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The Fish That Ate the Whale

The Life and Times of America's Banana King
Written by: Rich Cohen
Narrated by: Robertson Dean
Length: 9 hrs and 1 min
4.6 out of 5 stars (40 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

When Samuel Zemurray arrived in America in 1891, he was tall, gangly, and penniless. When he died in the grandest house in New Orleans 69 years later, he was among the richest, most powerful men in the world. In between, he worked as a fruit peddler, banana hauler, dockside hustler, and plantation owner. He battled and conquered the United Fruit Company, becoming a symbol of the best and worst of the United States: proof America is the land of opportunity, but also a classic example of the corporate pirate who treats foreign nations as the backdrop for his adventures. Starting with nothing but a cart of freckled bananas, he built a sprawling empire of banana cowboys, mercenary soldiers, Honduran peasants, CIA agents, and American statesmen.

©2012 Rich Cohen (P)2012 Dreamscape Media, LLC

What the critics say

"This is popular history and biography at its best, making for an easy verdict: This book will appeal strongly to lay readers and scholars alike. Highly recommended to all." ( Library Journal)
"...it is nearly impossible to put the book down, and that's something you don't say about a lot of biographies - and especially biographies of businessmen. For anyone who enjoys a good life story, this one is an absolute must-read." ( Booklist)

What listeners say about The Fish That Ate the Whale

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Really interesting short biography

I've never been that interested in the fruit trade, but I picked this one up on Ryan Holiday's recommendation and got sucked in from the first page. It's a true story but reads like a novel. Pick up this book.

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  • mikemccann3
  • 2017-08-11

Incredible story about the banana man

The story of Sam Zemurray was fascinating. I had no idea who he was until I heard about this book when it was recommended to me. Amazing tale of how he got started, his hustle, his demise, and the entire build up of the banana industry.

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  • Alison Willette
  • 2017-07-10

a whale of a story

one of the best agricultural history books I have listened to. I'm glad that the author didn't try to make Zamarie out to be a hero. he did a great job of being able to show both sides of the coin. the narrator was clear and took good pauses. I was surprised buy how interesting the narrator was able to make this book. I probably could have sat all the way through it in one sitting if I'd had the time. It was that good.

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  • Jonathan Gheller
  • 2019-10-08

An amazing life story superbly written

An amazing life story superbly written. A biography that is also a commentary on America, Capitalism and Judaism

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  • Sean
  • 2016-06-13

Fun business and history.

Fun mix of business and history. The author treats the history with truth and humor. He presents all the information well and explains any biases he may have. Who knew a banana company could have such a torrid background?

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  • Justin & Lindsay
  • 2016-06-09

Great lessons in this book

What a great book with so many hidden lessons I recommend it for sure thanks

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  • Pete Popovich
  • 2020-07-07

Incredible story and excellent writing

Mr Cohen tells the amazing story of “The Banana Man”, but he also deftly weaves important American and world history into the story. Outstanding writing!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-08-30

Underrated

This book is incredibly well written and performed fantastically. With life lessons like those included, this should be taught in schools!

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  • Danielle Vincent
  • 2020-08-30

I’m on my 3rd listen

One of the greatest biographies I have read (and I am a biography junkie). Zamurray was a complicated man dedicated completely to his business, at all costs. I enjoyed reading how he built his empire at all costs.

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  • Ryan
  • 2020-08-09

Sometimes real life is better than fiction..

Sometimes someone's real life is better than the best fiction, this is one of those times.

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  • Carl L.
  • 2020-06-24

Underrated

An amazing story of a man who happened to the world rather than letting the world happen to him.