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Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World

Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World

Written by Mark Kurlansky

Narrated by Richard Davidson


Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World

Written by Mark Kurlansky

Narrated by Richard Davidson

ratings:
4/5 (23 ratings)
Length:
7 hours
Released:
Jan 1, 2001
ISBN:
9781461811084
Format:
Audiobook

Description

Author Mark Kurlansky pleasantly surprised the world with this engaging best-seller that garnered rave reviews from critics and casual readers alike. His subject for this whimsical biography is the codfish, a species remarkable for its influence on humanity. Cod, Kurlansky argues, has driven economic, political, cultural and military thinking for centuries in the lands surrounding the Atlantic Ocean. Nations like England and Germany have waged wars for cod. Vikings survived on frozen cod during their expeditions to the present America. And, it turns out, European explorers were driven toward North America in pursuit of this humble fish. Kurlansky fills this biography with fascinating anecdotes that show cod surfacing time and again throughout history. The book also serves as a wake-up call, alerting us that the species has nearly been fished out. Richard M. Davidson delivers a reading that is often amusing and always enlightening.
Released:
Jan 1, 2001
ISBN:
9781461811084
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Mark Kurlansky is the New York Times bestselling author of Cod, Salt, Paper, The Basque History of the World, 1968, The Big Oyster, International Night, The Eastern Stars, A Continent of Islands, and The White Man in the Tree and Other Stories. He received the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Nonviolence, Bon Appetit's Food Writer of the Year Award, the James Beard Award, and the Glenfiddich Award. Salt was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. He spent ten years as Caribbean correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He lives in New York City. www.markkurlansky.com.


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What people think about Cod

4.1
23 ratings / 45 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    I often enjoy reading "microhistories": non-fiction that focuses on one very narrow subject but manages to tie that subject into much larger aspects of history and society. I think this may be one of the first books that really popularized this particular subgenre, back in 1997, which is what made it interesting to me. In this case, the narrow subject the book revolves around is the humble codfish, which, it turns out, has indeed played a massive role in human history, as well as telling us some important things about the effect of humans on the natural world today. It's decently written and informative (and also contains a large number of cod-related recipes from many different times and places, if that's something you're into). I will admit that, as someone who has very little inherent interest in fish -- I don't even eat them very much -- I sometimes had a little trouble staying entirely engaged even as I fully recognized the scope and importance of the subject, but I hardly feel like I can complain that a book about fish was a little too much about fish for me.
  • (5/5)
    I've enjoyed a number of Kurlansky's books, such as his ones on oysters, and on salt; this rather goes with them in some respects. It's an examination of the business of fishing cod, and how it affected the history of Europe and the United States, including the exploration of the New World. It's written in a light and entertaining style, and Kurlansky obviously enjoyed writing this. I think you'll enjoy reading it. Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    An excellent book about the history of cod fishing and the depletion of this fish due to overfishing.
  • (4/5)
    Kurlansky charts the history of the world through one its most important resources; the fish that is the cod. Being Australian, my interaction with cod is minimal so I was astonished when I first heard about the Cod War between Britain and Iceland (and that Iceland won), and that cod has played such an important role in our history."Cod" covers the Basques, the Newfoundlers, the Icelandic, the British et al and the cod's role in their respective societies. Centuries of overfishing have led to a drastic drop in cod numbers, which terrifies the British, who have made cod and chips a significant part of their diet. Can we save the cod from extinction? After reading this book, I can only hope so.
  • (4/5)
    Really good look at the human species, how we can see the unfavorable results of our decisions yet take zero responsibility and continue to make the same mistakes over and over ...
  • (3/5)
    Kurlansky is terrific at drilling down on a subject, exploring it in scientific and historical detail, while making it readable and digestible. Having said that, of his works, I think I prefer The Last Fish Tale.
  • (5/5)
    Highly recommend.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this book thoroughly. Kurlansky has a clear and engaging style that imparts knowledge in an almost whimsical tone. That tone was a saving grace throughout the parts discussing the utter collapse of the cod fisheries. Very interesting historical data, and overall a compelling read.
  • (3/5)
    Cod--not a favorite food. Mind you, salt-cod (bacalao) was a staple in my Puerto Rican family, but Americanized that I am, for me it was a reason to flee the family apartment until the smell was gone. This book on the fish was... moderately interesting. I didn't feel it was compelling in its narrative--it felt like a long extended textbook inset. You know, you're reading an American history textbook and there's this box that tells you how important cotton was to Georgia or silver to Nevada? Well, it was that sort of thing... only about cod. With lots of recipes thrown in, both before each new chapter and 40 pages of cod cookery in the back. The writer in fact was a chef and a food writer for the New York Times--and notably not a historian. So we got dabs of natural and human history such as suggestions the Basques may have discovered the New World first (and kept quiet so as to have the Grand Banks fisheries all to themselves), learn cod "built Boston" and was crucial to the Atlantic slave trade and the dilemma of contemporary fisherman caused by overfishing: fishing enough to keep earning a living is fishing too much to sustain the wild fish population. At least according to Kurlansky circa 1997--and a search online will quickly let you know it's still an issue today in 2012.
  • (3/5)
    Apparently cod has a long an illustrious history I had absolutely no idea about. I'm not sure I've ever knowingly eaten cod, to be honest, but I guess it used to be a big thing. My favorite parts were the social and linguistic effects of this fish. The history and bizarre political maneuvers were pretty fun to learn about as well. The recipes, however, did nothing for me. Probably of more interest to foodies.
  • (4/5)
    The economic history of the North Atlantic cod fisheries is seasoned with historical recipies for preparing the fish.
  • (5/5)
    After reading Cod, I definitely will read more books by Mark Kurlansky. My work deals with aboriginal rights, fishing being a key one for many communities. Deciding to read Cod was related to my work. My first thought was that I was glad it was a short (276 pages) book. It was fascinating! I will be recommending it to my book club. Mr. Kurlansky talks about environmental, historical, economic and political issues in a way that is readable, and that tells a story. The "cod wars" between England and Iceland were particularly entertaining and even funny at times. I had no idea that it was tiny Iceland who first proclaimed a 12 mile offshore ownership, and first enforced today's 200 mile limit.Not only does this short book talk about exploration and history, it also deals with technology, including the ability to freeze food and how that changed demand for cod. There is a lot packed in here -- including several (too many?) recipes for salt cod. In fact, the whole last section (A Cook's Tale) is a collection of recipes and I did skip most of it.Interspersed with the story
  • (5/5)
    This was a fabulous book. As someone who is tangentially involved in the politics of setting up Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in California, and who has a lot of friends deeply mired in the process, the sad tale of fishermen holding on to the bitter end the idea that their practices are not sustainable, and that they cannot keep building bigger and bigger trawlers and expect the fish stocks to remain stable, rang sadly true. The professionals blame pollution and sport fishers. The sport fishers blame the polluters and the professionals, and the polluters blame the amateurs and professionals. The same thing is going on in California's abalone, lobster, and sport fisheries.Kurlansky does a great job of chronicling the 1000+ year history of the cod fishery, including the methods, the migrations, the politics, and even the historical recipes. Like in Salt, he takes a single topic and shows how a basic food item can move nations to the brink of war. Given recent worldwide shortages, I would give even odds that his next book will be titled 'Rice'.
  • (4/5)
    Excellent and informative book which serves as a timely reminder of humankind's insatiable predation of other species and the results. Cuts cleanly through the politics to get to the facts of the matter. My only quibble is that his editor really ought to have told him that 'off of' is not good English. You only need to write 'off' (as in off Greenland or whatever). It occurred so many times that I was getting quite irritated by the end of the book!
  • (5/5)
    There is almost no waste to a cod. The head is more flavorful than the body, especially the throat, called a tongue, and the small discs of flesh on either side, called cheeks. The air bladder, or sound, a long tube against the backbone that can fill or release gas to adjust swimming depth, is rendered to make isinglass, which is used industrially as a clarifying agent and in some glues. But sounds are also fried by codfishing peoples, or cooed in chowders or stews. The roe is eaten, fresh or smoked. Newfoundland fishermen also prize the female gonads, a two-pronged organ they call the britches, because its shape resembles a pair of pants. Britches are fried like sounds. Icelanders used to eat the milt, the sperm, in whey. The Japanese still eat cod milt. Stomachs, tripe and liver are all eaten, and the liver oil is highly valued for its vitamins. How did cod change the world? I'm afraid that information is on a need-to-know basis only, and if you need to know, you will have to read this book! This book tells the story of the rise and fall of the cod fisheries of the North Atlantic, and includes a selection of cod recipes from the past 500 years. A note for Mark Kurlansky: Fish and chips is not hyphenated, and it's a chip shop (chippie for short), not a fish-and-chip shop. I'll have cod and chips twice please, wrapped.
  • (4/5)
    Very interesting popular history book. Easy to read with lots of little known facts.
  • (5/5)
    I found this book to be very well done. After reading Coal, I got on this kick of reading about these singular topics. The research and readability of it is really amazing. Great job of making a topic which seems so dry, facinating.
  • (5/5)
    This is some great writing! Pretty amazing to making the life of a fish entertaining and compelling.
  • (4/5)
    Very interesting topic- surprisingly. I really enjoyed learning about the intersection of cod fishing and New World exploration. However, the last major part of the book is almost exclusively devoted to recipes and the culutres who ate them. I had to skip this part as it was very dull. All in all, interesting topic and well done.
  • (4/5)
    A surprisingly entertaining book. Who knew a book about cod could be so full of information and intrigue. The author traces the history of cod and cod fishing and its emmense impact on the world. As a bonus, the author includes many tempting, interesting, and sometimes disgusting recipes for cod.
  • (5/5)
    This slim book is a delightful treat of unexpected and fascinating facts well told.
  • (5/5)
    I've been meaning to read this books for years, and am glad that I finally got around to it. While being a very careful history of the codfish and the culture that grew up around it and was sustained by it, as well as an indictment of the abuse of fish stocks, the book also lays the groundwork for the possibility of recovery. When combined with a quick Google glance into current fish farming and conservation techniques, as well as the 2012 results in the Maine lobster fishery (who took their conservation cues from cod), there is hope to see the mighty cod once again on tables and in the sea.Really, though, it's an excellent book, although the plethora of menus and recipes means that it's unwise to read it on an empty stomach.
  • (4/5)
    I learned more from this book about cod, cod fishing, cod wars, cod recipes from aroundthe world than I ever thought was possible. Quite interesting.
  • (5/5)
    This was a fascinating book about an unlikely subject. It shows the far-reaching impact of one industry on various areas and cultures. Very interesting especially when you realize that fishing rights and issues are still being debated and discussed today.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    Great historical book about humankind's history of fishing Cod. It takes us from Vikings, through the middle Ages in Europe to early North American Settlers up to present day. It shows how much of Northern Europe and North American development and wealth was initially founded on the Cod industry. Also goes into today's overfishing of Cod in New England and political battles over North Atlantic Cod fishing rights. If you like history this book is great.
  • (2/5)
    Read it through to the end, but sort of boring. A fish, important to fisheman and fishing nations, they fought over it again and again, etc., etc.
  • (4/5)
    I found this book very interesting and more than a little quirky. It makes you think about the way food shapes people's lives and even the fates of nations, especially centuries ago when everyone had to work hard for what they ate. This is not a book for everyone and I'm sure many readers would find it boring. But if you're into books that take an in-depth look at one topic and use it to enhance your view of the world, you will love Cod .
  • (4/5)
    Before I read this book, I never thought much about cod, the flaky white fish found in frigid waters of the North Atlantic. It turns out that cod was once so abundant and so significant in the economic and political history of the West, that it was responsible for, among other things: spurring the earliest Viking explorations to the New World; forming the economic basis for independent American colonies and thus spurring the Revolution; serving as a critical link in the triangular pre-Civil War slave trade; shaping the nautical destinies of countries like Portugal, Spain, and Norway; and spawning the Cod Wars of the 1970s and the resulting expansions by nations of their territorial reach to 200 miles out to sea. Besides this fascinating history interspersed with archaic cod recipes, Cod also tells the more tragic story of the 1,000 year fishing spree on cod, and the development of industrial-scale fishing that has decimated its populations to the point of near-extinction.
  • (4/5)
    A look at history, politics, biology, fishing, conservation, and cooking as they impact upon man's relationship with cod. Well written and quite interesting although scary since the cod have been pretty well wiped out of the oceans.