Our Book Club community manager and nonfiction lover Ginger found this title among James Mustich’s 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die. In this slim volume, McPhee shares everything you didn’t know you wanted to know about oranges. The seemingly ubiquitous fruit is rich with history and its importance in the realms of climate, geography, economics, and nutrition will surprise you. McPhee’s engaging voice will make you feel like you took an exciting class field trip to the Florida orchards, and you’ll never look at an orange the same way again.
A classic of reportage, Oranges was first conceived as a short magazine article about oranges and orange juice, but the author kept encountering so much irresistible information that he eventually found that he had in fact written a book. It contains sketches of orange growers, orange botanists, orange pickers, orange packers, early settlers on Florida’s Indian River, the first orange barons, modern concentrate makers, and a fascinating profile of Ben Hill Griffin of Frostproof, Florida who may be the last of the individual orange barons. McPhee’s astonishing book has an almost narrative progression, is immensely readable, and is frequently amusing. Louis XIV hung tapestries of oranges in the halls of Versailles, because oranges and orange trees were the symbols of his nature and his reign. This book, in a sense, is a tapestry of oranges, too—with elements in it that range from the great orangeries of European monarchs to a custom of people in the modern Caribbean who split oranges and clean floors with them, one half in each hand.