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

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  1,025 ratings  ·  188 reviews
Tasty, lethal, hallucinogenic, and medicinal – fruits have led nations into wars, fueled dictatorships, and even lured us into new worlds. Adam Leith Gollner weaves business, science, and travel into a riveting narrative about one of earth’s most desired foods.

Readers will discover why even though countless exotic fruits exist in nature, only several dozen varieties are va
Hardcover, 279 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Doubleday Canada (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  1,025 ratings  ·  188 reviews

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Nov 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food
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
Dec 11, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Laurie DeVecca
Jun 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
This should have been a good book, but it felt like the author was too concerned about appearing hip, or perhaps was insecure abut his topic choice....his word choice and digressions were annoying, not clever. Very disappointing.
Erik Waiss
I was drawn to this book by the documentary of the same name. While the documentary is bright and colorful and full of useful information as well as some embellishment about the history and future of fruit, the book would definitely benefit from some fact-checking. This is the author's first book, and it is clear from his writing style that he subscribes to the idea that the plural of anecdote is data. I don't believe he should be focusing his work towards narrative science, as he has a tendency ...more
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
Heather Denkmire
Aug 12, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 15, 2010 rated it liked it
This is one of those books where you suddenly realize again just how odd some of the people on this planet are. Almost makes me feel normal. :-) Anyway, did you know there are people absolutely obsessed by fruit, who travel the globe finding and tasting very weird, rare fruits? I had no idea just how extensive the "fruit world" was--our supermarket produce aisles are a very poor representation, as it turns out. And the people who spend their lives focused on weird fruits are even weirder. This b ...more
Interesting study of exotic fruits around the world. The blueberry (my favorite fruit) only gets a few short mentions. The author mainly concentrated on fruits that aren't well known in the USA. He emphasizes how much better fruits taste when ripened on the tree. Modern transportation ruins tree-ripened fruit due to it being smashed during the trip. I am happy to live where there are roadside fresh produce stands galore. I've liked the writing style in other books of this type better than this o ...more
Aug 13, 2016 rated it liked it
This was interesting enough and certainly made me want to eat more fresh exotic fruits, but just reminding me that fresh exotic fruits exists is enough to make me want to eat them. I wasn't surprised to see that the author was a former editor of Vice magazine - my impression of Vice is that the pieces are all in this "travelogue" style where the author inserts themselves into the story and tries to make it all about big personalities. This book is certainly in that style. I suggest discounting a ...more
reading for Slow Food book group; slower going than I thought, plus I thought it was going to be more about Florida as we're into local foods. hope I'm wrong and need to revise as get further into book.

UPDATE: It got worse ! It might have been a good long New Yorker essay but it read as if he googled " banana" and then wrote a sentence each re each item found. Plus it never ceased to be about him including men having sex with fruit and dangers of microwaving melons for this practice.

Very curio
Dec 07, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Kelly B
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
Interesting subject, but too many little niggling errors and biases (e.g. "no one wants to eat a raspberry picked with metal fingers". One assumes the author didn't poll "everyone" before writing that).

Lots of opinions offered up as facts, and with nary a citation to be found. Yes, there is a further reading section, but no citation for any of the facts the author presents.
Nov 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
What an eye opener. I never dreamed that there was so much diviersity in the fruit world. Due to the fragility of most exotic, tropical, the sublime taste is only available locally. I guess I will never experience it firsthand, but I enjoyed reading about it.

Jenny McDonald
Dec 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
This has a lot of interesting facts and anecdotes, but you could tear the pages apart and read them in any order. The lack of logical order or narrative structure kind of made it a drag to finish.
Mar 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: food, travel, science
Needs moar (i.e. any) footnotes, and also better fact-checking.
May 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book on unusual fruit and the unusual people who are passionate about finding them. It was interesting but not in depth enough, I got tired of it and didn't read the final chapter.
I was poised to really like this a lot, since it hits on lots of things that I have found interesting. Tasting lots of fruits, global commerce, medicinal uses of foods, quirky people with peculiar obsessions, plenty more.

Maybe this was a consequence of the audio version I listened to, I'm not sure, but it felt a little jumbled up, with different chapters or sections not really connecting to each other but for being centered on fruits. I don't know if the subtitle "A story..." quite fits, becaus
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book starts out slowly but soon I was drawn into the spirit of adventure Adam Gollner showed in just writing this book. The "Fruit Hunters" he interviewed were interesting characters that I would like to hang with. The remote locations he visited made me interested in travel in a way I have never contemplated before. Now I am more curious than ever about what is in my own backyard.

There are many facets of "fruit" that I had never thought about: from the fact that there are people who live o
Chris Leuchtenburg
Jun 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature
Filled with fruits I had never heard of, the nutty fruit mavens who seek them, and the brave (some are eccentric) farmers who attempt to grow and bring them to market, this book has stories galore about fruits, fruits, fruits. Most of the text focuses on fruits as we generally think of them (citrus, melons, apples, etc.), but occasionally the stories drift into the broader botanical definition of fruits, which include any seed bearing structure of flowering plants including coffee, corn and bean ...more
Having read The Book of Immortality by Gollner and despised it, I was a little doubtful about the potential for this book. However, the idea of an entire book devoted to fruits seemed interesting enough to me to merit reading. In the end, while it was better than The Book of Immortality (perhaps given the more grounded subject it dealt with), Gollner’s style still managed to drag down the potential for his topic. He deals quite adequately with all the aspects of fruit cultivation, commerce, dipl ...more
Hatchet Mouth
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gollner's prose adds a lush coat to the subject matter. I learned about rootbeer fruit, peanut butter fruit, limes with caviar-like bubbles inside, dragonfruit (which looks beautiful on the outside but I can now confirm has no taste to it whatsoever), gingerbread plums, pluots, bignays, sundrops, delicious monsters, soapberries, toothbrush trees, milk oranges, toad tree fruit, midnight horrors, sword fruit, Congo goobers, candle fruits, egg of the sun, jaboticaba, bayberries, cloudberries, swan ...more
Sarah Olson
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
If you can get past Gollner's creepy comparisons of fruit to women and women to fruit, and if you can close your eyes to his sexist undertones and the rape-y language of some of the people he features, and if you are willing to ignore the occasionally blatant oversexualization of women and even borderline racist descriptions, you *might* like this book. Gollner is clearly obsessive about his subject matter - all things exotic fruit - but his writing falls short of anything beyond "eh". I would r ...more
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times it seems Gollner is lost in his fruit obsession, writing a book on a subject he is clearly...passionate about. In contrast, long sections devoted to historical, scientific, or anthropological context strike a unique contrast. He does an amazing job at communicating the intricacies of his subjects and leaves out no details, even the sour ones. That being said, the book ventures into the colonial, both in terms of subject matter and language and Gollner slips into outdated words and phras ...more
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was so fun to read I found myself talking incessantly to anyone who would listen the entire time I was making my way through it. Partly because I love fruit and partly because the stories are really well told, it was just a blast to read and something I can see myself re-reading in the future. I look forward to watching the documentary and to reading other books by Adam Leith Gollner very soon!
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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.

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You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
24 likes · 10 comments
“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.” 8 likes
“As Marshall McLuhan pointed out, we've become so removed from reality that we're starting to prefer artificiality.” 8 likes
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