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Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Salt: A World History

by Mark Kurlansky

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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An entire book about salt? Is this even possible?

Mark Kurlansky pulls it off admirably in his own style, looking at human history by tracing its interaction with salt.

Salt has been a purifier, preservative, medicine, even money. Hundreds of places around the world are named for their connection to salt. Explorers made it across great oceans because of salt. Even language has been heavily impacted by salt.

This is sneakily one of the best non-fiction books ever. Kurlansky takes something we all overlook and makes us appreciate its role in our lives.

This is the book that started me reading History again. Well, maybe not the book, but certainly an important book.

More reviews at my WordPress site, Ralphsbooks. ( )
  ralphz | Jul 25, 2017 |
Food and history--one of my favorite kinds of nonfiction book. And who knew salt could be so interesting? I ended up enjoying this more than I expected, and I learned a ton about historic salt production--the use as ballast in ships, the raking, the boiling, the mining. The kinds of salted fish (my dad remembers soaking some kind of salted fish, I don't know the word in English, he only knows how to pronounce it in Genoese). The meats, the sauerkrauts, so many foods depended on salt.

And now most salt is used for road de-icing. ( )
  Dreesie | Jul 1, 2017 |
Fascinating history of salt and salt-making from around the world. the author puts together a nice history of the making of salt and how controlling those resources drove many world events/wars/possessions through history. The importance of salt making in colonial America was great. the last several chapters do seem to wander a bit off topic - but the first 350 pages or so are great! ( )
  jsoos | May 19, 2017 |
Interesting read, full of surprising facts, sometimes a bit dull, when discussing each and every country involved in producing salt. Sometimes you wonder whether the salt industry really was a major concern in all world events, but then again the author is convincing. ( )
  stef7sa | Jan 5, 2017 |
This was..meh...okay. I felt like it was much more about food than I was hoping. There are brief references to how salt fits into the bigger picture but I felt like the author either avoided or didn't recognize the many places where this could have been connected to larger historical events in a deeper, more interesting way. I feel like this just is not what I am looking for in popular history, more like loosely connected anecdotes than analysis. ( )
1 vote kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
Who would have thought that musings on an edible rock could run to 450 breathless pages?

Let me hasten to add that Salt turns out to be far from boring. With infectious enthusiasm, Kurlansky leads the reader on a 5,000-year sodium chloride odyssey through China, India, Egypt, Japan, Morocco, Israel, Africa, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, England, Scandinavia, France and the US, highlighting the multifarious ways in which this unassuming chemical compound has profoundly influenced people's lives.
added by mysterymax | editThe Guardian, Chris Lavers (Feb 15, 2002)

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mark Kurlanskyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bekker, Jos denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
del Rey, María JoséCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klausner, LisaPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Liefting, SteefCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miró, CarlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rapho/GerstenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruggeri, F.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.

—Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776
All our invention and progress seem to result in endowing material forces with intellectual life, and in stultifying human life into a material force.

—Karl Marx, speech, 1856
Dreams are not so different from deeds as some may think. All the deeds of men are only dreams at first. And in the end, their deeds dissolve into dreams.

—Theodore Herzel, Old New Land, 1902
A country is never as poor as when it seems filled with riches.

—Laozi quoted in the
Yan tie lun,
A Discourse on Salt and Iron, 81 B.C.
At the time when Pope Pius VII had to leave Rome, which had been conquered by revolutionary French, the committee of the Chamber of Commerce in London was considering the herring fishery. One member of the committee observed that, since the Pope had been forced to leave Rome, Italy was probably going to become a Prtestant country. "Heaven help us," cried another member. "What," responded the first, "would you be upset to see the number of good Protestants increase?" "No," the other answered," it isn't that, but suppose there are no more Catholics, what shall we do with our herring?"

—Alexander Dumas, Le grand dictionnaire de cuisine, 1873
To my parents, Roslyn Solomon and Philip Mendel Kurlansky, who taught me to love books and music


to Talia Feiga, who opened worlds while she slept in the crook of my arm.
First words

I bought the rock in Spanish Catalonia, in the rundown hillside mining town of Cardonia.
Chapter One
A Mandate of Salt

Once I stood on the bank of a rice paddy in rural Sichuan Province, and a lean and aging Chinese peasant, wearing a faded forty-year-old blue jacked issued by the Mao government in the early years of the Revolution, stood knee deep in water and apropos of absolutely nothing shouted defiantly at me, "We Chinese invented many things!"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Do not combine Salt: A History with The Story of Salt. The Story of Salt is a much shorter, illustrated version of Salt aimed at children.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142001619, Paperback)

From the Bestselling Author of Cod and The Basque History of the World
In his fifth work of nonfiction, Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.  Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Salt by Mark Kurlansky is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece.
Mark Kurlansky is the author of many books including Cod, The Basque History of the World, 1968, and The Big Oyster. His newest book is Birdseye.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:26 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Explores the role of salt in shaping history, discussing how one of the world's most sought-after commodities has influenced economics, science, politics, religion, and eating customs.

» see all 5 descriptions

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