Kurlansky, Mark. Salt: a World History. Penguin Books, 2003.
Reason read: Mark Kurlansky was born in the month of December. Read in his honor.
Salt. Everyone loves salt. Some people even crave salt. After reading Kurlansky’s book on the subject I am better versed on all things salt. I am ready for a trivia game about salt. I now know salt is associated with fertility in some cultures and that Egyptians salted their mummies before burial. I know almost no geological area is without salt. Salt has been used as a currency. There is salt in gun powder. Salt is responsible for soy sauce’s humble beginnings. The difference between creating alcohol and a pickle is salt. I never thought about how salt is the only rock people willing eat in great quantities or how every fluid in the body contains some percentage of salt. I could go on and on. Kurlansky takes his readers on a historical journey through epic wars like the American Revolution, the Civil War and beyond, all the while keeping salt as the main ingredient. You will never look at a shaker of salt the same way again.
Author fact: I have six Kurlansky titles on my Challenge List. Salt is the penultimate book left to read.
Book trivia: Salt is a best seller and chock full of photographs and illustrations. There is one photograph of bamboo piping used to carry brine. At first glance the structure looked like a rickety old wooden roller coaster ride at Coney Island.
Nancy said: Pearl said “After reading Salt you’ll never take that not-so-simple condiment for granted again” (Book Lust p 141). She’s not wrong. Pearl says a bit more, but I’ll let you discover her humor on your own.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mark Kurlansky: Too Good To Miss” (p 141). This is the penultimate book on my Challenge list.
Woops! December left us without me writing about the reading. Not sure how that happened (other than to say “life”), but anyway – here’s what was accomplished for December:
- Beth Shaw’s Yoga Fit by Beth Shaw (an Early Review book for LibraryThing)
- Cod by Mark Kurlansky
- Flashman and the Angel of the Lord by George MacDonald Fraser
- How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
- The Man Who Was Taller Than God by Harold Adams
- Ringed Castle by Dorothy Dunnett
Here’s a belated look at January 2016 (already started, as you will see):
- Flashman and the Tiger by George MacDonald Fraser (the LAST book in the series on my list)
- Always a Body to Trade by K.C. Constantine (already read in honor of January being National Mystery month. Read this in a day)
- Blue Light by Walter Mosley (already read in honor of Mosley’s birth month. Another quick read)
- Checkmate by Dorothy Dunnett (the LAST book in the Lymond Series). It bears noting I am also consulting The Prophecies by Nostradamus (translated by Richard Sieburth) while reading Checkmate.
- Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (an audio book in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January)
- Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (in honor of Nabokov’s wife, Vera. Pale Fire is dedicated to her and her birthday is in January)
- Up, into the Singing Mountain by Richard Llewellyn (to continue the series started last month).
I have been chosen to review a book about the photography of Dickey Chapelle but since it hasn’t arrived yet I can’t put it on the list. I was also chosen to review Liar by Rob Roberge, but I don’t expect that one until February.
On a personal note: December ended with writing to 12 complete strangers. I am really hoping one or two of them become pen pals.
Kurlansky, Mark. Cod: a Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.
Reason read: Mark Kurlansky was born in December.
This is a book about all things cod. Really. Beyond the historical and ecological significance of the fish there is etymology and art and music and of course, recipes. Don’t get too excited – they’re really old recipes that do not sound appetizing! As an aside, I have a student worker who is just amazed someone could write an entire book not just about fish in general, but a specific fish at that. Here’s my reply: It’s a concise book, but did you know that color of a cod fish depends on the local conditions? Also, the colder the water, the smaller the fish because cod grow faster in warmer waters. Better yet, there are fascinating tidbits not related to cod. For example, all English towns that end in “wich” were at one time salt producers. And did you know Clarence Birdseye of Brooklyn, New York held over 250 patents before his death and not all were related to the process of freezing food? But, back to the cod: let’s not forget about the historical significance this fish had on the American Revolution! Interesting, right? So, in the end one can safely say Cod is not just about the historical significance of one little fish, it’s about a way of life .
Two lines I liked, “Fishermen were keeping their secrets, while explorers were telling the world” (p 28) and “Finally, in 1902, seven years after the death of Huxley, the British government began to concede that there was such a thing as overfishing” (p 144). Imagine that.
Confessional: Mark Kurlansky prompted me to Google/YouTube the song “Saltfish” by Mighty Sparrow. I learned something new!
Author fact: Kurlansky has experience working on commercial fishing boats. Cool.
Book trivia: the physical book is one of those “feels good to hold” books and it includes great photographs & illustrations.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust and Book Lust To Go. In the chapter “Mark Kurlansky: Too Good To Miss” (p 141) in Book Lust and again in the chapter “Newfoundland” (p 154) in Book Lust To Go.
Kurlansky, Mark. Ready for a Brand New Beat: How “Dancing in the Street” Became the Anthem For a Changing America. New York: Riverhead Books, 2013.
Don’t be fooled by the title. This work is much bigger than the humble beginnings and subsequent impact of just one song. Retracing the musical roots of rhythm and blues, jazz, and rock and roll Kurlansky tackles the history of these musical genres (and the musicians who played them) and leaves no stone unturned. The best part of this book was the unveiling of the profound impact technology had on music. As technology continues to change the course of marketing music, buying music, and listening to music it is worth remembering that this trend started a long time ago.
There is one prediction I can make about this book. Whether Kurlansky intends for this to happen is another matter, but I bet people will be reaching for their old Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley albums after reading Ready for a Brand New Beat.
Favorite part: in the acknowledgments Kurlansky thanks Steve Jordan. That is too cool.
Reason read: As part of the Early Review program for LibraryThing…
Author fact: Mark Kurlansky is one of Pearl’s “Too Good To Miss” authors.
Book trivia: Kurlansky thanks drummer Steve Jordan, one of my favorites.