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Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

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The Cod. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been triggered by it, national diets have been based on it, economies and livelihoods have depended on it. To the millions it has sustained, it has been a treasure more precious that gold. This book spans 1,000 years and four continents. From the Vikings to Clarence Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky introduces the explorers, The Cod. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been triggered by it, national diets have been based on it, economies and livelihoods have depended


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The Cod. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been triggered by it, national diets have been based on it, economies and livelihoods have depended on it. To the millions it has sustained, it has been a treasure more precious that gold. This book spans 1,000 years and four continents. From the Vikings to Clarence Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky introduces the explorers, The Cod. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been triggered by it, national diets have been based on it, economies and livelihoods have depended on it. To the millions it has sustained, it has been a treasure more precious that gold. This book spans 1,000 years and four continents. From the Vikings to Clarence Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky introduces the explorers, merchants, writers, chefs and fisherman, whose lives have been interwoven with this prolific fish. He chronicles the cod wars of the 16th and 20th centuries. He blends in recipes and lore from the Middle Ages to the present. In a story that brings world history and human passions into captivating focus, he shows how the most profitable fish in history is today faced with extinction.

18 review for Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Miranda Reads

    A bit fishy...(I couldn't resist) Figure 1. The majestic seafaring cod.Figure 2. The majestic cod as us landlubbers know it. Cod - one of the most common fish in the sea - provided food for millions. What started as simple fishing boats has ballooned into enormous trawlers that were capable of draining the see of a once limitless population. Invention and innovation led to decimation of the natural cod population. Figure 3. A fishing trawler - capable of obtaining thousands of fish in a singl A bit fishy...(I couldn't resist) Figure 1. The majestic seafaring cod.Figure 2. The majestic cod as us landlubbers know it. Cod - one of the most common fish in the sea - provided food for millions. What started as simple fishing boats has ballooned into enormous trawlers that were capable of draining the see of a once limitless population. Invention and innovation led to decimation of the natural cod population. Figure 3. A fishing trawler - capable of obtaining thousands of fish in a single swoop. Overall, a very interesting book (if not a riveting one). I enjoyed following the history of cod - who knew such a common fish held such a deep and dark history. We traveled from cod's humble origins to the multi-million dollar startups that so successfully destroyed their population.Ironically, nearly every chapter there was a recipe for cod. They all sounded delicious. If cod and haddock and other species cannot survive because man kills them, something more adaptable will take their place. Nature, the ultimate pragmatist, doggedly searches for something that works. But as the cockroach demonstrates, what works best in nature does not always appeal to us. The 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge - A microhistoryYouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads

  2. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    I got stuck with this book for AP European History book report #2. I got to chose last in the class from the book list, and so... Cod. I actually kinda liked it at the time. It was short, humorous at times, but went a little above and beyond with the fish so that the world turned and society advanced all thanks to Cod. Kinda made Cod look like God. I actually suggested this book to the school librarian who was a family friend, for her to read on the way to her vacation. She came back and told me I got stuck with this book for AP European History book report #2. I got to chose last in the class from the book list, and so... Cod. I actually kinda liked it at the time. It was short, humorous at times, but went a little above and beyond with the fish so that the world turned and society advanced all thanks to Cod. Kinda made Cod look like God. I actually suggested this book to the school librarian who was a family friend, for her to read on the way to her vacation. She came back and told me that it was the worst book she has ever read. "It was soooo boring.... ugh... I can't believe them made you read this...." She retired the next year. probably not because of the cod... or ....?!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Ideiosepius

    A fascinating review of the history of the Atlantic cod fisheries. While I knew of the stories of the Grand banks and Georges banks from my University days (I doubt there is a Marine Biologist in the world who has not studied this classic case of overfishing), I had never thought about the wider social implications of the collapse of this fishery and I certainly had never wondered too much about the sociological role of the animal. It turns out that Gadus morhua, the Atlantic cod was a major pla A fascinating review of the history of the Atlantic cod fisheries. While I knew of the stories of the Grand banks and Georges banks from my University days (I doubt there is a Marine Biologist in the world who has not studied this classic case of overfishing), I had never thought about the wider social implications of the collapse of this fishery and I certainly had never wondered too much about the sociological role of the animal. It turns out that Gadus morhua, the Atlantic cod was a major player in a whole heap of human history. The Vikings cold dried it and used it to cross the ocean, the Spanish discovered the New world but kept it secret because they did not want to have to share the fishing grounds, in the 1500’s cod was already changing trade routes and ports were gaining prominence based on its affect. All quite fascinating.The book starts with a modern day (or at least, 1990’s) peek at the state of the fisheries in Newfoundland and then continues on from there. It is well written, easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable. While it tells a very polarised aspect of history it is a side that would not often be thought of; how many people have thought about Cod when they were examining the American Slave history?Interspersed through the text are recipes and historical titbits. As I do not eat fish it is very unlikely I will ever try them but reading them is an added view of the historical time in which they were written and for most of the book I quite enjoyed them. At the end however one encounter about forty pages worth of recipes and I might take those slowly.Aside from the overdose of Cod recipes at the end I would thoroughly endorse this book, I was delighted to read such an expanded story to the basic overexploitation story of the Grand banks.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    There is no way you could ever get me to eat cod, despite my partial Norwegian background where they eat a variety of disgusting fish dishes, the most famous being lutefisk, a kind of rotten, spoiled gelatinous mess. But I loved this book. Kurlansky is another John McPhee, supplying all sorts of interesting details. Turns out cod has been extremely important to civilization and almost as essential as bread. It was easy to fish and preserve and probably made discovery of North America by the Viki There is no way you could ever get me to eat cod, despite my partial Norwegian background where they eat a variety of disgusting fish dishes, the most famous being lutefisk, a kind of rotten, spoiled gelatinous mess. But I loved this book. Kurlansky is another John McPhee, supplying all sorts of interesting details. Turns out cod has been extremely important to civilization and almost as essential as bread. It was easy to fish and preserve and probably made discovery of North America by the Vikings possible. Fascinating.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Cod begins with two quotes:1. Thomas Henry Huxley says that "the question of questions for mankind . . . is the ascertainment of the place which man occupies in nature and of his relations to the universe of things."I love that quote because humans, at least the "civilized" ones, think of themselves as somewhat separated from nature.2. Will and Ariel Durant in The Lessons of History say "the first biological lesson of history is that life is competition. . . . peaceful when food abounds, violent Cod begins with two quotes:1. Thomas Henry Huxley says that "the question of questions for mankind . . . is the ascertainment of the place which man occupies in nature and of his relations to the universe of things."I love that quote because humans, at least the "civilized" ones, think of themselves as somewhat separated from nature.2. Will and Ariel Durant in The Lessons of History say "the first biological lesson of history is that life is competition. . . . peaceful when food abounds, violent when the mouths overrun the food. Animals eat one another without qualm; civilized men consume one another by due process of law."The fight for fish is for food and control of the oceans.This book was copyrighted 1997. I am curious about the situation then, and I wonder if any progress has been made.In July 1992, the Canadian government closed down the Newfoundland waters, the Grand Banks, and most of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to groundfishing. Fishermen had been demanding this for years. Their catch in numbers and size had been declining for years. Cod are bottom dwelling fish, and trawlers had been taking every last cod. Fishermen were helping scientists by gathering statistics. Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that science must prove its conclusions. They can't just say, we better slow down here because the situation "looks" pretty bad. It is not only the cod that are gone, but the whales, herring, capelin, and squid. Fishermen used to catch cod on shore with traps.Petty Harbour banned mass fishing techniques such as longlining and gillnetting since the 1940s. But it was not done for conservation, it was done to make room for all the boats.The people of Petty Harbour are "at the wrong end of a 1,000-year fishing spree." Cod are omniverous. They eat everything. They swim with their mouths open and swallow everything that fits, including young cod. So fishermen just use a cod jigger made of lead. I wondered why the author failed to mention what a deadly poison lead is.Cod are thus easy to catch but not much fun for sportsmen. Bluefish fight but they are oily. People prefer the white flesh of cod. We must change some of our eating habits and eat other fish. A forty inch female cod can produce three million eggs. A fish ten inches longer can produce nine million eggs. A good reason to let the fish grow. In all nature, lots of eggs means lots of deaths. Here is an incredible statement: "If each female cod in a lifetime of millions of eggs produces two juveniles that live to be sexually mature adults, the population is stable."The first reports of cod off the Maine coast were incredible. "Codfish as big as a man." John Cabot reported people catching them with baskets there were so many. In 1895, a codfish weighing 211 pounds was reported. In 1649, there was also a report of six-foot lobsters. What have we done. Large animals cannot survive alongside humans. From the middle of the 1500s to the middle of the 1700s, 60% of all fish eaten in Europe was cod. The turning point comes on Page 75: "New Englanders were growing rich on free-trade capitalism. . . . Adam Smith, the eighteenth-century economist, singled out the New England fishery for praise in his singular work on capitalism, The Wealth of Nations. To Smith, the fishery was an exciting example of how an economy could flourish if individuals were given an unrestricted commercial environment." That type of thinking still goes on today. Eliminate regulations and we will flourish. Get rid of those dastardly government agencies like the EPA and the money flows. Everyone thought such a free-wheeling system could work forever. People became rich on cod. Carvings of the fish were everywhere. There is the unpleasantness of selling cheap fish for slaves. Slaves could be picked up by cod merchants in West Africa. And more cod could be sold there. To this day there is still a West African market for cod sales. There was often a moral contradiction between freedom loving New Englanders and social injustices. Cod has to be fished out of water that is 34 to 50 degrees. Fishermen used to wear thick rubber gloves with cotton linings. Now there are new synthetic materials. They lost fingers from frostbite, line snags, and machinery. There is a sense of camaraderie, brotherhood. They are like combat veterans who feel only understood by their comrades who have survived the same battles. Any fisherman who can't keep up is out. Very few are over 50. Fog was one of the biggest enemies. Dorymen used to drown or starve to death or die of thirst while being lost in the fog. Too much fish could sink a dory. One reason is that they worked with little sleep. One doryman called it "a terrifying death without witness in the cottony fog that stifles all sound. Like a nightmare from which there is no awakening." I point out the difficulties of fishermen in order to understand them. They are independent. They don't like government officials and land lovers trying to tell them how to do their job, even if it is for their own good. I have been to Gloucester many times. I have seen the memorial to dead fishermen. It is both prominent and powerful. There are always random tourists reading off random names. Between 1830 and 1900, about 3,800 Gloucester fishermen were "lost at sea." In a 1985 Canadian government report, 212 out of every 100,000 Canadian fishermen die on the job. That's far more than miners, foresters, and construction workers. In Britain, the rate of death for fishermen is 20 times higher than manufacturing. Longlines with hooks can be as short as half a mile or can extend for four or five miles. They catch many fish, all of which now are noticeably smaller. This caused improving catches which fooled people into believing the stocks were not being depleted. Freezing fish made a big difference. It meant more fish could be taken. Bottom nets left the ocean floor a desert. Mesh size could help, but once the back wall is filled with cod, the small fish are trapped. "Millions of unwanted fish--undesirable species, fish that are undersized or over quota, even fish with a low market price this week--are tossed overboard, usually dead." Now schools of fish are detected by sonar or spotter aircraft. A trawler can move in and clean out the area. They take the target fish and the by-catch. "There is only one known calculation: 'When you get to zero, it will produce zero.' How much above zero still produces zero is not known." In the big ocean, how can you tell when it's too late to rebuild the stock? "Overfishing is a growing global problem. About 60% of the fish types tracked by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) are categorized as fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted." I wonder what the percent is now? Ninety percent of the world's fishing grounds are now closed off by 200-mile exclusion zones. Fishermen switched to fishing at greater depths. Little is known about the ecology there. Some countries are just not known for their international cooperation. Seals are our competitors for fish. Cod seemed to have stopped migrating. One theory is that bigger, older fish are no longer there to lead the way. With climate change on the rise, we are on a deadly path to destruction. The warming oceans welcome predators from warmer waters to the south and make it difficult for cod to reproduce. We are the proverbial frog in the pot of water waiting for it to boil. It is probably already too late for us to jump out. Gorton's is still in Gloucester, the largest plant with the biggest sign, but the company hasn't bought a fish from a Gloucester fisherman in years.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ngolana

    While one would think a book entirely devoted to codfish would enervate, if not actually annoy, in fact this work is a fascinating examination of the human tendency to greed as played out on a global scale. This is easily equal in quality and complexity, to my mind, with a novel by Dostoevsky, for instance. It follows the trail of guilt and rapacity from early times to today's sad, inadequate harvest and is witty in to the bargain. A great read. While one would think a book entirely devoted to codfish would enervate, if not actually annoy, in fact this work is a fascinating examination of the human tendency to greed as played out on a global scale. This is easily equal in quality and complexity, to my mind, with a novel by Dostoevsky, for instance. It follows the trail of guilt and rapacity from early times to today's sad, inadequate harvest and is witty in to the bargain. A great read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ruthie Jones

    Okay, so I shed a tear at the end. I couldn’t help it. The cod’s tale is quite tragic. I love history and anthropology; therefore, I love this book. Cod by Mark Kurlansky is interesting and fact filled, and I find that presenting recipes and fun information related to the cod throughout and at the end is a nice touch and a welcome respite from the narrative.I am appalled (but not surprised) at the lengths to which humans will go to discover, hunt, exploit, manipulate, and wipe out a food source, Okay, so I shed a tear at the end. I couldn’t help it. The cod’s tale is quite tragic. I love history and anthropology; therefore, I love this book. Cod by Mark Kurlansky is interesting and fact filled, and I find that presenting recipes and fun information related to the cod throughout and at the end is a nice touch and a welcome respite from the narrative.I am appalled (but not surprised) at the lengths to which humans will go to discover, hunt, exploit, manipulate, and wipe out a food source, in this case, the cod. We have proved over and over that we can be exterminators, and we have yet to practice moderation when it comes to commodities and satiating our desires. Additionally, we are tenacious in the face of change and adaptive when change is inevitable.Cod gives us a glimpse into the fish that continues to impact our lives in North America, Europe, Britain, Iceland, and many other lands. This fish really gets around.This book shows us the path the cod has taken throughout history, with the help of human hands, ingenuity, greed, and death: from salting/curing/drying for consumption during long voyages to doling out a cheap, nutritious meal to slaves to freezing breaded fish fillets and fish sticks. The cod has been through it all, and we have had the audacity to try and gobble every last one.With my close ties to Britain, I have enjoyed the traditional fish and chips many times without ever questioning the type of fish (often cod or haddock) or its harrowing journey to my newspaper cone. As a consumer, perhaps I need to become more mindful.This biography is well written and, based on the bibliography, well researched.***“But technology never reverses itself. It creates new technology to confront new sets of problems.”“Nature remains focused on survival.”***It looks like Costco purchases wild Alaskan cod and wild Icelandic cod.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Looking at the world from the point of view of a species of food fish can lead to fascinating results. For instance, it is quite possible that Basque fishermen discovered the New World decades before Columbus, and that Columbus may have known this. So much of American history (and wealth) is connected with cod fishing that it is quite sobering to see us come to the possible end of a species of whom Alexandre Dumas wrote, "It has been calculated that if no accident prevented the hatching of the e Looking at the world from the point of view of a species of food fish can lead to fascinating results. For instance, it is quite possible that Basque fishermen discovered the New World decades before Columbus, and that Columbus may have known this. So much of American history (and wealth) is connected with cod fishing that it is quite sobering to see us come to the possible end of a species of whom Alexandre Dumas wrote, "It has been calculated that if no accident prevented the hatching of the eggs and each egg reached maturity, it would take only three years to fill the sea so that you could walk across the Atlantic dryshod on the backs of the cod."An accident, however, has happened. The cod has fallen prey to the most greedy and insatiable predator ever known: Man. Like the passenger pigeons whose flocks took days to pass a stationery viewer, the cod has fallen victim to man's determined and ingenious predations. Kurlansky's book is a labor of love interspersed with anecdotes and recipes that make me yearn for some good chowder or dried cod or ... Oh, I do hope the cod can make a comeback. They are so very delicious.

  9. 4 out of 5

    fourtriplezed

    An enjoyable read. Full of plenty of information that had one thinking. The resistance to the obvious decline of the cod by vested interests may have parallels in the resistance to changing our use of fossil fuels by the coal industry, as an example. I also have done a bit of online research as to how this wonderful fish has been going now that there has been a moratorium on its fishing. Not as well as I thought it might of sadly. On a lighter side I enjoyed the recipes that frequent the end of An enjoyable read. Full of plenty of information that had one thinking. The resistance to the obvious decline of the cod by vested interests may have parallels in the resistance to changing our use of fossil fuels by the coal industry, as an example. I also have done a bit of online research as to how this wonderful fish has been going now that there has been a moratorium on its fishing. Not as well as I thought it might of sadly. On a lighter side I enjoyed the recipes that frequent the end of each chapter with plenty more at the end. Anyway I'm hungry and have some Barramundi to devour.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark Mortensen

    With the onset of another summer I sought a nonfiction book rather than a novel to set the mood. I enjoy biographies, but truly how much can be said through “A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World: Cod”? Since birth I spent many days in Harwich Port on Cape Cod with my grandparents. As an angler the term “cod” was ingrained in my brain at an early age. At times in the 1950’s and 60’s the highlight of my day was watching the vibrant colorful commercial fishing vessels, riding low in the w With the onset of another summer I sought a nonfiction book rather than a novel to set the mood. I enjoy biographies, but truly how much can be said through “A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World: Cod”? Since birth I spent many days in Harwich Port on Cape Cod with my grandparents. As an angler the term “cod” was ingrained in my brain at an early age. At times in the 1950’s and 60’s the highlight of my day was watching the vibrant colorful commercial fishing vessels, riding low in the water, approach the Chatham Pier Fish Market. Upon delivery the iced cod and haddock were stabbed with a hay rake or shoveled into a large metal bins and hoisted into the fish house for preparation and sale on the on the premises. Additionally I worked every college summer in Harwich Port on the grounds of Thompson’s Clam Bar the #1 volume family restaurant on the Cape and largest seasonal restaurant east of the Mississippi where many fish (cod) & chips were served, along with the adjacent Wychmere Harbor Club, one of the most photographed private clubs in Massachusetts, also owned by Frank Thompson, where quality broiled cod were often presented on a white and blue china plate. Later I worked in downtown Boston known as the city of “beans and cod”. My grandmother believed in the healing effects of cod liver oil and my doctor has always encouraged me to eat cold water fish twice a week. It was with this background that I opened the book’s cover. For centuries the simple cod fish did have a major impact upon world societies. The book had a good flow and I was intrigued by the numerous historical facts. Salt certainly provided preservation for sales of cod. I noted that my grandfather, who was born in Denmark, resided in Harwich Port on Cape Cod. I found it interesting that the word “wich” is an Anglo-Saxon term for “a place that has salt”.Mark Kurbansky received high praise and awards for this release in 1997 and his recognition is justified. It’s a unique biography complete with cultural recipes and an index.

  11. 5 out of 5

    John Riselvato

    This is a wonderful connection to the subject and to it’s history. I loved every single moment reading history this way; had I learned American / European history in school like this I might have seen history as approachable and appreciative. Regardless, Mark Kurlansky does an amazing job taking the world's Cod fishing and expands it from the beginning of the earliest records to 1997 (modern times for the book).I never really thought about the delicate balance of the fishermen and the fish they This is a wonderful connection to the subject and to it’s history. I loved every single moment reading history this way; had I learned American / European history in school like this I might have seen history as approachable and appreciative. Regardless, Mark Kurlansky does an amazing job taking the world's Cod fishing and expands it from the beginning of the earliest records to 1997 (modern times for the book).I never really thought about the delicate balance of the fishermen and the fish they catch. We always hear about overfishing and side with nature but this one made me think “How do we preserve the history and knowledge of fisherman?” I want to read a book about that next I think, anyone know a good fisherman book?I saw Mark wrote one on salt, if it’s anything like Cod, I am in for a great meal.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Being Norwegian on both sides since at least the Napoleonic wars, I have a relationship with fish, especially cod. While cod roe is a favorite, lutefisk is something I've only tried once and don't plan on trying again--it was like fishy jello. Yuck! Regular cod, served with potato, was something served at the Norwegian Club, back when there was such a thing, that Dad would occasionally attend. There, however, he would order the meatballs, fish being associated in his mind and in mother's with th Being Norwegian on both sides since at least the Napoleonic wars, I have a relationship with fish, especially cod. While cod roe is a favorite, lutefisk is something I've only tried once and don't plan on trying again--it was like fishy jello. Yuck! Regular cod, served with potato, was something served at the Norwegian Club, back when there was such a thing, that Dad would occasionally attend. There, however, he would order the meatballs, fish being associated in his mind and in mother's with the depression and the war--something you ate because you couldn't obtain or afford red meat.This book is primarily a history of the cod fisheries of the North Atlantic, beginning in the middle ages and continuing into present. As such, it's also a survey of fisheries worldwide and of their impoverishment, if not extinction, owing to overuse and environmental degradation. Secondarily, it's a celebration of a disappearing lifestyle and cuisine.Well written, cautionary, this is a commendable book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josh Caporale

    4.5 starsMark Kurlansky is amazing!!! I was amazed when I came across Kurlansky and how he writes microhistories about random subjects, ranging anywhere from salt to paper to milk to 1968 to Martha Reeves and The Vandellas song "Dancing in the Street" to the one that brought him attention and won the James Beard Award: the one about cod. Mark Kurlansky explores codfish from every angle in this book: be it world history, food history, biology, its environmental standing, as well as its culinary s 4.5 starsMark Kurlansky is amazing!!! I was amazed when I came across Kurlansky and how he writes microhistories about random subjects, ranging anywhere from salt to paper to milk to 1968 to Martha Reeves and The Vandellas song "Dancing in the Street" to the one that brought him attention and won the James Beard Award: the one about cod. Mark Kurlansky explores codfish from every angle in this book: be it world history, food history, biology, its environmental standing, as well as its culinary standing. If there is a particular authority regarding what one may want to know about the codfish, this is it.Cod is told in chronological order as far as exploration is concerned. It had an impact on the explorers and their voyage westward, the trade within New England, just about anything that can be applied to Iceland and their affairs around the world, as well as Clarence Birdseye and his methods to preserve food by freezing it. In between chapters are recipes and methods to preparing cod to eat. There are also quotes about cod from prolific figures such as Henry David Thoreau. Kurlansky knows exactly what he is talking about as far as making cod the star of this book is concerned. Perhaps it did inevitably stray into the subject matter and force the codfish into the backseat and I will say that I will have to read over the recipes and culinary sections in order to click with them, but this book certainly laid the groundwork and addressed the void about microhistories about any given fish and/or seafood.This is a book that is definitely worth checking out! It is slim enough and the information is engaging, so that one will learn a lot and enjoy it at the same time.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marilynmayer

    I love books like this in which a very narrow topic gives broad insight into our world. This story tells the history of cod fishing, the Basque were one of the first grps. to successfully & secretly fish for cod on a commercial scale, all the way to modern fishing techniques in which schools of fish could be located & over-fished through GPS. Cod fishing brought wealth to many nations, became a treasured part of many diets (Its high protein count made it a valuable source of protein in the centu I love books like this in which a very narrow topic gives broad insight into our world. This story tells the history of cod fishing, the Basque were one of the first grps. to successfully & secretly fish for cod on a commercial scale, all the way to modern fishing techniques in which schools of fish could be located & over-fished through GPS. Cod fishing brought wealth to many nations, became a treasured part of many diets (Its high protein count made it a valuable source of protein in the centuries when it was hard to find.), and created a fishing lifestyle for millions. This book is also a story of environmental hubris; the legend is that if every fish egg reached its full maturity, one could have walked across the Atlantic on the backs of cod! Cod has virtually disappeared, leaving many fishing villages as ghost towns. While I was reading Cod, I kept thinking, will the blue fin tuna be the next fish species to disappear from our oceans?Kurlansky weaves a fascinating fish tale in Cod, and I'm not exaggerating!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I read this book after visiting Fort Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, N.S. and being impressed by stories of oceans of cod ("one could just reach in and pull out codfish"). I'd had no idea how important cod was for the island and for trade in general (I'd never really given it much thought at all). Kurlanksy offers a lively, historical and very entertaining "biography of the fish that changed the world." And with the advent of this book, the publishing industry has churned out schools, nay, oce I read this book after visiting Fort Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, N.S. and being impressed by stories of oceans of cod ("one could just reach in and pull out codfish"). I'd had no idea how important cod was for the island and for trade in general (I'd never really given it much thought at all). Kurlanksy offers a lively, historical and very entertaining "biography of the fish that changed the world." And with the advent of this book, the publishing industry has churned out schools, nay, oceans of books about single theme histories...[that last part for David-you-know-who-you-are!].

  16. 4 out of 5

    Danceswithwords

    A much more focused narrative than Salt, about Atlantic cod fisheries and the ways that inexpensive, salt-preserved fish changed diets and economies in Europe from the middle ages to the present. The central story of the book, though, is the way what was once regarded as a limitless resource has been fished to the edge of collapse, and the affect that has had on the communities that depend on it, and the difficulty of harnessing competing economic entities to work to restore the populations.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dennison Berwick

    Those who argue that economic exploitation of natural "resources" can go on for ever because it always has gone on, should read Mark Kurlansky's book "Cod, A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World". The book is not primarily about the collapse of stocks in the early 1990s but rather a fascinating investigation of all aspects of this fish - cultural, economic and political - without which the American Revolution might never have taken place or at least have been delayed many decades.How so? Those who argue that economic exploitation of natural "resources" can go on for ever because it always has gone on, should read Mark Kurlansky's book "Cod, A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World". The book is not primarily about the collapse of stocks in the early 1990s but rather a fascinating investigation of all aspects of this fish - cultural, economic and political - without which the American Revolution might never have taken place or at least have been delayed many decades.How so? You may ask. Simply put, it was cod that turned the struggling, half-starving settlers in the New England colonies of into an international commercial power. The colonists took poor quality salted cod, the cod that could not be solt in Europe, to the slave islands of the Caribbean where the high-protein food was fed to the African slaves. for the return, the ships loaded with molasses from which rum was produced back in New England. "The West Indies presented a growing market for the rejects, for anything that was cheap. In fact, West India was the commercial name for the lowest-quality salt cold," write Mark Kurlansky.In addition, though New England ships were not slave carriers they did supply salt cod to slave merchants who used the fish to buy slaves. At the time when New Englanders were increasingly preoccupied with "freedom", they were noticeably selective about whose freedom they were championing. "The French politician Alexis de Tocqueville, in his 1835 study...wrote about an inherent contradiction in the New England character....New England was the great champion of individual liberty and even openly denouncing slavery, all the while growing ever more affluent by providing Caribbean planters with barrels of cheap food to keep enslaved people working 16 hours a day. By the first decade of the eighteenth centruy, more than 300 ships left Boston in a good year for the West Indies."The great danger with single subject books, such as this one, is that - as the little girl observed, "This book tells me more about dolphins than I wanted to know." Fortunately Kurlansky avoids this pitfall. The book is a great mixture of history, recipes, curious trivia and useful analysis. A good read for anyone curious about this fish that was once cheap and ubiquitous but which, despite warnings for decades about overshishing, is now next to impossible to obtain. What does this tell us about the future of global commercial fish stocks which, according to the UN's FAO are 60% fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. And the situation has only deteriorated in the last decade.For more reviews and other writings, please visist my website:Serendipities of a Writer's Life www.dennisonberwick.info

  18. 4 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    I obtained the audio book through my library. I had seen good reviews of Kurlansky's Milk, but wasn't convinced that a book with the focal point could be well done. Since I could get Cod and wanted something light to listen to, I thought, "Why not?"I was pleasantly surprised. Kurlansky did a great job at explaining the history, biology, evolution, uses, and economy of the Cod and doing so in a cohesive manner that did not seem overly contrived. The book focuses largely on the Atlantic Cod, but h I obtained the audio book through my library. I had seen good reviews of Kurlansky's Milk, but wasn't convinced that a book with the focal point could be well done. Since I could get Cod and wanted something light to listen to, I thought, "Why not?"I was pleasantly surprised. Kurlansky did a great job at explaining the history, biology, evolution, uses, and economy of the Cod and doing so in a cohesive manner that did not seem overly contrived. The book focuses largely on the Atlantic Cod, but he does discuss other members of the Cod family in the book and how those books were viewed/used.I saw one person refer to this book as "quirky", and that is an apt description.

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