and ordered this book straight away. Great read, engaging and tells a history of greed, war, fortunes and disasters this common little fruit has brought to the world. Great read!
drakevaughn More than 1 year ago
A fun read about the history of bananas and their uncertain future. Who knew anyone could fill an entire book about bananas, but somehow Koeppel managed to do it. Overall, it felt like an extended version of a magazine article, similar to those lengthy ones in the New Yorker. Indeed, some parts felt as though they were added just to pad the book, but others were quite fascinating. I was already well aware of the politics behind banana production and its imperialistic roots, but Koeppel does a great job expanding on the subject. Likewise, the modern plagues threatening the bananas’ survival was new to me and quite fascinating. Overall, it was a quick and interesting read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very interesting and for the most part easy to read. Who knew this unassuming fruit had such a complex history? I group this book with "Fast Food Nation" and "Nickel and Dimed", they should all be required reading.
Ian_Mule More than 1 year ago
I am a geography professor. This book would be a great book for an AP human geography class or for a broad-field social studies geography class. It covers a lot of themes, including: medical geography, agricultural diffusion, political geography, economic development, labor issues, and popular culture (i.e., getting people to consume bananas). The Anonymous Reviewer (the third one on here that gave it one star) that says the author is pessimistic probably didn't read the book. He implies that the author states things that are never stated in the book. The book is not about how dangerous Genetically Modified Foods are. (I agree they probably aren't.) Nor does it only harp on how evil the fruit companies are -- they admittedly were terrible but the author sees them as less so now. Finally, the author certainly doesn't recommend not eating the banana... I don't understand what that reviewer was getting at with his petulant "eat a banana" comment. Finally, most of the book is about how difficult the banana is to genetically modify unlike most other crops, which the third Anonymous Reviewer apparently has no grasp of because s/he didn't read the book. The downside of this book is that it is "uniquely organized" and some chapters just kind of fall into your lap. In fact, my hunch is the author wrote the book as a series of essays that would work on their own in case the publisher turned down the manuscript. Still, it is a marvelous tale and full of geographic concepts. Probably overstates the importance of the banana, but hell, why not?! Everyone loves bananas!!! :>) Great for advanced teen readers.
somanybooks2enjoy More than 1 year ago
I only read this book because I belong to a book club, and one of the members chose it. Banana was very informative and thought provoking. I now know more about the banana than I'll ever need to know. I enjoyed the history information the most and the impact this crop has had, both negative and positive, on the countries that produce it. The scientific information became a bit distracting, for me, and the sequencing was very confusing at times. Our book club had fun discussing Banana and we shared a great meal together, with of course, some banana dishes served. I don't recommend banana beer!
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is yet another entry in the single-subject world of non-fiction. The narrowness of focus in books such as Salt and Cod and The Book on the Bookshelf and The Pencil and Longitude seems to be an increasingly preevalent trend in publishing. I am all for it on one level, since I like delving into the abstruse and wallowing in details that leave most people I know colder than a penguin's butt in the middle of the Antarctic winter; but on another level, I want to stop these publishers before they bore again with books inadequately edited and organized.There are three pieces to the banana...the history of humanity's first cultivated plant (modern evidence from New Guinea shows human cultivation from 9000 years ago was of bananas, but for their corms not the fingers we eat today); the politics of the modern cultivation of the banana (the term "banana republic", which I have used without thinking for 30+ years, has a very literal beginning and a scarily modern ring); and the future of humankind's most basic and widely distributed food crop (essential to survival in several parts of the world, the banana is also under threat from several pests that defy modern chemistry to abate, still less conquer, and squeamish food-o-phobes in wealthy countries oppose all modern genetic engineering that could save the survival crop of many parts of the world). These three strands are awkwardly interwoven, with no obvious guiding editorial hand to make sense of their interrelation. It's a shame, too, because this is a huge, important topic, and the author's not inconsiderable talents are well-used in bringing the facts to light. The loss of our American favorite banana, the Cavendish, from grocery shelves will be an inconvenience at most; the fact that two major American corporations are, double-handedly (is that a word?), responsible for the spread of the blights that threaten the world crop with the complicity of the American government, should mean that we as a country are liable to find solutions to the pressing problems of food security in the places we've so screwed over. Free. But that won't happen, you can bet on that.Back to the book...too much narrative drive is lost in the author's back-and-forth cross-cutting of the basic story. I wish someone had said, "Yo Dan...first third of the book is the banana as a plant; second third is the politics of the banana; last is the science of the plant." I wonder if that was what they tried, and the interconnections of all the information prevented its success? I somehow don't think so.It's a good-enough book on an important topic that SHOULD cause each person who reads it some discomfort at our societal callousness and myopia. I recommend it to those most likely to be irritated by progressive politics and social liberalism. Isolationists particularly encouraged to apply!
andyjschroeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
More of a page turner than I ever imagined it could be, this book keeps you guessing about the fate of the beloved fruit. It is well researched, and the history of the industry that spawned America's favorite fruit is full of adventure, optimism (often misguided), and a healthy does of American corporate greed and ingenuity.It's a quick read, and leaves you wishing your friends would pick it up too, so they don't look at you crossly for wanting to discuss the ravages of Panama disease or black sigatoka.
Stbalbach on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A quick read at 241 pages - finished it in one day, lot of white space, pictures and easy magazine-style grammar. Standard non-fiction journalistic narrative, there is no main character (other than Koeppel), the mystery driving the "plot" is the current plight of the Banana to disease and the history of how it came about. Along the way we learn there are 100s (1000s ?) of varieties of banana's, of which most Americans have only ever tried or seen one, the ubiquitous Cavendish. Some interesting bios. Light read.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Did you know that more bananas are eaten world-wide than apples and oranges combined? I do now, thanks to this interesting discussion of bananas -- their biologic, political and commercial history. Dan Koeppel has researched his subject well, and written an accessible and never boring book. Bananas are actually sterile berries; each is a genetic clone and therefore vulnerable to disease. Panama disease is threatening the fruit now, and because it is a food staple in much of the world, this has much larger ramifications than what to slice over our cereal every morning.I really recommend this fascinating look at something we very much take for granted.
RachelfromSarasota on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don¿t usually like bananas, but after reading Koeppel¿s lyrical description of what one writer called ¿an elongated yellow fruit¿ I had to rush right out to Publix and buy a bunch. Then I ate them, one by one, as I devoured the rest of this fascinating little book. I learned that bananas ¿are the world¿s largest fruit crop, and the fourth-largest product grown overall, after wheat, rice, and corn¿ (xiii). But more than that, I learned how the most popular banana in the world, the one I sat slowly savoring, the Cavendish, is in real danger of extinction; partly because most cultivated bananas are genetic clones of one another. I learned that bananas, not rice, are the food staple that keeps a large part of the world alive, and that frantic efforts have been underway for a while to breed a hardier and still appetizing banana ¿ one that is resistant to a rapidly spreading and devastating blight. Koeppel¿s clear prose lays out the story of the banana, from its possible spread from Asia to Africa, to the rewriting of the geopolitical map of Latin America by United States¿ fruit conglomerates. This well-written work should be a welcome companion to other books on vital world food resources, such as Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World and The Omnivore¿s Dilemma. Highly recommended.
conformer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like the companies that spearheaded its worldwide distribution, the banana has a complicated history. Inherently sterile, it's all but dependent upon humans for production; at the same time, it's such a completely ubiquitous staple for so many people that its removal almost guarantees disaster. Koeppel's brisk timeline from the Garden of Eden to today's brink of extinction slogs a bit into political storytelling at times, but the tales of the lengths corporations will go to secure the immediate future of their bread and butter (or bananas and Corn Flakes, in this case) is like reading an expose on the Iraq war; eye-opening, but really not anything you didn't already suspect.
Tinwara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this book because I wanted to know more about the role the banana-companies played in the political history of Central America. But apart from learning more about this topic, I also learned many unexpected facts about the history of the banana, the way it has spread over the world, about its biology, about plant-diseases and their "cures". This may sound boring, but the book is written in a very accessible style and actually very interesting. Ever since I read this book I won't pick up a banana in my supermarket without a great amount of wonder. About how mysterious it actually is: a fruit without seeds. And more than that: how such a delicate tropical fruit ended up here at all.
zmagic69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Everything you could ever want to know about the banana. This was a fabulous book. Unbelievable insights to how the bright yellow fruit wound up on America' breakfast table, and the possible dim future it faces.
eeio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
it reads like a magazine article. and i mean that in a good way and a bad way. it's good because it's simple, entertaining and quick. straight to the point and informative. it sure packs a lot of information. what i don't like is that it's really meant for the general public so it seems to have the literary tropes of standard journalist storytelling. all to evident. but if you are not paying attention to that it's an easy interesting read. you'll learn a lot about banana diseases and the evil fingers of banana companies in latin america particularly and in the rest of the world. one interesting debate goes around genetically modified foods. it appears it's not that bad on bananas because the plants are sterile; they depend on human intervention to reproduce, there is no pollen or seeds, so issues around GMOed plants hybridizing other plants are not there.
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Turtle soup
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Reclines on a velvet couch in a royal blue halter dress.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This fascinating book provides us with an in-depth detailed look on a unique topic most of us don't know a penny's worth about. Who knew a banana could change people's lives so dramatically? I know I sure didn't until I read this book! One can't help but be amazed by the research done about a little yellow fruit by one man. He has truly changed the way I look at bananas.