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Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate Kindle Edition

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Length: 304 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though the romance is gone from seafaring life, journalist George's (The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters) multifaceted exploration of the global shipping industry gamely reintroduces an element of wonder. Nearly all goods sold worldwide are transported by container ship, which make workaday passage through the Straits of Malacca, the Suez Canal, and other channels kept in constant motion by an expanding global economy. One of George's main points is that freight shipping remains largely behind the scenes, leading to a byzantine system of concealed ownership structures, convoluted regulations, a labor force largely drawn from developing nations, and inhumane working conditions. In a lengthy, thoughtful section, George takes to sea on the Kendal, a container ship of the Maersk shipping line, and explores these issues, and the very real threat of piracy along the Somali coast. George's work unfortunately suffers from a civilian's perspective on a closed professional fraternity. She searches for the poetry and elevated thought that informs literary accounts of a life at sea, but as one of the pragmatic crewmen notes: "For us, it is just work." 10 b&w illus. (Aug.)

From Booklist

In her debut work of nonfiction, The Big Necessity (2008), George profiled the generally unmentionable topic of human waste. In a similar vein, her latest work plumbs the ins and outs of the shipping industry, a subject that can more easily be discussed in polite company but somehow rarely is. It turns out shipping’s virtual invisibility has as much to do with deliberate attempts by industry magnates to deflect scrutiny of unsafe working conditions and shady business dealings as it does with public indifference. In between chapters describing the voyage she took on the massive, 20-story freighter Maersk Kendal to research her book, George provides a wealth of detail about shipping’s inner workings, from statistics on the amount and types of ships crossing our oceans to snapshots of the unheralded crew members who keep them running. She is also unsparing in exposing the hazards of contemporary seafaring life, including often unreported but rampant acts of piracy. George provides an engaging, much-needed, and in-depth tribute to shipping’s essential role in providing worldwide goods and services. --Carl Hays

Product Details

  • File Size: 2540 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books (August 13, 2013)
  • Publication Date: August 13, 2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,620 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Chris on August 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I have lived in Savannah, Georgia for about eight years now. Savannah is one of the busiest ports in the US (around 4th place). When you get near the river, you can see the massive container ships come right up the Savannah River. As a student I always wondered what sort of people work on boats like that and what their lives are like. Despite the volume of cargo moving in and out, most people here are only dimly aware about what goes on in the port and what's being shipped. The port is in an industrial part of town and the security is tight, so you can't just have a stroll around the docks.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, because it answered some of my many questions. Savannahians in particular (including myself) and people in general don't understand how much our modern world with all its international foods and products rests on maritime transportation. In an early chapter, the author, Rose George, does a non-scientific, man-on-the-street survey of people, so see if they know what percentage of goods comes by sea. The highest guess she got was thirty percent. As the title implies, it's three times that. Most people assume our goods come via plane because they're some much quicker. Container ships may move at a relatively glacial pace, but they cannot be beat for cost-effictiveness. In one of the most shocking lines of the book, the reader finds that it is cheaper to have fish caught in Scotland, frozen and shipped to China to be filleted, and then frozen and shipped back to be sold in Scottish grocery stores, RATHER than pay to Scottish workers to process the fish. The obsession with the bottom-line boggles my mind in this case, but it gives the reader an idea that shipping by boat only adds a penny or two to the cost of most goods.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By JLGEEE on October 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book enlightening in some ways but feel Ms. George missed many opportunities to produce a comprehensive and revealing account of this vital link in world trade. As someone who spent a good part of a career arranging finance for ships like the Maersk Kendal I purchased the book hoping it would provide the ordinary reader some insights into both the daily routine of the seamen and the ways in which the container liner industry has revolutionized world trade. It does, but not nearly enough.

I found the description of the day to day activity of the crew and the threat of pirates interesting as far as they went. However, Ms. George appears to have been somewhat stymied by an uncommunicative Captain and crew and by the lack of contact with anything approaching a real pirate. She therefore drifts off into discussions of whales and shipwrecks, seemingly in an attempt to fill out the rest of the book. I am afraid she completely missed the opportunity to talk about, among other things, the impact this technology has, together with the internet, in enabling Tom Friedman's flat world. Any book about the container industry that fails to even mention Walmart seems shallow and sadly lacking.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By R. C Sheehy on October 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was really interested in Rose George's book but I do think it lost its way. What started as a great book which explores the vital role shipping plays in our global economy. However it seems to wander off course. It has a big section on piracy which of course is required but it seems like this changes the tenor of the book. What was a shipping book is now focused on piracy. This seems to take the wind out of the sails of the work. Now we lose focus on the shipping industry and all it entails. Some interesting side topics like the bizarre hiring practices and the cloistered nature of the business. The issue on safety is compelling but under utilized as is the nature of crew interaction or lack of.

This is a good book which does a good job of trying but really loses track and misses out on some great opportunities.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Sinohey TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This has to be one of the more enjoyable books of the summer. Rose George has once more written a book about a subject that most people don't spend much time wondering about; and has plunged wholeheartedly into the matter. Her last offering, The Big Necessity was elucidating the journey of human waste from production to terminal disposal, and for that, she went wading into the muck of sewers to get a first hand experience of the excursion.
This time Rose joined the merchant marine, not "to see the world" as the saying goes, but to experience the life of seafarers, mostly ignored by the rest of society. She began her journey of "thirty-nine days at sea, six ports, two oceans, five seas, and the most compellingly foreign environment she is ever likely to encounter" when she boarded the Danish container ship, Maersk Kendal "from the southern English port of Felixstowe to Singapore for five weeks and 9,288 nautical miles through the pillars of Hercules, pirate waters and weather."
Along the way she experiences the excitement of discovery and the boredom of unrelenting monotony. She witnesses the hardships and injustice meted to the seamen on board, the long working hours (illegal in most countries), poor pay, cramped quarters, unhygienic environment and crimes from petty theft to rapes and even murder; all adjudicated by the unquestioned authority of the ship's captain.
"we were told that the captain is our god; he can marry you, baptize you, and even bury you without anybody's permission. We were told that the sea is no-man's-land and that what happens at sea stays at sea."

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