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Coconut- How The Shy Fruit Shaped Our World

Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | English Non-fiction

Coconut- How The Shy Fruit Shaped Our World

Author: Robin Laurance
Publisher: Niyogi Books

Award Category: English Non-fiction
About the Book: 

Coconuts have been around for longer than Homo sapiens; they have been turned into art, taken part in religious rituals and been a sign of wealth and success. They have saved lives, not only by providing nourishment, but also as part of the charcoal filters in first World War gas masks. It was coconuts that triggered the mutiny on the bounty, and coconuts that saved the life of the man who went on to become the 35th President of the United States. The coconut has long been the unseen player in the endeavours of industrialists and bomb makers, physicians and silversmiths, smugglers and snake charmers. To this day, coconuts shape the lives of people around the world. At a time when coconut products crowd the shelves of supermarkets, health food shops and beauty salons, Robin laurance looks beyond the oils and health drinks to uncover the unexpected, often surprising, and vital roles played by the coconut palm and its nut in times past and present.

About the Author: 

Robin Laurance is a writer and photographer whose work has been widely published in newspapers and magazines, both in the UK and in America. He began his career with The Guardian newspaper in London before turning freelance and contributing to The Times, The Sunday Times, The New York Times, Washington Post, Business Week and Forbes magazine. His previous books include Just What I Always Wanted! (Quercus), The Millennium Generation and Portrait of Islam (both Thames & Hudson). Reviewing a previous book, the Times Educational Supplement referred to Laurance as ‘that rare breed of genuine photojournalist with a talent for telling stories in photographs and words.’.


If there’s one thing readers and coconut lovers should take away from reading your book, what should it be?

I think it is worth considering the much larger part the coconut has played and continues to play in our lives when what we know are the usual things like cooking with the oil and the milk, drinking the water, and treating our skin with creams based on the oil. The consumer products giant Unilever was built on the backs of coconuts; we use coconuts to manufacture soap and to construct life-saving gas masks. The coconut palm provides hundreds of thousands of jobs across South and South-east Asia. The nut saved the life of the man destined to become the 35th president of the United States (John F. Kennedy). India is the main source for coir. During WWII, American GI’s were given coconut bars as part of their rations. All this and more, and yet only now with this book has the shy coconut been brought out into the open.

– Robin Laurence in

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