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Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World    by Dan Koeppel order for
by Dan Koeppel
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Part science, part history, filled with facts, and completely enjoyable, Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World reveals the history and uncertain future of the world's most humble fruit. Almost everyone enjoys eating bananas - people in the United States, in fact, eat more bananas than apples and oranges combined - and many people throughout the world rely upon the ubiquitous fruit - along with rice, wheat, and corn - as an essential food staple that keeps millions of people alive. There is, however, a problem on the horizon: a fast-spreading disease threatens to make the banana an extinct species. From the first page to the last page, Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World is an absolutely delicious adventure.

But, you may ask, 'Why on earth would a person want to read an entire book about bananas?' Well, I confess to having been initially interested in Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World because of two unusual connections: first, in One Hundred Years of Solitude (the exemplary novel by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez), within the fictional framework, there is a fact-based indictment of the United Fruit Company because of that banana-grower's complicity in the slaughter of hundreds of innocents who stood in the way of the company's progress and success with in the novel's fictional setting, and ever since reading One Hundred Years of Solitude years ago, I have been bothered by the United Fruit Company's ugly history of corruption and domination in Latin America; second, years before I had read Garcia-Marquez's novel (which ought to be required reading for everyone), I remember frequently seeing a boldly decorated Chiquita freighter transiting a bay in southeastern Cuba in the late 1960s - though why I was there in the first place is quite another story - but I was puzzled because of rumors about the Chiquita corporation's flawed involvement in the Bay of Pigs invasion only a few years earlier (with which I had absolutely no involvement).

Dan Koeppel's Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World explores these and other banana republic stories, and, at the same time, it peels away the myths and mysteries so that readers can thoroughly understand exactly where the banana came from - perhaps the Garden of Eden as some ancient texts suggest - and where it is going as scientists in high-tech labs and agricultural research facilities are engaged in a race to save the world's most beloved but threatened fruit.

Having tried and enjoyed over twenty different kinds of bananas in five continents, author Dan Koeppel is a thorough researcher and an entertaining writer. He is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir To See Every Bird on Earth, and his stories have appeared in National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Audubon, and Popular Science magazines. Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World is, hands down, Koeppel's most engaging and highly readable effort. Enjoy!

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