A discussion of the best-selling Fast Food Nation book and food production in America.
Just prior to the initial release of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal, a representative of the book's publisher, Houghton Mifflin, told Publisher's Weekly the company had ordered a large first printing of the book (while declining to say exactly how big). Houghton Mifflin seemed a little overly optimistic given Nation was Eric Schlosser's first book attempt and the book was about an industry whose success was based in blandness.
Then the first printing of the Fast Food Nation book sold out. And then the second printing did, too. And then the third . . .
A year and a half and roughly 300,000 copies later, Nation has been unanimously declared the biggest surprise nonfiction bestseller of the century.
In the afterword to the paperback edition, Schlosser chalks up Nation's popularity to timing. "Its success should not be attributed to my literary style, my storytelling ability or to the novelty of my arguments . . . Not just in the United States but throughout Western Europe, people are beginning to question the massive, homogenizing systems that produce, distribute and market their food."
All humility aside, Schlosser's thorough reporting and compelling narrative obviously made some difference. (After all, he's not the first person to assert that consolidation is bad for small farmers or that meatpacking plants abuse their largely immigrant workforce.)
But what's really fueled the book's success has been its careful examination of the process involved in making fast food so unremarkable. No element of modern American culture goes untouched. MOTHER EARTH NEws readers won't be surprised (much) by Schlosser's description of how agricultural land, food and meat quality are harmed by industrial production. But even knowledgeable readers might be surprised to learn how even the smallest children are targeted in the plans to make fast food chains indispensable to Americans.
— Sarah Beth Cavanah
To order Fast Food Nation, see MOTHER'S Bookshelf, page 104 of this issue.
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