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The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  680 ratings  ·  139 reviews
Delicious, lethal, hallucinogenic and medicinal, fruits have led nations to war, fueled dictatorships and lured people into new worlds. An expedition through the fascinating world of fruit, The Fruit Hunters is the engrossing story of some of Earth's most desired foods.

In lustrous prose, Adam Leith Gollner draws readers into a Willy Wonka-like world with mangoes that tas
ebook, 288 pages
Published May 20th 2008 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2008)
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Feb 23, 2008 Naomi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Justin
I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but I received an ARC of this book from the publisher and started to flip through the first few pages. It turned into a fascinating read!

This book makes me want to travel to far-away places just to eat exotic fruits. And it make me incredibly annoyed at the paltry selection that we have here in the United States. Why don't we have the ice cream bean fruit? Why are we denied the miracle fruit? And who knew there are over 1,000 types of banana, some tasting like
adam leith gollner's the fruit hunters is a delectable, alluring glimpse into the realm of fruit, pomology, and the sweet obsession it seems to engender in so many. rather comprehensive in scope, gollner's book focuses on myriad aspects of the fruit world, beginning with the definitional, historical, and cultural. with some 70,000 to 80,000 different edible fruit-bearing plant species, it is dumbfounding to consider that "most of our food comes from only twenty crops."

gollner goes on to explore
I started the Fruit Hunters with some trepidation. It sounded like an interesting book, but the cover looked old fashioned and I was prepared to find a Farmers Almanac, rather than an exciting look into exotic fruit.

I completely misjudged The Fruit Hunters. While there were a few chapters that weren't as interesting as most of the chapters, it made me want to journey to far away locations to sample cloud berries. And fruit that proves that God has a sense of humor, the coco de mer is a fruit th
Just wish I hadn't read it in the winter, because all those glorious exotic fruits are NOT to be had in New England in December and I wanted to try them all! Fun, fun read (great narrator on the audiobook). Starts slow but I'm so glad I stuck with it.

I adore these "world history via a specific subject" books, and this is so much more. It's a very personalized story of the (journalist) author's investigations (sometimes TOO personal: What's up with the random R-rated moments among stuff like the
I have my doubts about the writing of this book, its supposed to be about people who go out looking for new fruits and their stories. Language, noughties' slang, like "two cougars" to describe women strikes a jarring note.

I have several fruits in my garden, or at least the bit of rainforest that is accessible the rest being too difficult and bushy to penetrate, that I do not have more than local names for. Sweet water, the pod of a tree with amazingly-perfumed flowers, that is like sucking cotto
I found this book incredibly frustrating. The subject matter is fascinating and the author clearly did a great deal of research. The book is absolutely packed with interesting facts about a seemingly endless variety of fruits, not to mention a wacky cast of characters - the fruit hunters - who are obsessed with fruit.

Unfortunately, in his effort to include as many facts and people in the book as possible, the author has completely neglected any kind of organization or narrative flow. I rarely ab
Heather Denkmire
My daughter suggested I should maybe stop reading the "no no no" books because it keeps affecting my life choices in fairly dramatic ways. She's joking, though, because she (like me) appreciates knowing about ways we may be damaging or helping the earth (that's the larger issue we were talking about).

I enjoyed this book on several levels, mostly because of the luscious invitation to appreciate real fruit (fresh from the tree, vine, plant). It has ruined my experience of the produce section of th
Fascinating topic, clumsy execution. Like many other books of its kind, The Fruit Hunters takes a seemingly mundane object and exposes the history, science, politics, and personalities behind it. While Gollner's research and dedication are admirable, his book is wildly overcrowded. While each chapter ostensibly has a single topic, the jumble of science, travelogue, interview, and introspection is dense and sometimes boring. There's an interesting, focused book in here somewhere, but you have to ...more
I have been somewhat of an exotic fruit hunter since I was a little kid. Whenever I went to the grocery store with my mom, there were limits on everything except produce. I could have as much of I wanted of whatever I wanted, so naturally, I had mom buy everything I had never seen before. I am constantly on the lookout for rare fruits, and consistently trying to foist them on other people. Naturally, this book was right up my alley. I liked the descriptions of ultra-exotics -- where the come fro ...more
This journalistic foray into all things fruit ran from historical to erotic and back again. While his descriptions read like full-color fruit porn, sometimes in a somewhat off-putting manner, I devoured his accounts of the truly fruit-obsessed such as the fruitarians who eat nothing but fruit, the fruitleggers (fruit smugglers, yes, really) and the fruitmafia (kind of self-explanatory), and the fruititects.

I just made up that word, fruititects, but what would you call someone who builds a fruit?
Ashland Mystery Oregon
Gollner’s The Fruit Hunters is a splendid story of those obsessed with fruit. Less about the fruit itself (though there are ample and rich presentations of the incredible diversity of fruit) than about the men who are consumed with counting, documenting and owning fruit varietals. There’s the guy who jumps the fence at the botanical garden to graft new varieties onto the trees, the man who endlessly records and recites the incidence of fruit in literature, smugglers who persist in bringing new v ...more
Much more coherent than the film of the same name. Even though there are no pictures, the fruits were so well described that my mouth watered the whole time I was reading. Full of interesting tidbits about fruit science and history as well as ideas about the future of fruit.

The narrative style reminded me of Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish, where the research journey is part of the story, and the author an active character.
What a wonderful collection of information on fruit! Maybe it's because I no longer eat any added sugar and fruit is my new dessert, but this book was a fabulous look into something that you wouldn't think could possibly fill an entire book. It covers some frankly really weird people who hunt exotic fruit, looks at the criminal activity in fruit commerce, and talks about the politics of fruit. There's even a visit to a cult of people who only eat fruit and believe they are immortal (interestingl ...more
Gary   Allen
Obsession is right... even the writing rushes forward obsessively. It's almost like watching an Indiana Jones movie; the frantic pace never lets up.

Gollner includes some howlingly inaccurate science but, after a while, I realized he was just laying out every bizarre notion that folks have about fruit. He doesn't criticize, correct, or comment upon them (even if he knows them to be nonsense), he just serves them up. It's a lot easier to swallow if sprinkled with that proverbial grain of salt.
I got to page 31 and saw this:
Plants "even possess a form of intelligence: bananas and oranges connected to lie-detecting polygraphs have been shown to respond to mathematics questions in experiments by Dr. Ken Hashimoto and Cleve Backster. Asked how much two plus two is, the plants emit a hum that forms into four peaks when translated into ink tracings."
How can I take seriously a book that has this crap in it? Still, I decided to read on and just accept that the author doesn't understan
For my eighth grade school year, I searched for enjoyable non-fiction books to read. I got this off the shelf in my mom's office when she recommended it. This was a good read, if I may say so myself, because of several factors, including humorous writing description by the author and the fun facts I was/am able to share with others. It took me a few weeks to read the book; there are so many stories, theories, and facts to soak up on each page. The book began with some strange stories about peopl ...more
The book starts off sort of as an anthropological study of why we like fruit, and moves into the how the author became obsessed with tasting as many fruits he can. This leads him into obscure geopolitical territory, utopian communities, and lightly touches on GMO controversies. You meet many eccentrics along the way, some endearing and some not. And you learn more about unusual fruits (well at least to me) and wonder why we don't have them in our north american grocery stores -- and you learn th ...more
It would be impossible to overemphasize how much you should read this book. Gollner writes a riveting account of his journey through the world of "fruit hunters," those who have dedicated their professional lives to the pursuit of fruit, whether growing, collecting, breeding, documenting, or eating it. It's filled with the sort of random but fascinating trivia that you'll want to strike up conversations at random just to be able to share; it's at times pornographic. It has all the best elements ...more
This book was a gift from my daughter, who knows how much I like fruit. It has always been a mystery to me why some people eat so little of it, until I remind myself that I eat very little in the way of vegetables, which would probably puzzle those very people who don't eat much fruit. At any rate, the book was an eye-opener. I had no idea how many fruits and fruit variations there are in the world. It is almost depressing, since I know I will never get to sample most of them. On the other hand, ...more
You know, a nonfiction book like this that's supposedly "narrative style" can either be truly an engaging narrative, or it can be a somewhat dull pseudo-narrative. This one is really interesting. The narrative is entertaining and full of enough colorful characters (people and fruits alike) to keep a reader's interest, and the facts about all the fruits are plentiful enough to fill the reader's mind with cool trivia tantalizing enough to share. I shared at least three anecdotes and facts with my ...more
If you ever thought that fruit was just a side dish, an afterthought, guess again. Gollner shows, in no uncertain terms, how fruit has shaped and defined life on earth in general, and human life in particular. He takes the reader to the very extreme edges of his subject: the fanatics who stop at nothing to get their hands on a fruit and the fruitarians -- people who eat nothing but fruit (and their subsets such as the "rockguacamolians" who only eat avocadoes sprinkled with asteroid dust,) and s ...more
This book is, in a word, overwritten. Never one to forgo an adjective, or to use a simple verb when an ornate one will do, the author prefers sentences like, "Islets ringed with white sand merge into turquoise translucence." Landscapes "burst" with craters. Describing a situations where neighbors complained about the smell from a fruit he was eating, he writes, "Durian vapors were moseying down the hall." Later, he doesn't just visit the heart of the durian kingdom, he visits its pulsating heart ...more
I really enjoyed the first two sections: Nature and Adventure. This book truly made me want to run down to the Japanese grocery to see if I could find any fun new fruits (not square watermelons though), and then to a Central American market, and then to... What this book really needs is some pictures!

For me, part 3 Commerce, was much less interesting. Grapples? Yes, it was kind of funny, and it is shocking that someone thinks actual apples with added artificial grape flavoring could ever be a hu
This is a rambling and often fascinating book. The fascination comes from the fact that the world of fruit is immensely vast. Tthere are apparently around 70,000 plant species that bear edible fruit, even though we tend to know about maybe two dozen from the grocery store. Make that three or four dozen in a good produce store. So, there are plenty of stories about exotic fruit explorers, "ultra-exotic" fruit lovers, and, naturally, exotic fruit smugglers. There is also an entire chapter on the c ...more
So here is my thing with this book. I picked it up because I was interested in learning more about the wide variety of exotic fruits that aren't available to us here in the United States. And I did learn a little bit about that, but not as much as I would have liked. The author sort of meanders around talking about some different types of fruit here and there, some anecdotes about a crazy person he met who is into fruit, then he goes on for awhile about how this fruit isn't available in the U.S. ...more
Most of the reviews of this book complain about the writing style of the author, but they end up giving it 4 stars. This is the kind of book that gives you a little bit of info on a lot of topics attached to a central theme. I enjoyed the writing, the subject matter, and it got me a lot more interested in seeking out exotic fruits and varieties.

Another complaint that doesn't seem to shed stars is that the book doesn't get its facts straight. I know that can be annoying when you read something i
I love fruit and I live in a sort of fruit heaven so I had every expectation of enjoying this book. It starts out with pages (or in my case tracks since I was listening to it on disk) of laundry lists of tidbits of information about fruit. It seemed like the author wanted to be sure to include every single thing he had learned in his research on fruit and had made no attempt to put it in any order - just listing of information. I would have stopped listening but I was driving back from Portland ...more
Wow! Talk about working up an appetite from reading a book!

Fruit Hunters is full of mouthwatering and/or eye-candy descriptions of rare (or just foreign) fruit and profiles of fruit cultivators, collectors and downright obsessors (Not really a word, but eh!). These bits are congealed together by the adventures of Adam Leith Gollner's as he sets out to find the fruits and their friends.

I've never really been a big fruit eater. I love vegetables. Savory over sweet for me. But this book gave me a
This took me an inordinately long time to read, considering that on the whole I quite enjoyed it. I think this may have been due in part to an organizational problem -- the book didn't seem to have a particular direction or focus. Instead, it seemed that the author was cramming everything he learned about fruit (and that was a considerable amount) into the book, willy-nilly. The author delights in long (very long) lists of fruits, places, cultivars, and characteristics. It's a bit of an onslaugh ...more
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A fruity book about delicious fruit, rare fruit, people obsessed with fruit and the history of fruit.It was fun for the first chapter or two. I got skeptical when looked like it might end up as 300 pages of anecdotes. If you stick it out the material does broaden and get a little better, but this is never an amazing book. Its more like a collection of superficial magazine articles tacked together. The writing is average, it bounces around and doesn't flow well, and lastly the author sounds like ...more
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Adam Leith Gollner is the author of The Book of Immortality and The Fruit Hunters.

He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, The Guardian, the Globe and Mail, Saveur, Good, and Lucky Peach, among others.

He used to be Editor of Vice Magazine and also played in a number of bands. He lives in Montreal.
More about Adam Leith Gollner...
The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever

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“As Marshall McLuhan pointed out, we've become so removed from reality that we're starting to prefer artificiality.” 5 likes
“The playwright Edward Albee has characterized [the suddenness of the appearance of fruits and flowers in evolutionary history] as 'that heartbreaking second when it all got together: the sugars and the acids and the ultraviolets, and the next thing you knew there were tangerines and string quartets.” 4 likes
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