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Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 307 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140275018
ISBN-10: 0140275010
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

You probably enjoy eating codfish, but reading about them? Mark Kurlansky has written a fabulous book--well worth your time--about a fish that probably has mattered more in human history than any other. The cod helped inspire the discovery and exploration of North America. It had a profound impact upon the economic development of New England and eastern Canada from the earliest times. Today, however, overfishing is a constant threat. Kurlansky sprinkles his well-written and occasionally humorous history with interesting asides on the possible origin of the word codpiece and dozens of fish recipes. Sometimes a book on an offbeat or neglected subject really makes the grade. This is one of them. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this engaging history of a "1000-year fishing spree," Kurlansky (A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny, LJ 1/92) traces the relationship of cod fishery to such historical eras and events as medieval Christianity and Christian observances; international conflicts between England and Germany over Icelandic cod; slavery, the molasses trade, and the dismantling of the British Empire; and, the evolution of a sophisticated fishing industry in New England. Kurlansky relates this information in an entertaining style while providing accurate scientific information. The story does not have a happy ending, however. The cod fishery is in trouble, deep trouble, as the Atlantic fish has been fished almost to extinction. Quoting a scientist from the Woods Hole Biological Laboratory, Massachusetts, Kurlansky notes that to forecast the recovery of the cod population is to gamble: "There is only one known calculation: 'When you get to zero, it will produce zero.'" Highly recommended for all general collections.?Mary J. Nickum, Bozeman, Mont.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 18 and up
  • Grade Level: 09 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 1200L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (August 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140275010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140275018
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (307 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The marvel of Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World is that anyone could write a book this interesting about a subject so lackluster- a fish so boring that it does not even struggle when it is caught, instead allowing the fisherman to haul it up without a fight. Somehow Mark Kurlansky was able to make the codfish interesting enough that I continually drive my co-workers insane, insisting that they should read this book. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been spurred by it, national diets have been founded on it, economies and livelihoods have depended on it. The lowly cod really is the fish that changed the world. This book is a sober reminder of the impact of man on the environment, but it also a enjoyable and readable book filled with curious cod tidbits and a historical cross-section of odd cod recipes. In the same vein as The Perfect Storm or Longitude, this book is more entertaining than either of those maritime titles, although unlikely to be made into a movie starring George Clooney. If seeing the title Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World made you crack a smile, then you should read this book and tell your friends about it, so that they too can wonder if you're just making it up.
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Format: Paperback
If you're one of the many people who's been caught up in the wave of highly focused historical books that have innundated our book stores, then this book is for you. Kurlansky presents the history of one of the most mundane items possible (excepting the humble potato and there's a book on that too) with an engaging and informative style. The book presents as a mix of history, current events, and recipes.
It misfired at times. There is not discussion (or recommendation) regarding management of resources or planning for the future of our fisheries. And some absolute statements (such as the superiour development of Basque cod cuisine) deserve to be challenged. And Kurlansky doesn't consider the fishing history of Native Americans; although, it may be for lack of documentation (I don't know; I'm not a historian; that's why I read these things).
In spite of this, it's an outstanding book. It meets the two key requirements for me in this regard; one, I recommend it to other people who report back on how much they liked it; and two, I'll read it again.
Buy it. Read it. You'll probably enjoy it.
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Format: Paperback
There's a cartoon in Matt Groening, the nine types of professors. One is the single-minded type, as in "The country that controls magnesium controls the world!" His main drawback is that he could be right. Cod sort of reminds me of that. You may not have known how important or popular this particular fish was to most of our ancestors in Western civilization, but, according Kurlansky, Cod was practically like bread. It was easy to fish, there was a ton of it, and once Europeans learned the various ways of drying it (with cold and/or salt) all people could think about was trading this staple. Yes, Kurlansky's book is single-minded, and at times you might forget this is a fish tale. When the Vikings found America, what where they looking for? And how did they manage to sustain themselves through the long ocean voyage? The answers are of course, cod. Kurlansky also has a few outlandish things to say about another favorite topic of his, the Basque, who it appears had been regularly fishing for Cod in Newfoundland long before Columbus found America. They were really good at keeping a secret, you see. Fortunately, there's a serious, or, at least more socially acceptable side, to Kurlansky's fish story. The fishing trade really is threatened. You can no longer practically walk on Atlantic cod. Even Icelanders who found their entire economy changing from one of sustenance to a first world service economy, during the two world wars, have a difficult time protecting their dwindling stock.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Mark Kurlansky has written a breezy (yet ultimately gloomy) little book, full of tidbits of knowledge about the cod. It's a fascinating subject, especially if you have ever lived in the parts of the world where cod has reigned supreme. And yes, the author not only tells us about the fish itself, but how nations have struggled over the centuries to protect their collective livelihoods, occasionally warring against each other as national pride and survival were at stake.
Several months ago I read Mr. Kurlansky's book, "Salt: A World History". This newer book is far better than "Cod" as it delves deeper into a comestible that REALLY changed the course of history. A problem that I have with both books is the author's writing style. It's very disjointed. He jumps from one geographic area of cod harvest to another and from one time period to another as well. There is no real weaving of a story line here....it's as if he wrote each chapter on a whim.
However, I especially like the inclusion of recipes in this book. It gives a "human" side to the cod and allowing readers to view recipes from Europe and North America is a great way to end the book. If you have any desire to read "Cod", I would suggest reading it first before going on to "Salt".
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