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Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future
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Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  434 ratings  ·  87 reviews
The bananas we eat today aren't your parents' bananas: We eat a recognizable, consistent breakfast fruit that was standardized in the 1960s from dozens into one basic banana. But because of that, the banana we love is dangerously susceptible to a pathogen that might wipe them out.

That's the story of our food today: Modern science has brought us produce in perpetual abund
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 14th 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
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Joshua Buhs
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
At the risk of being too cute: this is more a seed catalog than a sustained argument.

Seed catalog--that's a term I picked up from the old pseudoscientific author Ivan T. Sanderson, who would complain about books that were hardly more than lists of anomalous things, with nothing else added. Dunn's book isn't just a list, but the book doesn't really have an overarching perspective. He isn't in control of his material, and so it rides him, expanding beyond the scopes of what he wants to touch upon.
May 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-on-food
I agree with other reviewers in the primary complaint about this book- the title is totally not in line with the content. I was kind of expecting something along the lines of Fugitive Denim or Flower Confidential- an insiders look into a commodity/industry, with a focus on our self-indulgence and the lengths to which producers and distributors go to satisfy our desire for fruit out of season, exotic flavorings, etc. I would have enjoyed that book more, I think. This book presents essentially the ...more
Donna Kimball
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book fascinating. As a food historian, I was aware of many of the problems with mono-culture food supply, but Mr Dunn made me realize that this problem is much bigger then I ever imagined.
Mr Dunn also introduced me to many of the people of the past, and present, that have made attempts to save our fragile food supply.

This book is a must read for everyone who eats!
Eustacia Tan
Mar 21, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nlb-ereads
I’ve had this book on my Overdrive wishlist for a while, but I didn’t really think about reading it until I had to prepare a talk about tea and remembered that a few farms have talked to me about the dangers of monocultural crops, and suddenly, Never Out of Season seemed really relevant.

Never Out of Season is about how the loss of biodiversity in our food crops could lead to food security issues. To try and summarise the whole book into a few sentences: in our quest for food stability, we have d
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Only complaint is with the title. This is much more a story of how crops are saved (by hard work, nature and luck) and why we desperately need to conserve our remaining biodiversity, not so much a direct survey of the supermarket and what the consequences of demanding every type of food all season are.
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Mr. Dunn is definitely preaching to the choir here, but this is one of the better titles I've read about the need for biodiversity. Not only does the author explain how we've come to this stage --farming primarily monocultures that are all dependent of chemical inputs to maintain production/fight off plant diseases and pests-- but he also gives historical examples of the almost inevitable results (potatoes, bananas, rubber trees, cacao). Fascinating reading about the various scientists who have ...more
Jul 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Five stars for thoroughness but three stars for readability. This book starts strong, with powerful stories about the lack of biodiversity in the world’s food crops and the danger inherent in that (hello Irish potato famine). But by the end it devolves into an American-centric whinefest about supporting something called university extensions, having fewer children and downloading the author’s friend’s plant pathology app. So read the first 3/4 and stop after Monsanto.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating book about the perpetual evolutionary arms race between our crops and their pests, and the efforts made (and desperately needed) to stay ahead. Interesting personal and political stories about the plants we have come to rely on for survival.
Michael Strauss
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Misleading title...more an analytical about crops and pests. Like reading a biology book.
Jun 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2021
It's been a while since I've read one of those annoyingly repetitive non-fiction books, but they're back on my reading list I guess. This was actually less annoying then the ones in my memory, so kudos to Dunn.

A very .. dire perspective on the agricultural (and general) future of humanity. There doesn't seem to be much optimism, and perhaps rightly so. Like, he tries to mention things you can do, but they seem to small compared to what we're up against (Monsanto, etc.) that I'm not quite sure ev
Caleb Fendrich
Oct 30, 2021 rated it it was ok
Based on the title and the recommendation I received for this book, I was expecting (and hoping for) a discussion of the economics, logistics, and history behind the food we eat. Why we grow food the way we do. And how we might go about doing this in a more sustainable manner.

That’s not what this book is. It is a meandering exploration of various pathogens and pests that threaten several common food types, with repetitive calls for elementary scientific study of these plants. I didn’t learn *not
Anna Abney Miller
Oct 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Interesting book, though not quite what I was expecting. Rob Dunn is great at throwing hilarious asides into otherwise serious topics (I would love to read a novel by him on the oddities of a college biology faculty, as he jokingly pitched in this book.) I learned a lot about not only the threats to our food supply, but the threats that come from treating much of what we've learned about agriculture as private information owned by corporations.
Jason Vanhee
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
A book about plant pathogens, which isn't what it presents itself as; I gathered from the title and subtitle that it would be about the modern practice of having all foods in all seasons, but while that is (barely) touched upon, it really has nothing to do with the book. It's fine, I guess, if you were looking for a popular science book about plant pathogens. ...more
Tom Scanlan
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who votes.
Recommended to Tom by: I won a prepublication copy from Good Reads
This thoroughly researched book covers a broad array of subjects under the general category of plant ecology. The author provides a marvelous education for the layman using a narrative style that will hold your interest even if you have little background in the life sciences. The author includes fascinating histories of the development of important agricultural products, from bananas to chocolate, corn, potatoes, rice and importantly rubber. He relates the important contribution of numerous rese ...more
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: actual-books
Literal two stars, as ever: It was okay.

An informative (if repetitive) book, but not on the topic I was hoping for; I now know plenty about the history of seed saving, but not quite as much as I would hope about the insider process of how the forces of capitalism have poked and prodded our agricultural system into providing grocery stores the exact same fruits and vegetables year round, which is why I picked this book up in the first place. An expose about how bananas are picked early and artifi
Mary Nee
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is informative and educational , without being too hard to understand. It was interesting but I did get bogged down a little.
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read about the perpetual race between humanity's crops and nature's pests, and the challenges we face in trying to stay ahead. Dunn explores many of the times when we've fallen behind in this race in the past (the Irish potato famine and the loss of the first widely known banana species are 2 fairly well known examples) and uses this history to show how inevitable it is that we will fall behind again.

Like many reviewers, I didn't think the title quite fit with the book, as it didn't r
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

That was really interesting. I had never known how much of modern agriculture is dependent on breeding traits from wild variants of crops or how much trouble there is in gathering the seeds of the wild variants for storing in seed vaults and then keeping the seeds alive in seed vaults.

One Russian scientist made a career of venturing to Anatolia and Central Asia to gather varieties of wheat and even learned local languages so he c
Tom Parker
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an enjoyable, and important book, that persuasively describes serious and growing threats to the world’s food supplies caused by a worrying decline in biodiversity and also addresses the need for increased public awareness of the necessity for wild plant conservation in general.

Plant conservation is a topic that doesn’t receive anywhere near the level of media attention and public recognition it deserves. This book is written in an informative, narrative style that will appeal to a broa
Matt Hooper
Mar 23, 2019 rated it liked it
According to both Ecclesiastes and The Byrds – everything has a season. Everything, that is, except your favorite produce.

On any and every given day, you'll find the same fruits and veggies at your local grocery store. There are always bananas, oranges, berries, avocados, tomatoes, and salad greens. This lack of seasonality has had a profound, likely deleterious, effect on worldwide crop diversity.

Fact: We only grow the crops that are the most popular and most robust. That sounds reasonable on
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Once humans started to farm, they were wed to the field. There was no way to return to gathering. Populations grew fast, thanks to agriculture, and as they did they became ever more dependent on their crops. The crops, in turn, became ever more dependent on people. When the people suffered, the crops suffered. When the crops suffered, the people suffered. Farming was not an insight; it was instead a marriage, a bond between humans and seeds." - pg 215

Having studied anthropology and environment
Dec 20, 2020 rated it liked it
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Jul 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book is not quite what the title says it is. When I first heard about the book it seemed like it would be an interesting read. How we can have food that is basically the same all the time, with less concern regarding seasonal changes, lack of water/fertilizer, geographic concerns, etc. At least, that's what I thought the book was about.
Instead it's a really dry book about how delicate the food chain is in regards to pests, pathogens, etc. To be fair, that is a very important topic but that
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great read on how the lack of diversity of our globalize crops leaves them (and therefore our food security) vulnerable to various pathogens. I really appreciated Dunn’s humorous quips and thorough notes section. He focusses on a few main crops such as cassava, corn, potatoes, latex (rubber), wheat, bananas, and coffee and outlines their evolution into monoculture. I also enjoyed how he spotlighted seed researchers/conservationists like Cary Fowler and Nikolai Vavilov as well as the lengths that ...more
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Never Out of Season" is an informative read about food agriculture, its history of disasters around the world, and the need to focus on taking care and improving our food supply. The only problem about this book is its cover. The tagline and the close-up photo of a banana plastered with "Best Before" tags of various dates can mislead people, me included, to assume that this book is about how food companies manipulate the freshness of produce for the sake of quantity over quality. Anti-GMO activ ...more
Christina Dudley
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and not entirely depressing read about the vulnerability of our food supply. Dunn examines everything from how we came to eat the few varieties of plants we eat (blame the Conquistadors and a few handfuls of survivor seeds), to past food threats, to efforts to save our food future. I'd read about the Irish Potato Famine and Cavendish banana before, and how the tomatoes we eat represent just the narrowest genetic slice of what's out there, but Dunn makes clear the pattern set by remov ...more
Nov 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, health
I felt a little conflicted about this book. On the one hand, yes. Your point is well taken. On the other hand, pretty much all of the people profiled as "making a difference" or doing something that helps the situation are white men. Also the ultimate takeaway seems to be that "Science will solve it, we just need to collect all the seeds of all the plants everywhere," even though the author has alluded earlier to how (1) scientific methods actually caused a lot of the problems, and (2) the threa ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I received a free copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway.

I thought this was informative and well-researched, and I found it very interesting. However, it wasn't what I was expecting based on the title. Every now and then at the end of a chapter the author would have a few brilliant pages that kept me avidly turning pages into the next section, only to be mildly disappointed that he didn't really discuss what I wanted him to.

But overall, once I left the expectations of the title behind (I was
Kim Bakos
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
This book took me quite a while to read, since it takes concentration to keep track of the historical and scientific information that it contains. But I did find it very interesting and well written, and I think what the author is talking about is very important.
It left me a little scared, though, that our food security is in peril, and there is not much as the average consumer that we can do to change that. I already do what he suggests we can do - grow some amount of our own food, buy/grow her
S. Garland
Jul 02, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating History and Unintentional Roadmap to WWII

I really liked this book. I love to read about food and culinary history, and plant pathology too (a missed career path, apparently) so this book is within that interest spectrum.

I first saw Dunn in a documentary on Fungi species and looked him up, and that's what led me to read this book.

However, I did feel as though I had a pretty clear roadmap to how to start World War III with a few choice plane tickets and some leaves. I'll just assume
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Robert Dunn is a biologist, writer and professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University.

He has written several books and his science essays have appeared at magazines such as BBC Wildlife Magazine, Scientific American, Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic and others. He has become known for efforts to involve the public as citizen scientists.

Dunn's writings h

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