The book discussed in this review is Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal written by Eric Schlosser. The book was published on January 17, 2001, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), a publishing company that specializes in publishing instructional materials such as textbooks, based in Boston, Massachusetts. The copy being reviewed here was the first edition book.
The specific topic of this book was about the fast-food industry, focused mostly in the United States. This book is trying to show the variety of negative effects that fast food has on the general populous and specific groups. The book does so by uncovering the dark truths of the industry, some of which include: corporate greed, unsanitary conditions, and criminally low wages. The target audience and readership seems to be the average American reader/news viewer. Since Eric Schlosser is an investigative journalist and an author, it shows that this book was intended to be an eye-opener for the public. The book began as a two-part article in the magazine, Rolling Stone, one of the biggest magazines in America. It also feels as if the book was written like a long expose news story because of the way it covers every aspect of the rise of the fast-food industry. It starts with the rise of the industry and covers everything from bureaucracy to the production of American potatoes. Since the discussed sub-topics of the book are so broad, they can easily engage many groups of people. Informing the public seems to be the Journalism that Schlosser has been fond of. He has written investigative prices for different news organizations, written books on the Marijuana industry, Nuclear weapons and is currently working on a new book about the American prison system. Fast Food Nation was also adapted into a 2006 film, with the same name.
The book is split into two parts: ‘The American Way’ and ‘Meat and Potatoes’. Of those two parts, the book is split into ten chapters. The first part of the book covers the history of fast food in America. This includes how some of the country’s favorite fast food joints, like McDonald's and Burger King came to be such big players in the industry. That includes: how the restaurants market and appeal their food to us, their expansion into smaller communities and the ever-growing amounts of strip malls containing these restaurants. The second part of the book details the process of production in the United States. Predominantly potato production in Idaho and a meatpacking facility in Nebraska. The second part of the book also describes the experiences of people who have had meat from fast food restaurants contaminated with E. Coli and other bacteria.
The thesis would seem to be that fast food restaurants are harming not only the health and wellbeing of American’s but is also harmful to the economy. Schlosser shows a clear bias against the fast-food industry. He views them as changing the landscape of consumerism in America. Eating fast food is quickly becoming the norm all over the country. This is due to their expansion into small towns combined with low prices causes small businesses to shut down and low-income families solely relying on fast food to feed their families.
Fast Food Nation does an excellent job using material and evidence to prove Schlosser’s thesis. The book sets the stage for the thesis to be presented by showing the historical data of fast food in America. By doing that, the significance of the issue Schlosser is trying to address becomes worth reading and discussing. Since the book was meant to be a work of investigative journalism, large portions of the evidence being presented is based on Schlosser’s own research and findings. For example, visiting
Colorado Springs, Colorado and speaking to Elisa Zamot about her experiences working minimum wage at McDonald's or meeting Hank, a family man with a desire to make a profit without making a killing the opportunities for another small-business owner. This display of evidence is effective because it gives you clear cut examples of why fast food was hurting the country. You don't have to take the author's word, but you can take the word of an average American who is affected. A book about the fast-food industry would need to examine statistics to be able to prove the thesis the author is making. Stats are mostly black and white, and cannot be twisted away from the truth. They are used appropriately by Schlosser, as well. They are mostly used to show the health risks of eating fast food and the growth of some of the biggest restaurants in America. A quick example would be that today 9% percent of teenagers' daily caloric intake comes from soft drinks. That is just one example of statistics that Schlosser would use to further evidence supporting his thesis. The book also references studies and other works of writing, oftentimes to cite a stat that is being used. One thing the book lacks is perspective from the people Schlosser is critiquing. When Schlosser describes the points of defense that the industries in America use, he mostly quotes them and does not choose to interview the companies themselves. The problem in doing this is that quotes can be skewed and taken out of context to solely fit the narrative the author is trying to make. Overall the use of other materials is done well, considering the amount of material required for a book like this.
As mentioned earlier, the book is biased against the fast-food industry, but nearly every book that is trying to prove a point will be biased in its favor. Understanding where Schlosser's bias may originate from can be examined based on his personal views, education, and career. He studied History at Princeton University and British Imperial History at Oxford University in England. He began working for The Atlantic Monthly in Boston, Massachusetts. Schlosser's other works include Reefer Madness (2003), a book supporting the decriminalization of marijuana and Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety (2013) a book about the history of nuclear weapons systems in the United States. Though Schlosser’s writings are very politically biased, he doesn’t seem to be very opinionated outside the pages of his books. Labeling a book like Fast Food Nation as “liberal” or “conservative” seems like a difficult task. Schlosser seems to be more of a realist that is concerned mostly with informing rather than implementing his views, a trait that is very commendable for a writer. When Schlosser makes an expose like this, it is not being done because he has a personal bone to pick with the fast-food industry, but because he cares about what is happening to the people of his nation, and wants to deliver the truth.
The strengths of the book come from his honest journalism that he does whenever he is trying to persuade his reader, something that is becoming increasingly scarce in today’s political climate. As already mentioned, he does his investigation and is only working to prove the thesis played out in his books. All the evidence used in the book to prove the author’s thesis was all proven to be factual and therefore add credibility to the author's writings. The fast-food industry may seem like the concerns against it is straight forward but this book took you to places you may not have even known about before. What stuck out to me the most, would be all the facts and statistics used. Some of the stats that you learn about almost seem made up, that’s how shocking they are. The main weakness of the novel would be the lack of opposing views in the book. Schlosser could have benefitted from bringing an individual associated with the industry. They could have exchanged their ideas, and would have made for an interesting segment within the book.
Fast Food Nation delivers in showing the reader “the dark side” of the all American meal. In doing so, Schlosser created a book that accomplished its goals of being a public display of the effects of fast food in the country. Schlosser being a journalist, maybe have even written the book knowing that he would have been able to have a large outreach and make a positive change, by proving the risks with supporting the fast-food industry. Just based on how thorough the book was with its evidence, it is safe to say that Schlosser did accomplish in proving the thesis of the novel. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in news and politics. I think it would make for an interesting read, and they would learn something new.