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Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World
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Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  1,768 ratings  ·  300 reviews

In the vein of the 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, B

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Paperback, 281 pages
Published 2008 by Hudsen Street Press (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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...more
Will Byrnes
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
Kay
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...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
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...more
Tabasco
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
Joe
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...more
Eric
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
Bobscopatz
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.

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...more
bup
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...more
Bridget
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...more
Adam Wiggins
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...more
Robert
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
Kelly
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
Kelli
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...more
Mic
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...more
D D
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
Emily Ellson
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
Lisa
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.
Erin
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.
Chad
This is a very accesible and enjoyable read about the checkered history, perplexing science and dirty politics of the banana.

Great gift for the bananaphile in you life.
Victor Chininin
I learned quite a bit from this book, but it was not a pleasure to read. The chapters were short and not well organized - perhaps the author was seeking to write for shorter attention spans or on a blog format, but I found myself confused sometimes and at other times just perplexed by the sharp contrasts at times from chapter to chapter. There were a couple of odd things that made me wonder what else could be just a little bit off - namely the account of the Fall from Genesis and there was a sta...more
Jennifer
I can't believe I read an entire book on bananas.
Alyce
Who knew the banana could be so interesting?
Melissa
This was a fascinating overview of the history of banana breeding and cultivation. I really enjoyed reading the narrative of how bananas went from a fruit that was enjoyed entirely locally (and in so many different varieties in so many different places!) to big business that toppled governments and got away with murder (literally). Koeppel did a great job detailing what bananas are and how the banana we know and love here in America (the Cavendish) came to be the only banana on our market.

Most...more
Joelwakefield
Another of the micro-histories I have been reading. Interesting and informative about the science of growing bananas, which I did not know were such a fruit, horticulturally speaking. The history of corporate and governmental involvement in the workings of various Central and South American countries was very interesting and very depressing as well.

Ultimately the book was a bit too repetitive, and yet even with the repetition it was not quite clear about a few key things to leave me with a prec...more
Brian
This book is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

Like THAT hasn't been said before. I read this book, coincidentally, along side of 'The Windup Girl' by Paolo Bacigalupi. Bacigalupi's book dealt with a near future world that had suffered near destruction on the basis of world crop failure, of everything. In this world most countries rely on corporations that hold genetic rights over disease resistant crops that are also sterile.

Why am I explaining this to you? In Koeppel's book he discusses this very concep...more
Jenn
2.5 stars. Whew, I can breathe a sigh of relief now that I'm finally finished. The scope of this book is huge and the incredible amount of detail made my head spin.

I did learn a lot though. There's a large focus on banana republics - which, it turns out, are not just clothing stores (but now that I think about it, why on earth did they choose that name for their store?).

And for anyone who's interested (or opposed to) biotech food, there's much to be learned. Apparently, if we don't start accep...more
Bill Ward
My reaction to this is mixed. I was really interested in learning about the horticultural story behind the banana, but there was an awful lot about the Chiquita and Dole companies, and the various people who ran them over the years, that was not terribly interesting to me. It was saddening to read about all the strongarm "banana republic" tactics that the companies used - I had been vaguely aware of that history but not of all the details. I found it really interesting that a few decades ago, th...more
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