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Oranges (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

John McPhee
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 Feb 2000 Penguin Modern Classics
First published in 1966 and now in the PENGUIN MODERN CLASSICS series, this book gives both a history of humanity's love for the fruit and a wonderful picture of Florida, a state transformed from dreary barrenness to one vast orange grove by the world's insatiable demand for orange juice.


Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (24 Feb 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141182032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141182032
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,373,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful novel of the orange through history 29 Jan 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
You might think that a whole book on oranges was just too much, but I read this book as eagerly as if it was a mystery and I couldn't wait to see what was on the next page. It is worth reading for the writing alone, as McPhee's style brings the groves to life and makes you laugh aloud at times with subtle humor.
In addition to describing the origin of oranges, their cultivation and rising popularity from when the Hesperides would watch them to the present of the book (1967), he explains how it came to be that most of us have orange juice for breakfast. There is some very interesting science in the book as well, and it seems quite thorough in every respect (after all, it is an entire book on oranges!). There are some excellent character descriptions of the original settlers and orange barons as well: "The Indians hated Russell and always had. One of them fired at him and nicked him the arm. Feeling pain that night, Russell went into the boat's cabin and groped in the dark for a bottle of salve. Picking up a bottle of ink by mistake, he poured it over his arm. When the sun came up, he thought he had gangrene. The others knew that it was ink, but they thought even less of Russell than the Indians did, and they said nothing." It is a must-read for anyone who is traveling to FL and wants to know more about the real FL and less about theme-parks!
The only disappointment might be for those who live in California, as although CA oranges are given a place, the main focus is on FL.
A great read!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pulp non-fiction (well maybe) by John McPhee. 18 Jun 2004
By bernie VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Be sure to take advantage of Amazons Inside function to see how good this book can be.
John McPhee, born and raised in Princeton, once again intrigues us with his tales of "citrus." He took what was supposed to be an article on oranges and expanded it into a book. He covers everything you want to know and then some. Under history he will remind you not to let any females sit in you tree. Some of the subjects are history, how to grow, and how to market oranges. He touches on grapefruit also.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very easy book to read 13 July 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I thought an entire book about oranges would be pretty boring, but I found myself staying up until 2 in the morning reading this book. I found this book very interesting and very easy to read. McPhee does a wonderful job researching his topic.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  43 reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Succulent botany and history lesson 11 Mar 2005
By E. A. Lovitt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Oranges" (1967) was Pulitzer-prize-winning author John McPhee's third book and it begins simply 'in medias res' -- as a pungent celebration of oranges and orange juice. This is a mouth-watering introduction to the different types of oranges, and how various humans consume them. Then, in the following chapter the author takes us to the geographical heart of his story in a Florida orange grove.

All is not sweetness and orange juice in this book, which was written when LBJ was President. Frozen orange juice concentrate was make large inroads into the fresh orange market, much to McPhee's dismay. He stopped at a Florida Welcome Station on his way into the state, and was given "a three-ounce cup of reconstituted concentrate." The motel where he stayed also served reconstituted orange juice so McPhee finally had to buy himself a plastic orange reamer and a knife, and pick his own oranges from a nearby grove.

We meet the 'Orange Men' in the following chapter and learn the details of the citrus-growing industry. You might think this is the boring bit, but nothing McPhee writes is ever boring. Pomologists are an eccentric lot, most of them migrants to Florida from cold places like Kansas, Minnesota, and Great Britain. At the time this book was written, Englishman William Grierson, Ph.D, a former officer in the Royal Air Force, was "trying to keep growers and shippers interested in fresh fruit...despite the tidal rise of concentrate." He considered himself "the leader of His Majesty's loyal opposition."

We also learn from Grierson that, "a citrus fruit is, botanically, a berry" and "The sex life of citrus is something fantastic." (Citrus is so genetically perverse that oranges can grow from lime seeds.) By this part of the book you will be up to your ears in sweet and bitter oranges, grapefruits, lemons, tangerines, limequats, citrons, and Persian Limes. If you haven't already run out to the kitchen for a citrus fix, you're made of sterner stuff than I am.

McPhee wanders (as only he can) through the history of citrus, the orangeries of European nobility, the Indian River orange groves, the production of reconstituted orange juice, and throws in a riff on Minute Maid and the old-time orange barons. Go ahead, settle down and drink in this author's delicious prose. His books are much more satisfying than novels.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful novel of the orange through history 29 Jan 1998
By Mary P. Reeve - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
You might think that a whole book on oranges was just too much, but I read this book as eagerly as if it was a mystery and I couldn't wait to see what was on the next page. It is worth reading for the writing alone, as McPhee's style brings the groves to life and makes you laugh aloud at times with subtle humor.
In addition to describing the origin of oranges, their cultivation and rising popularity from when the Hesperides would watch them to the present of the book (1967), he explains how it came to be that most of us have orange juice for breakfast. There is some very interesting science in the book as well, and it seems quite thorough in every respect (after all, it is an entire book on oranges!). There are some excellent character descriptions of the original settlers and orange barons as well: "The Indians hated Russell and always had. One of them fired at him and nicked him the arm. Feeling pain that night, Russell went into the boat's cabin and groped in the dark for a bottle of salve. Picking up a bottle of ink by mistake, he poured it over his arm. When the sun came up, he thought he had gangrene. The others knew that it was ink, but they thought even less of Russell than the Indians did, and they said nothing." It is a must-read for anyone who is traveling to FL and wants to know more about the real FL and less about theme-parks!
The only disappointment might be for those who live in California, as although CA oranges are given a place, the main focus is on FL.
A great read!
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good & good for you 6 Dec 2002
By John Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Every time someone asks me about John McPhee (I am, I admit a total fan) I find myself saying "Look, Here is a guy who can take a subject like, say ORANGES, and make it fascinating." This is the book where he does just that. I gather that ORANGES started out as a short magazine piece & like so many of McPhee's books became an obsession. Here we can get the history, the ecology, the landscape of orange groves along with discussions of the effects of oranges and orange growing on both the culture and the surroundings, all in McPhee's eminently readable prose. This is a fast read about a subject that you probably haven't though much about, but you will walk away from this book not only better informed about the fruit but also taken with the infinite possibility of the wonder that can be found in what seem to be every-day things.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like the fruit itself, delicious 27 Feb 2006
By Bruce Banner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For twenty years I have given this book to recent high school graduates, carefully inscribing each book to encourage them to see what McPhee reveals here.

What he reveals most vividly is the idea that there is no such thing as an uninteresting subject; there is only an uninterested reader.

What also impressed me, decades ago, was the notion of connectedness, and the idea that one thing-an orange, a diamond, iron, oil, lead-could reveal everything about our world.

Finally, he deserves five stars because he never gets in the way of his subject, and he has moments of such brilliance-his devotional to Otto, the restauranteur, still ranks as a great moment in writing, fiction or non-that everyone should read him.

My favorite of a shelfull of McPhees, with the Headmaster in a virtual dead heat.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing, full of surprises 7 Feb 2002
By hassnick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read this book based on the other glowing Amazon recommendations and my past experiences with John McPhee. I got everything I expected, and then some.
Like many of his books, McPhee succeeds in distilling somtimes complex--seemingly dry--concepts (tree grafting, juice concentration, etc.) into fascinating subjects. Who would have thought that a book about oranges would be a page-turner?!
This is a slim volume (I read it in two sittings), and one worth reading. Indeed, you'll never drink your morning OJ quite the same way agian.
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