Kay's Reviews > The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Obsession, Commerce, and Adventure

The Fruit Hunters by Adam Leith Gollner
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's review
Sep 27, 2008

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bookshelves: garden-botany, eccentrics, natural-histry, food_wine, travelogues, commodity_history, nonfiction
Read in November, 2008

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 onslaught at times. Plus, I had difficulty keeping all the various people he met in his travels straight -- he delights in presenting the oddities of fruit hunters, but it grew a bit tiresome. Yes, they're eccentrics, monomaniacs, obsessives... I got that part after the first few pages. It seemed excessive to reiterate basically the same thing time and again.

Despite these flaws, I enjoyed the book... in small doses. Gollner has an engaging style, and a real gift for description (which, admittedly, he sometimes lets run a little too loose). But the part of the book that really stood out for me -- and seemed to merit its own separate treatment -- were the chapters on government regulation of fruit, sweeteners, and pesticides. THIS was where Gollner's journalistic instincts worked best, not in tracking down one more exotic fruit on some remote island. The switch over to this aspect of fruit was rather abrupt -- as if he grafted on a separate article he had written (which would, indeed explain a lot).

Gollner basically summarizes the politics of fruit - the scandals, machinations, and underhanded dealings that are behind, for example, the FDA ban on certain sweeteners, the (often flawed) rationale for which fruits can or can't be imported, and how market forces shape what ends up in our supermarket produce aisles. The latter, sadly, has little to do with taste and a lot to do with what ships and keeps well. The section on pesticides was particularly alarming. On the other hand, Gollner leaves the reader with a glimmer of hope, for there are fruit pioneers out there now, piggy-backing on the trend for buying quality produce locally, who are intent on introducing new varieties of fruit. This, as an avid fruit lover, is something I'm really looking forward to.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Sandra D Kay, you always write such great reviews!

message 2: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay Sandra D wrote: "Kay, you always write such great reviews!"

Thanks! I really enjoy writing them, even though I sometimes fall behind due to time constraints. If I make the effort to read the book, then it only makes sense to reflect a bit afterward to think about what I enjoyed -- or didn't. I find, too, that I have better recall later on if I take the time to review a book, not to mention that then I have a record to look at later.

I've kept a commonplace book for years, mostly consisting of extracts and quotes taken from reading. Now I'm finding that Goodreads is serving basically the same purpose.

Thanks again for the nice comment. It's nice to know the reviews aren't just vanishing into cyberspace.

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