“The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King” by Rich Cohen retells the story of one of the most prominent figures of the 20th century and his journey towards success. This book reveals many characteristics that fit the description of a man working towards his own idea of the “American Dream” by taking over one of the most powerful fruit distributors in North America. 

Samuel Zemurray is the man who single-handedly overtook the company, United Fruit, hence the name, “The Fish That Ate the Whale.”

Even though Zemurray found success that would later one day inspire others, he did not travel down an easy road. This book reveals the good and bad in Zemurray.  The book shows Zemurray’s refusal to take no for an answer, an important trait for those striving for success.

When Zemurrary was 14, he found himself on American shores with almost next to nothing. But by the end of his story, he died one of the wealthiest men in New Orleans and a prominent figure in Central America.

Rich Cohen described him as a man who wanted to know everything there is to know about the banana business. By the end of his career, Zemurray had worked in every possible position in the banana trade. He started out as a fruit peddler and finished as the front man of United Fruit.

He challenged Central American governments that were threatening his business. He challenged competitors by driving them out of business, and he didn’t stop working until there was nothing left to conquer.

It was this type of thinking, the type that nobody else thought possible, that benefited Zemurray in the long run. Throughout his career, Zemurray modified his thinking for different situations to help ensure continual success of his banana project.  

From the time he woke up in the morning to when he would go to sleep at night, he did not stop. That’s what makes this story so incredible.  In reading this book, people can have rich ideas of what it must have been like to be Samuel Zemurray and lead the life that he pursued in order to find his own American Dream.

One of the reasons this is such a remarkable story is that like many other instances, Zemurrary’s success was not guaranteed. He had the drive, the guts, and the passion to take risks, which in a nutshell, was the foundation for his success.

Even though he knew what he was doing, everything could be ruined at any moment depending on the market, other companies trying to run him out of business, or simply the fact that he just couldn’t ship his bananas out in a timely manner. He took risks because he knew that by doing so, he could achieve profound success.

Rich Cohen is known for his extensive work in journalism including being an editor at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone.  He has written seven books and has emerged as a New York Times best-selling author. His ability to make writing flow in a fun, inspirational way only helps enforce the message he tries to send people in his books. Cohen has the unique ability to make his characters and story come alive in a way that allows his readers to want more. Some of his top works in addition to “The Fish That Ate the Whale” include “Tough Jews” and “Israel Is Real.”

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