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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 Hardcover

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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 + The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First American Edition edition (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805092633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805092639
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 95 customer reviews
This is a well researched, well written book.
Lawrence C. Matthews
Anyway, this is a very interesting book and definitely makes it clear that nothing just goes from here to there.
Amazon Customer
One of the most interesting books I have read this year.
E. OBrien

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 53 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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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Sinohey TOP 1000 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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13 of 14 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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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By john howe on September 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The ship board experience of a reporter /writer on board a container freighter reveals elements of exploitation of sailors and safety and environmental regulations which are revealing. Yet the "Outlaw Sea" gives a better account of this element of shipping and the "Box" a better account on shipping revolution in containerization . Since the author was a passenger, she did not capture the experience of ship board work.

The chapter on Piracy was probably the most interesting and informative chapter and the tension produced on board ship in the Indian Ocean was easy to imagine.

The book is an easy and enjoyable read. It does inform and does demonstrate how the merchant marine makes globalization possible.
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