The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession is full of exotic, unknown fruit, and I mean unknown, not mere dragon fruit, rambutan, or durian, but goji, kalmon, and mohobo-hobo. Unfortunately, while the book displays pleasing botanical drawings of various fruit trees along each section head, there are no pictures of these rarities, even as the author bends over backward to describe their stunning taste.
And while the author knows how to meander around the world and a variety of topics, he can linger too long. Case in point: it may good to know about crazy frutarians, but after a while they just sound like any other obsessive types. I would also dispense with the standard lament of the food industry’s depriving consumers of good-tasting fruit. Surely if consumers demand something else than cardboard, the industry will deliver. I may live in paradise (I do live in California, which is surely close to paradise when it comes to fruit) but I see that my local fruit-and-vegetable shop is starting to promote apples and apricots grown by specific particular local growers (tomatoes, too, which are technically fruit as well) — and customers are responding. If we could educate everyone to look for taste and not just looks, we can change the way fruit is marketed.
The premise of Queen Sugar is that a young African-American woman who lives in Los Angeles unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane plantation in Louisiana from her father. Upon moving there, the single mother, moving in with her elderly grandmother, discovers that the plantation is a mess and other planters not especially friendly. Add in a wayward half-brother and all the stereotypes of the South, dysfunctional families, and heroic rescues come together for the ball (and a hurricane, too!)
Perhaps Wendy Lesser has a point. There are lots of books that are, well, mediocre. Exhibit A: After Her, which strains to recreate the frisson of a (real) serial killer’s spree, although to be fair it paints a sweet picture of a loving detective-father’s relationship with his daughters. The plucky heroine could not save it for me. I recommend Labor Day instead (the book).
How can I not enjoy a book that states, in its second paragraph, the obvious truth that reading is a compulsion? (Hello, fellow addicts!) Because Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books should perhaps be renamed “The Pleasure of Serious Books, as determined by the author, who may well enjoy a mystery book or two but let’s face it, will only consider Literature with a capital “L” as worth our time an investment”. Perhaps that title was a little long? But alas it seems to be a love fest for Literature majors, who not only read and enjoyed The Brothers Karamazov, but also remember the plot and each character’s name, and enjoy dissecting the plot thirty years afterwards. I plead forgetfulness, and the difficulty of Russian names, and general ennui with the whole concept of dissection — and I feel just a little left out and put out when the dissection occurs without the quick summary that may help the non-cognoscenti follow along.
Perhaps the whole point is to exclude those who have not read the recommended 100 books that appear in appendix, and those who intend to read outside the list.