Author: Dan Koeppel
Release Date: 2007-12-27
Genre: Business & Economics
Read Dan Koeppel's posts on the Penguin Blog. A gripping biological detective story that uncovers the myth, mystery, and endangered fate of the world’s most humble fruit To most people, a banana is a banana: a simple yellow fruit. Americans eat more bananas than apples and oranges combined. In others parts of the world, bananas are what keep millions of people alive. But for all its ubiquity, the banana is surprisingly mysterious; nobody knows how bananas evolved or exactly where they originated. Rich cultural lore surrounds the fruit: In ancient translations of the Bible, the “apple” consumed by Eve is actually a banana (it makes sense, doesn’t it?). Entire Central American nations have been said to rise and fall over the banana. But the biggest mystery about the banana today is whether it will survive. A seedless fruit with a unique reproductive system, every banana is a genetic duplicate of the next, and therefore susceptible to the same blights. Today’s yellow banana, the Cavendish, is increasingly threatened by such a blight—and there’s no cure in sight. Banana combines a pop-science journey around the globe, a fascinating tale of an iconic American business enterprise, and a look into the alternately tragic and hilarious banana subculture (one does exist)—ultimately taking us to the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes, in a race to save the world’s most beloved fruit.
Author: Peter Chapman
Publisher: Open Road + Grove/Atlantic
Release Date: 2014-03-04
Genre: Business & Economics
In this compelling history of the United Fruit Company, Financial Times writer Peter Chapman weaves a dramatic tale of big business, deceit, and violence, exploring the origins of arguably one of the most controversial global corporations ever, and the ways in which their pioneering example set the precedent for the institutionalized greed of today’s multinational companies. The story has its source in United Fruit’s nineteenth-century beginnings in the jungles of Costa Rica. What follows is a damning examination of the company’s policies: from the marketing of the banana as the first fast food, to the company’s involvement in an invasion of Honduras, a massacre in Colombia, and a bloody coup in Guatemala. Along the way the company fostered covert links with U.S. power brokers such as Richard Nixon and CIA operative Howard Hunt, manipulated the press in new, and stoked the revolutionary ire of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. From the exploited banana republics of Central America to the concrete jungle of New York City, Peter Chapman’s Bananas is a lively and insightful cultural history of the coveted yellow fruit, as well as a gripping narrative about the infamous rise and fall of the United Fruit Company.
What drives a man to travel to sixty countries and spend a fortune to count birds? And what if that man is your father? Richard Koeppel’s obsession began at age twelve, in Queens, New York, when he first spotted a Brown Thrasher, and jotted the sighting in a notebook. Several decades, one failed marriage, and two sons later, he set out to see every bird on earth, becoming a member of a subculture of competitive bird watchers worldwide all pursuing the same goal. Over twenty-five years, he collected over seven thousand species, becoming one of about ten people ever to do so. To See Every Bird on Earth explores the thrill of this chase, a crusade at the expense of all else—for the sake of making a check in a notebook. A riveting glimpse into a fascinating subculture, the book traces the love, loss, and reconnection between a father and son, and explains why birds are so critical to the human search for our place in the world. “Marvelous. I loved just about everything about this book.”—Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman “A lovingly told story . . . helps you understand what moves humans to seek escape in seemingly strange other worlds.”—Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak “Everyone has his or her addiction, and birdwatching is the drug of choice for the father of author Dan Koeppel, who writes affectionately but honestly about his father’s obsession.”—Audubon Magazine (editor’s choice) “As a glimpse into human behavior and family relationships, To See Every Bird on Earth is a rarity: a book about birding that nonbirders will find just as rewarding.”—Chicago Tribune
The potato chip has been one of America’s favorite snacks since its accidental origin in a nineteenth-century kitchen. Crunch! A History of the Great American Potato Chip tells the story of this crispy, salty treat, from the early sales of locally made chips at corner groceries, county fairs, and cafes to the mass marketing and corporate consolidation of the modern snack food industry. Crunch! also uncovers a dark side of potato chip history, including a federal investigation of the snack food industry in the 1990s following widespread allegations of antitrust activity, illegal buyouts, and predatory pricing. In the wake of these “Great Potato Chip Wars,” corporate snack divisions closed and dozens of family-owned companies went bankrupt. Yet, despite consolidation, many small chippers persist into the twenty-first century, as mom-and-pop companies and upstart “boutique” businesses serve both new consumers and markets with strong regional loyalties. Illustrated with images of early snack food paraphernalia and clever packaging from the glory days of American advertising art, Crunch! is an informative tour of large and small business in America and the vicissitudes of popular tastes. Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Outstanding Book, selected by the Public Library Association
Author: Marcelo Bucheli
Publisher: NYU Press
Release Date: 2005-02-01
Genre: Business & Economics
For well over a century, the United Fruit Company (UFCO) has been the most vilified multinational corporation operating in Latin America. Criticism of the UFCO has been widespread, ranging from politicians to consumer activists, and from labor leaders to historians, all portraying it as an overwhelmingly powerful corporation that shaped and often exploited its host countries. In this first history of the UFCO in Colombia, Marcelo Bucheli argues that the UFCO's image as an all-powerful force in determining national politics needs to be reconsidered. Using a previously unexplored source—the internal archives of Colombia's UFCO operation—Bucheli reveals that before 1930, the UFCO worked alongside a business-friendly government that granted it generous concessions and repressed labor unionism. After 1930, however, the country experienced dramatic transformations including growing nationalism, a stronger labor movement, and increasing demands by local elites for higher stakes in the banana export business. In response to these circumstances, the company abandoned production, selling its plantations (and labor conflicts) to local growers, while transforming itself into a marketing company. The shift was endorsed by the company's shareholders and financial analysts, who preferred lower profits with lower risks, and came at a time in which the demand for bananas was decreasing in America. Importantly, Bucheli shows that the effect of foreign direct investment was not unidirectional. Instead, the agency of local actors affected corporate strategy, just as the UFCO also transformed local politics and society.
Author: Jason M. Colby
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Release Date: 2011-10-27
The link between private corporations and U.S. world power has a much longer history than most people realize. Transnational firms such as the United Fruit Company represent an earlier stage of the economic and cultural globalization now taking place throughout the world. Drawing on a wide range of archival sources in the United States, Great Britain, Costa Rica, and Guatemala, Colby combines "top-down" and "bottom-up" approaches to provide new insight into the role of transnational capital, labor migration, and racial nationalism in shaping U.S. expansion into Central America and the greater Caribbean. The Business of Empire places corporate power and local context at the heart of U.S. imperial history. In the early twentieth century, U.S. influence in Central America came primarily in the form of private enterprise, above all United Fruit. Founded amid the U.S. leap into overseas empire, the company initially depended upon British West Indian laborers. When its black workforce resisted white American authority, the firm adopted a strategy of labor division by recruiting Hispanic migrants. This labor system drew the company into increased conflict with its host nations, as Central American nationalists denounced not only U.S. military interventions in the region but also American employment of black immigrants. By the 1930s, just as Washington renounced military intervention in Latin America, United Fruit pursued its own Good Neighbor Policy, which brought a reduction in its corporate colonial power and a ban on the hiring of black immigrants. The end of the company's system of labor division in turn pointed the way to the transformation of United Fruit as well as the broader U.S. empire.
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 vailable in supermarkets. Gollner explores the political machinations of multinational fruit corporations, exposing the hidden alliances between agribusiness and government and what that means for public health. He traces the life of mass-produced fruits – how they are created, grown, and marketed, and he explores the underworld of fruits that are inaccessible, ignored, and even forbidden in the Western world. Gollner draws readers into a Willy Wonka-like world with mangoes that taste like piña coladas, orange cloudberries, peanut butter fruits, and the miracle fruit that turns everything sour sweet, making lemons taste like lemonade. Peopled with a varied and bizarre cast of characters – from smugglers to explorers to inventors – this extraordinary book unveils the hidden universe of fruit. From the Hardcover edition.
When Julie Angus visits her relatives in Syria, where they continue a centuries-old tradition of making olive oil, she understands that the olive is at the very core of who they are. Her curiosity piqued, she begins to wonder about the origins and history of this fruit that has meant so much to them. Angus, her husband, and their ten-month-old son embark on a Mediterranean voyage to retrace the route of the Phoenicians and discover who ate the first olive and learned to make oil from it, why it became such an influential commodity for many of the greatest civilizations, and how it expanded from its earliest roots in the Middle East. As they sail the dazzling waters of the Mediterranean, Angus and her husband collect samples from ancient trees, testing them to determine where the first olive tree originated. They also feast on inky black tapenades in Cassis, nibble on codfish and chickpeas creamed in olive oil in Sardinia, witness the harvesting of olives in Greece, and visit perhaps the oldest olive tree in the world, on Crete.
Author: Richard Manning
Publisher: North Point Press
Release Date: 2005-02-01
In this provocative, wide-ranging book, Against the Grain, Richard Manning offers a dramatically revisionist view of recent human evolution, beginning with the vast increase in brain size that set us apart from our primate relatives and brought an accompanying increase in our need for nourishment. For 290,000 years, we managed to meet that need as hunter-gatherers, a state in which Manning believes we were at our most human: at our smartest, strongest, most sensually alive. But our reliance on food made a secure supply deeply attractive, and eventually we embarked upon the agricultural experiment that has been the history of our past 10,000 years. The evolutionary road is littered with failed experiments, however, and Manning suggests that agriculture as we have practiced it runs against both our grain and nature's. Drawing on the work of anthropologists, biologists, archaeologists, and philosophers, along with his own travels, he argues that not only our ecological ills-overpopulation, erosion, pollution-but our social and emotional malaise are rooted in the devil's bargain we made in our not-so-distant past. And he offers personal, achievable ways we might re-contour the path we have taken to resurrect what is most sustainable and sustaining in our own nature and the planet's.
Filled with anecdotes and fascinating information, "a spicy read indeed." (Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed the World) The perfect companion to Mark Kurlansky's Salt: A World History, Pepper illuminates the rich history of pepper for a popular audience. Vivid and entertaining, it describes the part pepper played in bringing the Europeans, and later the Americans, to Asia and details the fascinating encounters they had there. As Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds, said, "After reading Marjorie Shaffer's Pepper, you'll reconsider the significance of that grinder or shaker on your dining room table. The pursuit of this wizened berry with the bite changed history in ways you've never dreamed, involving extraordinary voyages, international trade, exotic locales, exploitation, brutality, disease, extinctions, and rebellions, and featuring a set of remarkable characters." From the abundance of wildlife on the islands of the Indian Ocean, which the Europeans used as stepping stones to India and the East Indies, to colorful accounts of the sultan of Banda Aceh entertaining his European visitors with great banquets and elephant fights, this fascinating book reveals the often surprising story behind one of mankind's most common spices.
Author: John Soluri
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Release Date: 2009-03-06
Bananas, the most frequently consumed fresh fruit in the United States, have been linked to Miss Chiquita and Carmen Miranda, "banana republics," and Banana Republic clothing stores—everything from exotic kitsch, to Third World dictatorships, to middle-class fashion. But how did the rise in banana consumption in the United States affect the banana-growing regions of Central America? In this lively, interdisciplinary study, John Soluri integrates agroecology, anthropology, political economy, and history to trace the symbiotic growth of the export banana industry in Honduras and the consumer mass market in the United States. Beginning in the 1870s when bananas first appeared in the U.S. marketplace, Soluri examines the tensions between the small-scale growers, who dominated the trade in the early years, and the shippers. He then shows how rising demand led to changes in production that resulted in the formation of major agribusinesses, spawned international migrations, and transformed great swaths of the Honduran environment into monocultures susceptible to plant disease epidemics that in turn changed Central American livelihoods. Soluri also looks at labor practices and workers' lives, changing gender roles on the banana plantations, the effects of pesticides on the Honduran environment and people, and the mass marketing of bananas to consumers in the United States. His multifaceted account of a century of banana production and consumption adds an important chapter to the history of Honduras, as well as to the larger history of globalization and its effects on rural peoples, local economies, and biodiversity.
The fascinating story of the most powerful source of energy the earth can yield Uranium is a common element in the earth's crust and the only naturally occurring mineral with the power to end all life on the planet. After World War II, it reshaped the global order-whoever could master uranium could master the world. Marie Curie gave us hope that uranium would be a miracle panacea, but the Manhattan Project gave us reason to believe that civilization would end with apocalypse. Slave labor camps in Africa and Eastern Europe were built around mine shafts and America would knowingly send more than six hundred uranium miners to their graves in the name of national security. Fortunes have been made from this yellow dirt; massive energy grids have been run from it. Fear of it panicked the American people into supporting a questionable war with Iraq and its specter threatens to create another conflict in Iran. Now, some are hoping it can help avoid a global warming catastrophe. In Uranium, Tom Zoellner takes readers around the globe in this intriguing look at the mineral that can sustain life or destroy it.
Author: Barbara Freese
Publisher: Basic Books
Release Date: 2016-02-09
In this remarkable book, Barbara Freese takes us on a rich historical journey that begins hundreds of millions of years ago and spans the globe. Prized as “the best stone in Britain” by Roman invaders who carved jewelry out of it, coal has transformed societies, launched empires, and expanded frontiers. It made China an eleventh-century superpower, inspired the Communist Manifesto, and helped the North win the American Civil War. Yet coal's transformative power has come at tremendous cost, from the blackening of our lungs and skies, to the perils of mining, to global warming. Now updated with a new chapter describing the high-stakes conflict between coal's defenders and those working to preserve a livable climate, Coal offers a captivating history of the mineral that helped build the modern world but now endangers our future.