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Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,565 Ratings  ·  357 Reviews
A gripping biological detective story that uncovers the myth, mystery, and endangered fate of the world's most humble fruit

To most people, a banana is a banana: a simple yellow fruit. Americans eat more bananas than apples and oranges combined. In others parts of the world, bananas are what keep millions of people alive. But for all its ubiquity, the banana is surprising
Hardcover, 281 pages
Published December 27th 2007 by Hudson Street Press (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Will Byrnes
Oct 08, 2014 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
Cruel enemies are stalking the world’s bananas and have been for decades. Who knew? Apparently Dan Koeppel. He has tracked not only the diseases that wiped out the every-day, Gros Michel, banana in the 1930s, but has an eye out for the Panama disease that is wiping out the Cavendish banana, that is, the one that we see today in every supermarket and fruit stand. There is yet another mortal enemy to the banana in the world, called Sigatoka. And the up and coming threat is from a disease called Bu ...more
Sarah Jane
Do you ever get to the middle of a book and think to yourself, Why on earth am I reading this? I generally manage to avoid this feeling by choosing my reading material wisely, but this one managed to slip through somehow.

Bananas. Do I care? Sort of.

I found about half of this book to be incredibly interesting. The political implications of banana production, the fact that the banana as we know it may soon cease to exist altogether, a bit of banana history - these are the parts that managed to hol
Bananas on Bennies

I’m a big fan of “commodity histories” -- books on how everyday objects and products have become interwoven into our daily lives. It's odd that while many educated Americans know the year the Titanic sank, for example, scarcely any of them know the provenance of the items on their breakfast table – the coffee in their cup or the banana sliced onto their cornflakes. And this is a shame, really, for it’s quotidian details as much as major events that shape our lives.

It turns o
Richard Derus
Dec 20, 2011 Richard Derus rated it liked it
Rating: 3* of five

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 publ
Mar 22, 2016 Twila marked it as to-read
Shelves: not-a-novel
Because I have a SERIOUS banana addiction...
Tom Tabasco
Jan 22, 2013 Tom Tabasco rated it really liked it
I loved looking at history through banana-colored lenses. Dan Koeppel did a really nice work here. He did a lot of research, went around the world to interview experts, and managed to write a book that focuses on the history and science of the banana. The book kept my interest quite high from beginning to end. The structure / organization is not linear at all, it would be best visualized with a firework explosion, but in a sense it works even better this way: it's like sitting down in a pub with ...more
Mar 02, 2009 Joe rated it really liked it
This is one of the most fascinating books I've read recently.

This book covers the history -- and future! -- of the humble banana. It starts with its beginnings in Asia, its geographic and evolutionary progressing, and the arrival of the banana to America.

Bananas are incredible: the popular ones have no seed, and reproduce asexually. Since they're all genetically identical, they are very susceptible to disease. In fact, today's banana (the Cavendish) wasn't the first popular banana in the US. Tha
Mar 02, 2010 Eric rated it it was ok
Shelves: food
This is a really disappointing book. It got lots of glowing reviews, but I was consistently frustrated by it. It is poorly written, sloppily researched, randomly organized, simplistically argued. The book's most egregious fault is that it hints at interesting and important ideas on the biological, political, economic, and social impact of the rise of the banana industry, but the author never bothers to develop these. There are lots of interesting tidbits and suggestive ideas, but they never amou ...more
Mar 13, 2008 Bobscopatz rated it it was amazing
If you liked the book "Salt" you will probably find this book just as engrossing. There's more in here about corporate and pan-American politics than I expected on first hearing about the book, and I really enjoyed reading it. The reasons why bananas are threatened with global extinction despite being one of the most successful agricultural crops are fascinating, and chilling.

Koeppel does a great job of simplifying the science and getting right to the heart of the matter.

Anna  (Bananas!)
Mar 11, 2015 Anna (Bananas!) marked it as to-read
I really want to read this but $13.99 for an ebook about fruit? No.

That being said, the sample was fascinating. Bananas are cloned so that they can be grown seedless. And banana crops are in danger of dying out because they are cloned. What does this all mean for the future of human cloning? Oh the drama. I want more!
Indah Threez Lestari
23rd - 2012

Jadi, Saudara-saudara sekalian, pohon pengetahuan yang terlarang di surga itu bukan pohon apel. Tapi pisang. Ulangi kata-kata saya, PI-SANG! Hanya karena kesalahan penerjemahan bibel saja membuat orang awam jadi mengira buah yang menggoda Hawa itu adalah buah apel.

Kalau saja tidak ada kesalahan intrepretasi itu, pasti lagu Anita Sarawak yang populer itu akan berjudul Tragedi Buah Pisang.

Dan buku ini, Saudara-Saudara yang budiman, memang bukan hanya bercerita tentang sejarah pohon dan
Oct 30, 2012 bup rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
Bananas have been coming up in my life a lot lately - I've decided they're the wonder food for biking. A guy at work has been sharing lots of banana factoids. So I'm predisposed to like reading about bananas.

And the first hundred pages or so were really interesting. I had no idea that before 1870, Americans didn't eat bananas at all. Then bananas exploded on the scene faster than Gangnam-style. United Fruits (Chiquita) and Standard Fruits (Dole) were ruthless robber barons that made the era of r
Jan 18, 2016 John rated it liked it
I read this because it was offered to me for three bucks, and I decided I was three bucks worth of interested in bananas. How interested in bananas are you? That is the central question. I feel like a review of this book is sort of unnecessary. It is about the cultivation and worldwide spread of bananas, the troubled history of big banana companies and the nasty things they did in Latin America, and the threats plaguing banana crops today.
Wanna know about bananas? Here you go.
Aug 02, 2014 Bridget rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Basically, bananas run the world. Who knew? I liked that the author was willing to keep things interesting even at the cost of uneven chapter lengths and sudden transitions. If a banana-related topic was veering into boring territory, he was not afraid to move on.

Good thing most banana-related topics are interesting! Also, I learned the following from this book, and I consider it to be the most mind-blowing fact I've learned from a book this year (at least):

"The Philippines also grow several clo
Adam Wiggins
Jul 23, 2011 Adam Wiggins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining history of the banana's checkered past. Banana's are the world's #1 most popular fruit (far outstripping apples), and even more notable because they are all genetically identical (today: the Cavandish, prior to 1950, the Gros Michael). It's quite remarkable that bananas are cheaper than apples, considering that bananas are a highly perishable fruit that only grows in tropical regions and has to be shipped in at great speed in refrigerated vessels.

United Fruit and Standard Fruit (tod
Aug 02, 2013 Robert rated it liked it
Shelves: foodies
This is a book about banana's. Just thought I would put that out there as I saw reviews by people that were upset that this book was about banana's. Guess they thought it was the latest Lee Child novel or perhaps a Harlequin romance novel (let your imagination run wild with that one). Being a father of four curtain climbers, and a large consumer of banana's, I found the book very interesting and easy to read. It was a lot of fun gathering strange facts about banana's (for instance the banana is ...more
Jul 20, 2008 Kelly rated it liked it
Koeppel's book is not bad, but it's also not great. I think the premise and the detail were well formed and Koeppel made the book incredible approachable and readable (although I loed Kurlansky's "Salt," it was no where near as readable or digestible). However, there were a few problems. First, the book is poorly organized. It jumped from topic to topic, would focus in on Koeppel himself, and in the last 1/5 of the book was nothing but setting the agenda for how GMOs aren't bad. Although Koeppel ...more
Oct 18, 2009 Kelli rated it really liked it
This book was full of interesting facts about the history of the banana. Wow, is there ever a lot to learn about the banana! It's the 4th largest crop grown in the world, after wheat, rice and corn. The author claims it is the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden (translations in Hebrew and from the Koran). Banana boats - with their built-in cooling rooms to preserve the bananas - were the first Carribean cruise ships in the 1920s.
The most alarming thing I learned was that the type banana we no
Aug 13, 2012 Mic rated it really liked it
I came across this book several times in the public library, and every time my thought was exactly the same,
"How the hell can bananas be interesting enough for an entire book?"
Every time I came across it again (small library)
"There's that damn banana book again. Fuck you, banana book. Stop clogging up my shelf."
Finally one day I took the Banana Book Dare. I took it home to read it.
"Okay, banana book. She me whatcha got. Justify your pages."
I stand corrected. It was fascinating. I only wish I ha
Art Meyer
Aug 09, 2015 Art Meyer rated it really liked it
very good
Todd Stockslager
Jun 05, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it

Who knew? Or rather, who thought about it in this level of detail? Dan Koeppel has, as he details the history of how bananas grow, where they grow, how they became the world's favorite fruit, and why bananas are uniquely vulnerable to disease.

It turns out that this seemingly simple, single-serving size fruit is a complex plant that requires a complex farming and transport system to make it to your kitchen table. Koeppel looks at the economics and politics of this process, which, as the c
Jun 17, 2014 D D rated it really liked it
Shelves: natural-history
You know NOTHING about bananas.... The banana you eat today (the "Cavendish" banana) is genetically the same banana that you ate last week, last month, or anytime in the past 46 years. Bananas reproduce asexually; the plant (an herb) clones itself rather than fertilizing with another banana plant. There's a problem with this: since all banana plants of the same species are similar genetically, they are all susceptible to the same disease. Prior to 1965 the banana found in American grocers was th ...more
John Gaudet
Narrative non-fiction, as a technique, appeals so directly to readers that it can be used to reveal the plight of almost any animal or plant, such as America's favorite fruit, as we find out in Dan Koeppel's, Banana, The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World (Plume, 2008.) Without this book who would know that this popular fruit is in danger of disappearing because of a disease? Koeppel does a great job presenting the overlooked history of a fruit common to our grocery stores and corner marke ...more
Christina Mitchell
Aug 10, 2016 Christina Mitchell rated it liked it
I walked into the front doors of my local library, and there was this book. It was one of the featured books on some library summer theme. I couldn't resist picking it up.

I had completed my doctoral thesis on Guatemala, a country considered to be one of the Central American Banana Republics, and was well aware of United Fruit's horrendous involvement, with U.S. government complicity and support, in Guatemala's insurrection, war, genocide, and corruption. United Fruit is now Chiquita and, for th
Mar 28, 2016 Lauren rated it it was amazing
This book could have been the most boring over researched piece of self aggrandizing nonsense on a topic that most people probably don't care about or think about in great detail.... BUT.... This book was positively riveting. I rarely eat bananas not for any particular reason but the idea that someone so carefully researched the origins and proliferation of this fruit around the world intrigued me. I was fascinated mainly because the author's tone makes the subject matter relatable and understan ...more
Dec 28, 2014 Juan rated it liked it
If you want a very, very, very basic understanding of the subject, this book is for you. It covers, without any depth, the beginning to the current state of the banana, from domestication to the current efforts to produce new types of bananas in the laboratory.

The problem with the book is that it attempts to do too much in a couple of hundred pages. Evidence is the shortness of the chapters, with some only three pages long. The length of the topics led me to believe the author had ADHD, did not
Jun 28, 2014 Emily rated it liked it
I've been wanting to read a book about the history of bananas and banana republics since I took Latin American history 4 or 5 years ago in college. This book is an insightful look into how bananas became popular in the United States, the effect of the plantations in Central and South America (and the Caribbean) had on the environment and the people, and the science of how bananas grow and become destroyed by disease. One habit of the author early on in the book is to "guide the reader", ie. "in ...more
Jul 01, 2010 Lisa rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Everything you ever wanted to know about the history of the banana and were afraid to ask. I love bananas and generally eat 1 each day and was sorry to read that there is a bad banana blight that is steadily killing off large areas of Cavendish bananas, which is the kind you find in stores. The blight is actually a difficult to fight fusarium fungus.
Jan 21, 2016 John rated it liked it
A somewhat short documentary book (208 pages). I thought the writing was poor, but it was a fascinating look at the origins of Chiquita. It was fascinating but frustrating, since the author would repeatedly throw in some fact with no explanation of it at all. But this was a worthwhile book to read anyway and pointed out the concept of a Banana Republic and how United Fruit really ran many countries in South America. It also made me go to Chiquita's site and see that their history section totally ...more
Jul 22, 2009 Erin rated it liked it
This is a good book if you want to know about Chiquita, but not Dole. If you want to know a lot about genetic modification and plant resistance. It's not a great book to read if you already have a cursory knowledge of the conspiracies between the US government and banana companies and their century of subjugating Central American regimes.
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