Salt: A World History
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Product Description

Mark Kurlansky, the bestselling author of Cod and The Basque History of the World, here turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions. Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Kurlansky's kaleidoscopic history is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece.

Customer Reviews:

  • History at its most fascinating
    If you like history from an unusual angle, this book is for you. If you like to know what's behind history, this book is for you. If you like a good read with history thrown in, this book is for you. Fascinating stuff!...more info
  • Don't Under Estimate the Importance of Salt!
    I found this book to be an easy read providing me with great insight into mankind's dependence on salt. There are just so many little interesting facts and stories that I found interesting! Any scientist or historian will find this book intriguing! ...more info
  • flawed but fascinating
    "Salt: A World History" is exactly what the title advertises: stories about the production, trade, and use of salt from our earliest archaeological and written records through to modern times.

    Kurlansky's writing is serviceable at best and more often rather clunky,repetitious, and tin-eared -- no one will ever accuse him of being a great prose stylist or a master storyteller. He doesn't have the most developed historical sense, which means that bits of information float in discreet units, bereft of context or full interpretation. And he has a *thing* about the Basques, which I have noticed turning up in his other work as well -- I think he tends to insert information he knows well (such as Basque history) into historical moments he's less sure of, so as to sound more knowledgeable than he perhaps truly is.

    Nevertheless, the stories Kurlansky has to tell are fascinating enough to mostly overcome those difficulties. As a bonus, each chapter can more or less stand on its own, so you can space your reading in bite-sized chunks, as it were -- "Salt" is a great book to bring to a waiting room or on a bus ride.

    In summary, "Salt" is an interesting book, but with too many flaws for me to recommend buying it. Borrow a copy from the library instead....more info
  • Gripping, no. A good reead, you bet
    This was not a gripping page turner, but I thought Kurlansky provided a very good overview of a substance that has been with us for thousands of years and has had a profound impact on humankind. I recommend it....more info
  • Interesting read
    I'm one of those strange people who like to know everything there is to know about one thing. I passed this book while running around my local library and thought to myself that I just didn't know enough about salt so I had to read it. Surprisingly, it was quite an entertaining read. For something we use so readily everyday, there is a mammoth history behind it. Wars were fought over it, it was used as currency, and it is used in various ways of food preparation from cooking to drying to pickling.

    Like many other reviewers have stated, the text reads just like a history book rather than a novel. The book certainly serves its purpose though of informing the reader of every historical significance that salt has ever played, and then some.
    Very interesting....more info
  • Salt
    An informative and entertaining book that is just chuck full of facts and anecdotal items that either provoked "Gee, I never knew that!" or, "so, that's why there is a town in that spot!" Writers who make me open a dictionary, map case, or encyclopedia are the cats who help me learn.Salt: A World History...more info
  • Indiana Jones, this IS history
    Remembering 2nd semester of Western Civ with a dynamic prof who loved to use the "spectrum of history" to link, religion, war, hobbies, work. That is how this book is read and you must eat the whole salty pretzel to get the flavor. You must try not to quibble with a few sweeping generalizations and dwell on the great facts that link this history together. A great prequel or sequel to "COD"

    well written and fun...more info
  • Break out the tequila
    If you plan on watching Jeopardy or wish to accumulate a pile of factoids on salt, this volume is for you. Entertaining but best read in small amounts....more info
  • Salt Rules
    Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky is a great book that unloads a huge amount of major and minor facts about salt. It seems salt was a major ingredient to world history. And, frankly, I don't know why some of these facts were not talked about in MY history classes.
    The Roman Empire, the Chinese Empire, the powers of the Mediterranean all needed salt. Salt was used as money, it was taxed and traded. It was used to cure skins, mine for silver and preserve meats. Without salt farmers would have died out, many early wars would rarely have happened and many navies would have no reason to have existed. Without salt fish could not have been turned into wealth, many explorers would not have even bothered to leave port and many a King would still be in power. Salt was a major item, a rock as important as gold, giving and taking away wealth and power.
    ...more info
  • Important History that the Book Does Not Mention
    Overall, I have enjoyed reading this book for its interesting historical facts. However, no where in the book does Kurlansky mention the biggest salt deposit in the United States that was discovered in Hutchinson, Kansas, the Salt City. Today along with a working salt mine, there is an underground salt museum there, one of the few in the world and, correct me if I am wrong, the only one in North America. This museum gives a unique perspective on how salt is mined. Not mentioning the significance of the Hutchinson salt mines is the one downside of the book.
    ...more info
  • Reads like someone's lame thesis
    Man, this didn't work at all for me. Here's why:

    - It zipped past the ancient history (which is what I like) and spent most of its time on European and (white) American history (which I usually already know and don't care about anyway).

    - You know how in college you would find some weird tangent to write your paper on so it would seem somewhat original? This book feels like a whole bunch of those essays. I get it, salt was important, but it still feels forced sometimes.

    - After a while, you start to get that dreaded "I'm reading history" feeling, where it all starts to look like a list of names and dates. It's totally possible to write history without writing lists; I just don't think this book pulled it off.

    Here's the impression I came away from this book with: "15th-century Germans really liked salt. Here's how they made it. You know who else liked salt? 16th-century French people. Here's a recipe that uses salt. Guess who else liked salt?" Ad infinitum.

    Meh....more info
  • Prepare to be A"salt"ed :-)
    This book is a relatively light look at how SALT has played a major roll in shaping our world and even the very language we use. The author has deeply researched the subject, compiling a very quick and fun read. While some of the historical ties might be overstated in parts, the roll of SALT really is undeniably important to both human survival and our culture.

    One unexpected benefit of reading this book is that you can be the only "expert" on SALT around almost any table, a great way to fill those awkward long silences at company gatherings :-) I also recommend Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World for the same reasons.

    Recommended!...more info
  • Salt
    A very interesting and in depth review of the "World of Salt" as only Mark Kurlansky can depict........more info
  • Another great hit!
    Kurlansky makes odd topics interesting and he does not fail with salt. Salt is truly one of the most important items in the history of the world. It has been essential in the development of civilization and has been fought over for centuries. The Middle East economy was built upon it and the fishing industries of Europe were essential. For those who are interested in how this vital commodity shaped the world this is a must read. ...more info
  • A superb history of an essential commodity
    Salt comes from the only family of rocks eaten by humans. Chloride is essentisal for digestion and respiration. Sodium, which the body, we learn, cannot manufacture, is necessary for the body to to transport nutrients and move muscles, such as the heart.

    Mark Kurlansky has written the definitive history of salt, laden with recipes, many of which are repulsive to the modern American taste, but were once a staple part of the diet.

    Salt is essential to human and animal life. Wrs hsve been fought over salt and the loss of the British Empire began with a protest over the tax on salt.

    That Kurlansky can make the history of what is now a common commodity fascinating over 452 pages is a credit to his skill. Every page brings to light new facts for the reader and where discovery lacks, Kurlansky plunks in a recipe. Overall, "Salt: A World History" should be required reading for American public school teachers so they emight be able to grasp both the beauty and importance of a knowledge of history - and then be given to their students to read and study instead of pap about "self-esteem" and "diversity".

    Salt is the world and Kurlansky looks into almost every culture and the nations they gave birth to for his history. It is truly and amazing work and even those with little interest in history would benefit from reading it.

    "Salt: A World History" so intrigued me in Kurlansky's skills that I now intend to read his history about cod, the fish that changed the world.

    Jerry...more info
  • A great read
    This book took an item we take for granted today, salt, and discussed its history. Some have criticized the author for including so many recipes. I disagree. Salt is used in cooking after all, and to put salt into a proper context we need to witness how it was used.

    I enjoyed how the author wove the various aspects of the salt trade into a coherent history. For instance, that salt was so important in wartime never struck me before, though it seems obvious now.

    A good, hard to put down read, Salt: A World History is a good book for people who like history, economics or the culinary arts....more info
    Well grouped...easy reading...a realistic look at human history seldom considered. Many of the culinary descriptions turned me into a complete vegetarian, but the unique education on human behavior was well worth that price....more info
  • Very interesting
    A very good lesson in history from a different perspective. I had no idea salt was such an important commodity throughout the ages....more info
  • Fails to crystallize
    Kurlansky's text is fragmentary and spotty, jumping from notion to notion without deeply examining any of them. For example, he has a chapter purporting to be about the geology of salt, but it actually covers petroleum and preservation; the bits on geology are scattered everywhere else.

    Worse is the regular occurance of factual errors, half-truths, and pure mistakes, appearing on nearly every page of the book. If an author wants to write about a chemical compound, he ought at least to know a little chemistry. Kurlansky claims that no one knows why the sea is salty; suggests that water can be 'cooked' out of salt; does not understand hygroscopy; cannot reliably identify which ions are reponsible for basic and which for acidic properties; and may not know what a redox reaction is.

    The 'salt' article on Wikipedia is better....more info
  • Ok...It was just Ok
    I purchsed this book used, and that's just what I got: a used book. Some of the pages were bent and the cover a little worn, but other than that it was ok. It looked as if it had been read more than once. But that's what I it was ok....more info
  • Salt Crystal Lamps from The Black Tai Salt Company
    Salt Crystal Lamps from The Black Tai Salt Company
    Black Tai Salt Crystal Lamps have a similar effect to the ionizer. However, the natural ionization of a crystal lamp cannot be compared to an ionizer. A salt crystal lamp can only have an ionization effect. However, salt crystal lamps have many advantages in many aspects and improve the general atmosphere of a room. If the lamp is next to a television or computer monitor, it's effect, through its electromagnetic field, of the device is in approximately the 100-160Hz zone. Our brain waves however, produce only 8Hz according to the Schuman resonance frequency. Therefore, the body is exposed to up to 20 times higher frequency patterns than it is generally used to. The consequences of this exposure result in nervousness, insomnia, and lack of concentration or concentration weaknesses. In addition, there will be an accumulation of more free radicals in the body, known to be a cause of cancer.
    The salt crystal lamp binds the negative ions with the excess positive ions. When the lamp becomes warm, it absorbs moisture and the crystal will be damp on the surface. This builds up the ion field. Through the lamp, the positively charged atmosphere of a room can be neutralized. In addition to this, the colors of the salt crystal stones have a healing effect. The therapeutic value of the colored crystals can reorganize the epidermal layer of our skin. Tests made with kids having ADHD symptoms have shown that after only one week of exposure to crystal salt lamps, their symptoms subsided. After removing the lamps, the symptoms returned.
    Research results
    It's a well know fact that, through scientific and empirical research, salt crystal lamps exhibit biophysical characteristics, which demonstrate a positive effect on our well-being. From a scientific view there are three natural action principles at play: ionization, the electromagnetic oscillation and the transparent-crystalline structure developing the light waves.
    Before we discuss the above mentioned characteristics of the salt crystal lamps in detail, we would like to point out that salt is a primal element, like water and air and its natural minerals and trace element have unique biophysical and biochemical characteristics. Salt is to be regarded as neutral, chemically as well as physically, without its own polarity, always balancing and neutralizing. Exactly like our planet earth's makeup, human beings consist of about 70% water; brine water more specifically. This enormous potential on enclosed brine solution transmits the cosmic oscillation (vibration) energy, not only evenly over our planets, but also reaches deep into our most minute cells and nerves. It is not only the salt from chemical view that the body needs salt in order to maintain our entire bodily functions, but the salt, from biophysical view, will always be able to bring the body back into its natural energy vibration rhythm.

    I. Salt Crystal Lamps and Ionization
    World-wide laboratory tests with the most diverse kinds of measuring methodology furnished the proof that the lit salt crystal lamps deliver ions to our environment. Primarily, the research points to an increased number of negative ions. The emission of ions is primarily caused by the alternating actions of the salt's ability to first absorb water, then evaporate it. To explain this more precisely, the heated salt crystal attracts the water molecules from the ambient air to its surface. The salt goes into a solution as it mixes with the water molecules. Sodium, as the positively charged ion, and chloride, as a negatively charged ion, becomes neutral and are emitted back into the environment. The uniqueness of this ion emission interrelation is only possible with the mineral salt, since salt possesses this transformation ability with water due to it's electrically neutral atomic structure. Scientific investigations of the last decades proved clearly that a balanced ion relationship with a little surplus of negative ions, can have extremely positive affects on our entire physical condition and our health. The heated salt crystal lamps can be referred to, according to research, as natural ion generators. Here however it is pointed out that the emission of ions by heated salt crystal lamps, should not be regarded as the primary characteristic, because from scientific standpoint, the surplus of negative ions is negligible. More important is its ability to clean the ambient air.
    Depending upon size and surface area of the salt crystal used for the lamp, the ambient air surrounding it is measurably cleaned by the transformation cycle of hydrogen and oxygen, as well as sodium and chloride ions. This characteristic is especially helpful for relieving the symptoms associated with asthma and allergies in general. The research of the characteristics of pure, or cleaned air through the action of the salt crystal lamps, is based on a medical therapy called Spelaeotherapy, a treatment where the patient enters an underground salt mine and is exposed to the concentrated atmosphere of negative ions. Further scientific research has not taken place yet under medical guidance, since scientific investigations are still at the beginning stages. One cannot compare the therapeutic effect of a singular salt crystal lamp to the effects found in a salt cave (mine), when conducted according to medical guidelines. However, there have been a great variety of holistic and positive self-therapy results, which can be classified as scientifically subjective, and should be recognized and considered.

    II. Salt Crystal Lamps and Electromagnetic Oscillation
    The Earth is surrounded by an electromagnetic belt, and within this belt every form of life comes and goes. Therefore, every form of life on this planet earth depends on the power of this electromagnetic field of vibration, known as the Schuman resonance frequency, which states that the given frequency of this electromagnetic field is at 7.83 Hz (cycles) per second . This value in known to be the resonant frequency of our earth. The resonant frequency is the most often frequency of measurement applied to mammals and can be measured as the resonant frequency of our brains with an EEG. Also, a salt crystal, in its neutral state, exhibits this exact frequency oscillation value. But due to our industrialized and technical way of life, the human organism is being affected, particularly in our homes and offices, to artificial electromagnetic wavelengths with the most diverse frequency values, caused by electronics devices. These frequencies have been proven not only to disturb our human organism, but also to promote illness, since they constantly overlap our natural resonant frequency. As a result of this constant exposure to various frequencies, our own electromagnetic energy field becomes imprinted by the frequencies forced upon it, which upsets the natural development of our cells. Because of the atomic structure of the salt, which is already neutral, it is most likely that the artificial frequencies can be harmonized or balanced by the lit salt lamp as it works as a natural amplifier for the resonant frequency of 8-10 cycles per second, which is so necessary for our life. With the use of a salt crystal lamp we can adjust and neutralize electromagnetic wavelengths caused by electronic devices in natural way.

    III. Salt Crystal Lamps and Light Waves
    When we talk about light we mean, for the most part, the oscillation energies, or electromagnetic wavelengths, which lie in a nanometer range visible to our human eye. From the color therapy it is well-known that the human organism needs the light waves of the rainbow spectrum (300-700 nanometers) for the health and preservation of the body. Our body's cells are supplied by light with new energy in the form of electromagnetic wavelengths. Thus the atomic structure of each individual cell vibrates in its own given order and can radiate bio photons as the cell's own electromagnetic energy field.
    The specific oscillation values of salt crystal lamps depend upon crystalline color structure in the so-called warm clay/tone range of 600-700 nanometers. For decades, the field of medicine has been using irradiation with monochromatic light, since these color vibration areas exert direct influence on our cell producing functions. To what extent a salt crystal lamp can be employed for natural irradiation therapy, is yet to be seen without further research. However, salt crystal lamps have been used therapeutically for years.
    ? 1999 - Institutes of Biophysical Research
    The Black Tai Salt Company and Katen TransLogic...more info
  • Read the Encyclopedia Instead
    If Bush is reading this piece of arcania, I'll begin to worry about him. This hopeless John McPhee wannabe stuffs the book with a lot of vignettes but, trust me, any encyclopedia article on salt is better written and more interesting. It's exceeded in tedium only by his book on cod. If you're having trouble getting to sleep at night, THIS is the book that will solve your ...more info
  • Tedious, but still interesting
    The historical, political and social aspects are interesting and, at times, make you say, "Wow, I didn't know that."

    The detailed descriptions of how various civilizations made salt (only about 4-5 different ways)should be skipped after the first episode and the recipes ignored altogether.

    All and all, probably worth the time...more info
  • Salt
    This is a history of the value of salt throughout the world. The book is very informative however it drifts sometimes. A very informative volume....more info
  • Good Read
    A fascinating book that's a quick read. Some of the historical assertions seem a bit of a stretch to me,(the American and French Revolutions fought over salt?)but I'm not an historian, and the book makes good arguments for its case. I have totally enjoyed it and have bought 2 more copies for gifts to foodie friends....more info
  • Full of flavor
    What a fabulous book! I never knew how important salt has been to human kind. The way history is interwoven with the mining,making and selling of salt is mind blowing. This book is truly a tasty way read and learn about the history of the world. ...more info
  • Pleasurable read about historys most important mineral
    I am a geologist and this book was a great pleasure to read. Salt aka Halite is a important mineral to a geologist. This was a fun book to see how important is is to history....more info
  • Salt....Who knew?
    When I first saw this book, I thought "how could someone write an entire book on the history of salt?" I thought, "maybe it was a general history book that brought up how salt played a part". I was way off. The book is really about salt, every chapter, every paragraph, almost every sentence is about salt.

    In some strange, amazing way, the book works. It took a few chapters to get used to the author's writing style (lots of talk of salt). By the third night of reading, I really got into it, and I could not believe how much I learned. While salt does not drive world events, it was interesting to see how much of history was impacted by something that is now so cheap and common.

    The only down side was that I annoyed people over the next few weeks with endless stories about salt. ...more info
  • Too Salty
    There is no question that "Salt" written by Mark Kurlansky is a well-researched fact filled book. And I agree with fellow reviewers that it is quite amazing that someone could write a book about salt that spans well over 400 pages. However, the book is bogged down by these facts far too often, unless your chef and/or really love detailed history, the read will slow for most.

    "Salt" is an ambitious book which chronicles salt from the dawn of human civilization to contemporary times. Broken into three sections, "Salt" starts with the importance of salt to our bodies as well as for preservation of food, mummies, etc., taking us from the dawn of man to the dawn of exploration. Part two explores salt as an international commodity and it's importance in the development of North America. While part 3 delves into the research and politics of salt with in the last 100 years or so.

    Filled with many interesting nuggets of info that keeps you wanting more "Salt" is not a bad read it's just that those nuggets are too few and too far in-between for my taste....more info
  • Salt to Taste
    This book earned me the UberDork rating from anyone I told about it, but they are the ones who missed out. The writing is clear and makes for fun snippet reading. (Got 10 minutes? Pick it up!) The useless but fun facts mentioned by another reviewer are a big part of what kept me reading, but I have to admit that the real attraction was how Kurlansky connected salt to so many locations through the centuries. I disagree that SALT wasn't organized; it simply takes a "global" approach, something which many people can't appreciate because they perceive history as a linear concept. Linear history is neat and clean, but misses the point that events evolve, appear and disappear no matter where you drop in on the so-called "timeline". It is more a bubbling stew than a piece of string, in my estimation, and explains the "repetitiveness" mentioned in other reviews. SALT has the kind of circular information that comes in so handy for teaching History, which I happen to do. It is also great for getting a deeper understanding in the broad sense of how something we take for granted is integral to how humanity developed. Yes, very geekish on the one hand, but on the information to annoy your friends with. Read SALT and consider its curious, circuitous route to your mouth....more info