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4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,056 ratings  ·  216 reviews
Paperback, 160 pages
Published February 24th 2000 by Penguin (first published 1967)
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Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here's what I learned about oranges, or citrus generally:

-- Citrus does not come true from seed. What this means is: If you plant an orange seed, a grapefruit might come up. If you plant a seed of that grapefruit, you might get a bitter lemon. To get oranges, specifically, you have to graft the orange to the rootstock of some other citrus tree. Sweet Florida oranges are grown primarily from bitter orange and sour lemon root.

-- Columbus himself brought the first oranges to the New World.

-- An ora
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
I came to this book with two misapprehensions. First, I thought it was a new book. Second, I thought it would be about California.

I own a whole string of McPhee books, but lately my enthusiasm for his writing has been in need of a transfusion. A new book seemed the thing to do it. This turned out to be one of his first books. How come I never heard of it until now?

I have lived for the major portion of my life in the middle of the orange groves. (McPhee says Californians speak of orange “orchards
Jun 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
You get done with this book and say "I just read an entire book about oranges?!"
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
(3.9/5.0) If you’ve ever devoted more than a few hours to your local public access woodworking program, getting acquainted with the different block planes and varieties of stains and oils, you’ll know how the bracingly dull can still sometimes draw your admiration, even your surprise. In that he’s a pensive, soft spoken bearded man with the patience to resolve challenging and thankless issues of craft, John McPhee is akin to master carpenter Norm Abram. Here, as he does with the rest of his writ ...more
Aug 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
He turned around with a look of recognition and said to me, “You come from apple country.” In one sentence, he had defined the dimensions of his own world, the utterly parochial nature of it, its disciplined singleness.

A brief but mildly interesting story of oranges. Their cultivation, their history, and their uses all get examined here.


This book was written in the 1960s, and it’s interesting to compare then to now. For instance, McPhee notes that for
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Curious readers with a love of learning.
John McPhee's Oranges is just what it sounds like: a book about oranges. The pages are filled with everything the average person would ever wish to know about the fruit, but it doesn't read like a textbook; on the contrary, it sweeps you up and doesn't set you back down until the end (which, I admit, was incredibly abrupt).

When I finished Oranges, I had a large dose of the familiar feeling that comes at the end of a really good book. If you're here on Goodreads, you probably know what I'm t
Jul 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
You may not know this about me but I have a fruit phobia. Yep. So this was an unusual (and big-boy brave) choice of book for me. I've never eaten an orange, or even held one. But reading about them didn't gross me out too much (admittedly citrus is pretty far down my hierarchy of fruit grossness), and this lovely book from 1966 was actually really interesting, had a casual charm and made excellent bedtime summer reading.
Kathrin Passig
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathrin by: myself
Frauen kommen nur ganz am Rande als leichtgläubige, dumme Supermarktkundinnen vor. Alle Interviewten, alle Erwähnten, alle handelnden Personen sind Männer. Aber so waren sie wohl, die 60er. Die Faktensammlung hätte mir vielleicht in Prä-Internet-Zeiten Freude bereitet, aber jetzt wirkt sie ein bisschen wie Wikipedia-Abschreibeliteratur.
Dawn Betts-Green (Dinosaur in the Library)
Interesting if outdated read (published in 1967). I will say that it ended incredibly abruptly, but I definitely want to check out some more of McPhee's work. Excellent narrative nonfic.
Ryan Williams
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
They say a good writer can take anything as his subject, no matter how ordinary, and leave you wondering if you have ever looked at it before. McPhee took the simple household orange as his subject, intending to produce a one off article. Once he got going, his curiosity burned ever brighter - and his enthusiasm is contagious. The result was this book - a classic work of non-fiction, and a marvel of reportage. Coming from the country that gave the world Joseph Mitchell, Gay Talese, Joan Didion a ...more
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
John McPhee was tasked with writing a magazine article about oranges. He went down to Florida, did some research, and came back with a 160 page book instead.

In large part this is because oranges, from their history to their cultivation and processing, is so gosh darn interesting. The book fills your brain with trivia and "did you know"s.

"The taste and aroma of oranges differ by type, season, county, state, and country, and even as a result of the position of the individual orange in the framewor
Karen Lu
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
i came across this book in a used bookshop many years ago and remembered it. i bought it recently and was unusually excited to read it. i now know more about oranges than is reasonable for the average human. but the beauty of a book such as this one is how it reminds you how much of the world is known to others and unknown to you. experts on oranges exist, and McPhee gives us ordinary people a glimpse into their world.
Howard Krosnick
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature, history
Beautifully written. Huge amount of fascinating information in a short book.
Increased my knowledge about and love of oranges.
Made me wonder what changes have taken place in the orange world since the book was originally written in the 60's.
Michael Whitehead
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous writing that documents the history of the orange and the impact of the citrus industry on Florida up to the 1960s, when this book was compiled from a series of essays written for THe New Yorker.
John McPhee is a national treasure. This enjoyable little book contains perhaps more than you ever wanted to know about oranges.
Jeroen Verhoeven
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent book with loads of facts you would never expect to find so fascinating. A lovely read
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, nonfiction, history
Further proof that John McPhee can make even the most mundane subjects completely engrossing. Not only did I learn a ton about oranges and the odd ways in which they are grown (terms such as "bud union" and "nucellar seedling" have now been added to my vocabulary), but I also became acquainted with some very peculiar characters in Florida history. Indeed, my one quibble with the book is that it is really more about Florida than oranges in general -- besides a few chapters on the history and sign ...more
Aravind Nagarajan
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written book. Packed with interesting information about oranges, of all things. I now have a discerning eye for oranges, or at least, know what questions to ask to sound knowledgeable.
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i know so many things about oranges now
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Who would have thought that you could devote an entire book to the subject of oranges? But if anyone can pick a random topic, delve into it and create a fascinating piece packed with hitherto unknown factoids, it's McPhee. In this compact read, McPhee traces the origin of oranges (China), unravels the history and science of their cultivation, its role in history and art and profiles some of the men who have spent their lives working in the business of oranges.

Who knew that "a single citrus tree
Sep 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of McPhee. "Oranges" is not his best book, and it sometimes fails to keep me engaged in his passionate curiosity about this fruit. Nonetheless, McPhee maintains his usual brilliance in sparse, perfectly selected prose. He is a master wordsmith, and a superb researcher too. Bing Crosby investing in oranges? Cops stopping a Cadillac loaded with 3,500 stolen oranges? Orange seeds are incestuous? Reading "Oranges" will transform you into the person who bores everyone at a party with en ...more
May 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Of course, I learned a tremendous amount about oranges. Anythign John McPhee writes is worth reading. Anything. Who else could make an entire book about oranges so fascinating? One of my favorite authors, by a long shot.
Not even just about oranges, it also deals with the recent history of orange growing states, and how the orange continues to sheape them.
This book covers the history of oranges, and examines their hybridization. In one part, it discusses the taste of orange juice, and how every
Adam Engelhart
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a book about oranges. Not the color, not the Protestants in Ireland, not the royal house of the Netherlands--it's about fruit. John McPhee wrote a 168-page book about a fruit you can buy at the grocery store for 99 cents, and he made it fascinating. Strongly recommended.
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It would be interesting if McPhee were to revisit this book. Since the sixties, much have the industry must have changed to accommodate a growing demand for fresh orange juice, twelve months a year; and an influx of oranges from other countries.
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was like a refreshing glass of fresh squeezed orange juice--wholesome and satisfying, and just the right amount. Infused with bits of humor and history, pleasant to read.

Although at the end, you can't help but think to yourself, "I just read an entire book on oranges!"
Dec 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book was short so I managed to finish it but it was a close thing. The information that wasn't outdated was overshadowed by the author's horrible misogyny and racism.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it liked it
His prose is fine stodgy, elitist white-guy writing. I learned a few things about Florida oranges.
Catherine Newell
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love this man.

"My own belief is that science erases what was previously true. The earth was the center of the universe until Copernicus rearranged it. Life did begin in Eden before Darwin restyled it. In the early eighteenth century in Nuremberg, a woman did sit in the branches of an orange tree and kill it to the ground."

He doesn't really believe that, by the way. But in weaving together the history, myth, manufacturing, magic, and business of oranges, McPhee takes us to places that we can ha
Julian Walker
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From discovering that the white of an orange peel is called albedo (I am not taking the pith), to the fact that the rare metal Molybdenum is used in the orange juicing process, this is a gentle ramble through the fruity world of oranges.

Strange characters – such as the Snake Man (who wanted to eschew his self-created nickname and be known by his given name after being hospitalised following a nasty bite from a rattlesnake) and the frozen people (those who make juice from concentrate) – meander t
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Technically, I read a paperback with the bold orange hardback image on the cover.
Quite an intriguing overview of (mostly) Florida orange industry history and agriculture. It's nicely couched in world history of oranges and with comparisons to CA orchards ('groves' are in FL). The tension between oranges as a giant agri-business vs. oranges as a local/regional lifestyle makes for a nice narrative driver. At times it reads a bit like a series of essays/articles and there are related redundancies.
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Oranges, by John McPhee 2 17 Oct 10, 2011 06:18PM  
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John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with the New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965. The same year he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with FSG, and soon followed with The Headmaster (1966), Oranges (1967), The P ...more
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