Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

Front Cover
Penguin, 1998 - History - 294 pages
505 Reviews
From the Bestselling Author of Salt and The Basque History of the World

Cod, Mark Kurlansky's third work of nonfiction and winner of the 1999 James Beard Award, is the biography of a single species of fish, but it may as well be a world history with this humble fish as its recurring main character. Cod, it turns out, is the reason Europeans set sail across the Atlantic, and it is the only reason they could. What did the Vikings eat in icy Greenland and on the five expeditions to America recorded in the Icelandic sagas? Cod, frozen and dried in the frosty air, then broken into pieces and eaten like hardtack. What was the staple of the medieval diet? Cod again, sold salted by the Basques, an enigmatic people with a mysterious, unlimited supply of cod. As we make our way through the centuries of cod history, we also find a delicious legacy of recipes, and the tragic story of environmental failure, of depleted fishing stocks where once their numbers were legendary. In this lovely, thoughtful history, Mark Kurlansky ponders the question: Is the fish that changed the world forever changed by the world's folly? “A charming fish tale and a pretty gift for your favorite seafood cook or fishing monomaniac. But in the last analysis, it's a bitter ecological fable for our time.” –Los Angeles Times “Every once in a while a writer of particular skill takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight. Such is the case of Mark Kurlansky and the codfish.” –David McCullough “One of the 25 Best Books of the Year.” –The New York Public Library

Mark Kurlansky is the author of many books including Salt, The Basque History of the World, 1968, and The Big Oyster. His newest book is Birdseye.

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Outstanding. Entertaining as well as educational. - Goodreads
The recipes, however, did nothing for me. - Goodreads
Great book, easy to read yet revealing. - Goodreads
An engaging, quirky little history with a sad ending. - Goodreads
The text even has recipes scattered throughout it. - Goodreads
Kurlansky is an amazing writer. - Goodreads

Review: Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

User Review  - John - Goodreads

A pretty good read. Better than I thought it would be. Previously I had read a book on the history of the telephone book (don't commit to it if you find it) which had some cool facts but began to drag ... Read full review

Review: Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

User Review  - Maryc - Goodreads

Surprisingly, a really good read! "man wants to see nature and evolution as separate from human activities. but if [man] is a ferocious predator, that too is part of evolution. one of the greatest ... Read full review


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1620 The Rock and the Cod
Certain Inalienable Rignts
A Cod War Heard Round the World
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Iceland Discovers the Finite Universe
Three Wars to Close the Open Sea
Requiem for the Grand Banks
The Dangerous Waters of Natures Resilience
Bracing for the Spanish Armada
Bracing for the Canadian Armadu

The Last Two Ideas

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About the author (1998)

Mark Kurlansky is the New York Times bestselling author of many books, including The Food of a Younger Land, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World; Salt: A World History; 1968: The Year That Rocked the World; and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. He lives in New York City.

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