Books by Mark Kurlansky

MARK KURLANSKY is the New York Times bestselling and James A. Beard Award—winning author of 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, Salt: A World History, The Basque History of the World, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, The White Man in


SALMON by Mark Kurlansky
NONFICTION
Released: March 3, 2020

"In championing a critically important part of the natural world, Kurlansky sounds an urgent alarm that commands our attention."
Having written about milk, salt, oysters, and frozen food, Kurlansky (Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas, 2018, etc.) turns his pen to an iconic fish on the brink of extinction. Read full book review >
BUGS IN DANGER by Mark Kurlansky
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 12, 2019

"A conversation starter. (endnotes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)"
"The disappearance of a few prominent insects could lead to the complete unraveling of life on Earth." Read full book review >
MILK! by Mark Kurlansky
Released: May 8, 2018

"Chock-full of fascinating details and more than 100 recipes."
A wide-ranging history of a surprisingly controversial form of nourishment. Read full book review >
HAVANA by Mark Kurlansky
Released: March 7, 2017

"An affectionate, richly detailed, brief biography of a unique city."
Journeying through the streets, and history, of Cuba's famed capital. Read full book review >
PAPER by Mark Kurlansky
HISTORY
Released: May 17, 2016

"Kurlansky has been breezier in the past, a better stylistic choice for books with this level of detail to become absorbing reads."
Kurlansky (City Beasts: Fourteen Stories of Uninvited Wildlife, 2015, etc.), who chronicles world history and human advancement via one telling topic at a time, chooses paper for his latest undertaking. Read full book review >
FROZEN IN TIME by Mark Kurlansky
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 11, 2014

"More and more young people are interested in where their food comes from, and this volume offers one fascinating part of the story. (bibliography, index) (Biography. 10-14)"
Clarence Birdseye, written about in three previous works for adults by Kurlansky—Cod (1997), Salt (2002) and The Last Fish Tale (2009)—takes center stage as the creator of a new food industry in this young-readers' adaptation of Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man (2012). Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: July 11, 2013

"An ambitious thematic arc, but the devil's in the details."
Fascinating but flawed, the latest from Kurlansky (Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man, 2012 etc.) suggests that not only was the Martha and the Vandellas' hit the anthem for a time of profound change, but a call to arms for rioting militants in its "invitation across the nation." Read full book review >
BIRDSEYE by Mark Kurlansky
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: May 8, 2012

"The author notes that Birdseye knew that curiosity is 'one essential ingredient' in a fulfilling life; it is a quality that grateful readers also discover in each of Kurlansky's books."
Yes, the frozen-food guy really was named Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956), and the story of his adventures is another satisfying dish from the remarkable menu of the author of Cod (1997), Salt (2002) and other treats. Read full book review >
BATTLE FATIGUE by Mark Kurlansky
FICTION
Released: Oct. 25, 2011

"Pair this penetrating examination of a teen's interior process with Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels (1988) for a discussion about teens and the Vietnam War. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)"
When Joel declares himself a Conscientious Objector to the Vietnam War, he feels as though his whole life has been leading to this moment. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: May 1, 2011

"Two of the chapter titles anticipate two of the likely responses: 'So?' and 'Huh?'"
A conceptual essay collection as parlor game. Read full book review >
WORLD WITHOUT FISH by Mark Kurlansky
ANIMALS
Released: April 18, 2011

The author of Cod (1997) successfully provides readers with a frightening look at the looming destruction of the oceans. Brief sections in graphic-novel format follow a young girl, Ailat, and her father over a couple of decades as the condition of the ocean grows increasingly dire, eventually an orange, slimy mess mostly occupied by jellyfish and leatherback turtles. At the end, Ailat's young daughter doesn't even know what the word fish means. This is juxtaposed against nonfiction chapters with topics including types of fishing equipment and the damage each causes, a history of the destruction of the cod and its consequences, the international politics of the fishing industry and the effects of pollution and global warming. The final chapter lists of some actions readers could take to attempt to reverse the damage: not eating certain types of fish, joining environmental groups, writing to government officials, picketing seafood stores that sell endangered fish, etc. Whenever an important point is to be made, font size increases dramatically, sometimes so that a single sentence fills a page—attention-getting but distractingly so. While it abounds with information, sadly, no sources are cited, undermining reliability. Additionally, there are no index and no recommended bibliography for further research, diminishing this effort's value as a resource. Depressing and scary yet grimly entertaining. (Nonfiction/graphic-novel hybrid. 10 & up)Read full book review >
EDIBLE STORIES by Mark Kurlansky
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 2, 2010

"A delicious and delectable novel by an award-winning food writer that leaves you wanting more."
Kurlansky (The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris, 2010, etc.) dishes up a loosely concatenated novel, each part titled after a food that plays a starring role in that chapter. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: April 15, 2010

"Though somewhat elementary in places, a sensitive work that celebrates even as it demythologizes."
The bittersweet tale of San Pedro de Macorís, the struggling Dominican town that has sent 79 players to the Major Leagues since the early 1960s. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: June 3, 2008

"A lucent addition to Gloucester's town treasury, featuring a wealth of dramatic stories."
Kurlansky (Nonviolence: 25 Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea, 2006, etc.) brings his storytelling élan to the fishing town of Gloucester, Mass. Read full book review >
THE STORY OF SALT by Mark Kurlansky
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

The author of Cod's Tale (2001) again demonstrates a dab hand at recasting his adult work for a younger audience. Here the topic is salt, "the only rock eaten by human beings," and, as he engrossingly demonstrates, "the object of wars and revolutions" throughout recorded history and before. Between his opening disquisition on its chemical composition and a closing timeline, he explores salt's sources and methods of extraction, its worldwide economic influences from prehistoric domestication of animals to Gandhi's Salt March, its many uses as a preservative and industrial product, its culinary and even, as the source for words like "salary" and "salad," its linguistic history. Along with lucid maps and diagrams, Schindler supplies detailed, sometimes fanciful scenes to go along, finishing with a view of young folk chowing down on orders of French fries as ghostly figures from history look on. Some of Kurlansky's claims are exaggerated (the Erie and other canals were built to transport more than just salt, for instance), and there are no leads to further resources, but this salutary (in more ways than one) micro-history will have young readers lifting their shakers in tribute. (Picture book/nonfiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: March 1, 2006

"A compelling, highly readable treat, whether you partake of Ostreidae or not."
Kurlansky (Boogaloo on Second Avenue, 2005, etc.) takes a fresh look at the tasty, once plentiful mollusk in this stimulating, often fascinating saga. Read full book review >
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 1, 2005

"Sugary but far from insubstantial: a definitive portrait of an era that's all the better for not really trying to be one."
The yuppies are coming! Kurlansky, tackler of seemingly any nonfiction subject (Choice Cuts, 2002; 1968, 2004, etc.), distills his many passions into his first novel. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Jan. 1, 2004

"Says so much so well about a year that still steals your breath away, even with so many of its hopes dashed. (Illustrations throughout)"
A masterful chronicle of a year when the world was living dangerously and everybody's hair was afire. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Nov. 1, 2002

"An exhaustive and lively assemblage, best for snacking rather than gorging."
Bestselling food historian Kurlansky (Salt, 2002, etc.) collects writing from two millennia that describes with wit and zest cooks, cooking, and cuisines. Read full book review >
THE COD’S TALE by Mark Kurlansky
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

An awesome introduction for young readers to the Atlantic codfish by the author of the bestselling adult title, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (1997). The readable narrative is coupled with handsome paintings of majestic codfish and often-humorous sketches of early explorers, fishermen, cooks, and historical figures. The author describes how the cod was to become: "not only the most commonly eaten fish in the Western world, but also one of the most valuable items of trade. Valued like gold or oil, cod played a central role in the history of North America and Europe." He includes information on life cycle and anatomy, enemies, where cod is found, and how it was caught, from early Viking days to the present. He describes how dried and salted cod became the staple food of the Vikings, the Basques, and other early explorers, permitting longer sea voyages. How it saved the lives of early settlers, and became an important currency in the slave trade; fueled prosperity for the 13 colonies; and was a bone of contention in the Revolutionary War. Kurlansky is a masterful storyteller with great enthusiasm for his subject, and Schindler's pictures, from serious to silly, add to the pleasure. A timeline across the bottom of the pages helps to put everything in perspective and a terrific bibliography offers a variety of other reading (and recipes) for young and old. Readers of this title will never again look at fish and chips in quite the same way. (Nonfiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
SALT by Mark Kurlansky
NON-FICTION
Released: Feb. 1, 2001

"Enlightening and delighting as he goes, Kurlansky is, like Jane Grigson before him, a peerless food historian."
A lively social history that does for salt what Kurlansky previously did for Cod (1997). Read full book review >
THE BASQUE HISTORY OF THE WORLD by Mark Kurlansky
HISTORY
Released: Oct. 14, 1999

A comprehensive view of all things Basque, from the author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (1997). The Basque History of the World is an honorable title, alerting readers to its singularly Basque-centric mix of cultural studies, history, and politics. The writing is direct and accessible, although limited by the occasional descriptive clichÇ (—jagged mountains" and "crisp fall days—). It's most interesting when describing the periods when Basque history intersects with the history of the larger world. For example, in a section on the Spanish Civil War, Kurlansky utilizes quotes from survivors of the 1937 bombing of Guernica by Franco's forces, the first large-scale use of air power against a civilian population, to create a sense of suspense, dread, and terror. The bravery of members of the Basque underground, who helped over 700 downed Allied fliers escape from Nazi-occupied territory to England during WWII, is also depicted through compelling first-person recollections. The last third of the book, covering the post-WWII period and the radicalization of a faction of the Basque independence movement, is most problematic. While Kurlansky adeptly explains the logic for Basque autonomy and presents the most radical wings" justification for its historical use of terrorism, his analysis too often accepts the Basque view at face value and offers no independent perspective. Perhaps this is because Kurlansky is enamored of his subject, especially the Basque language, Euskera. Euskera warrants attention, as it's a unique non-Indo-European language with no known linguistic relatives. Kurlansky knows the Basques well and includes many entertaining anecdotes, myths, and facts about them, all of which reflect a quaint Basque chauvinism. According to the author, the Basque are: probably the original Europeans, the first Europeans to cultivate tobacco, the first bankers in Spain, the most devout Catholics in the world, and among the inventors of beach resorts. In its entirety, this is an informative but ethnocentric history that readers should approach with their critical faculties intact. (Author tour) Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Aug. 1, 1997

Cod—that whitest of the white-fleshed fish, prize of every fish-and-chips establishment—gets expert, loving, and encyclopedic handling from Food and Wine columnist Kurlansky (A Chosen Few: The Resurrection of European Jewry, 1994, etc.). There was one very good reason that tenth-century Vikings made it to the New World: Norway to Iceland to Greenland to Canada, they followed the exact range of the Atlantic cod. When explorers pushed off European shores in search of Eldorado, others made straight for the cod fisheries of the North Atlantic; the codfishers got by far the better results. Writing with a bright, crisp, journalistic flair, Kurlansky situates the cod in all its historic glory: the mysteries of the early Basque fisheries, the role of Catholic lean days in generating a profitable market, and the rise of the codfish aristocrats. The fish ascended from a commodity to a fetish: on coins, newspaper mastheads, tax stamps, official crests and seals. The author explains how a cod run could determine an entire regional economy and how salt cod figured in slave trading. Then came the steam engine and frozen food, changing the face of a dory-and-schooner fishing practice that hadn't seen a makeover in eons. The revolution wreaked havoc on the marketplace and just plain wrecked the bank fisheries. Territorial boundaries; the complexities of marine ecology; old, annotated recipes for preparing cod; place portraits of Gloucester, Mass., and Newlyn, England; and the current moratorium on cod fishing—Kurlansky sketches them all in his effort to compose this smart biography of the famous groundfish. Will the cod come back? Kurlansky demurs; maybe its place will be usurped by the ratty Arctic cod: ``Nature, the ultimate pragmatist, doggedly searches for something that works. But as the cockroach demonstrates, what works best in nature does not always appeal to us.'' (25 illustrations) Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Nov. 1, 1994

A richly descriptive and insightful survey of post-Holocaust European Jewry. Kurlansky (A Continent of Islands, 1992) interviews scores of Holocaust survivors and their children in Germany, Holland, Poland, Slovakia, and other countries to examine how and why Jews still live in Europe. He moves from the end of WW II to the present, showing people just after the war, often in displaced-persons camps, and then later, having survived—opening a bakery in Paris, enrolling in a Jewish school in Budapest, or running a museum in Prague. Kurlansky states that ``Jewry today has a future in Europe, and Hitler at last has been defeated,'' and he gives statistical evidence that European Jewry is rebounding. But the qualitative state of European Jewry remains less clear. Many of the interview subjects have had Jewish identity thrust on them, whether they want it or not, by political opponents or by the biases and prejudices of the majority cultures in which they reside. And the few traditional Jews (in the growing communities of France and the Lowlands) are immigrants from North Africa or Hasidim who have come to ply the diamond trade. Many of the younger people we meet have only been told of their Jewish background when a parent is dying or when a child is found to be on the receiving or giving end of anti- Semitism. Anti-Semitism, in fact, has been a constant over the years, whether it's the rantings of Nazis or the subtle, anti- Zionist sneers of present-day foreign secretaries. This is not a catalogue of fear and shame, however, as Kurlansky, with a novelist's eye for irony and description, offers many moments of transcendence and humor: entertaining culture clashes between communists and capitalists, religious and secular, Zionists and diasporists. The humor darkens when American tourists are greeted at the Warsaw train station with cries of ``Taxi? Hotel? Auschwitz?'' in Poland's new ``world fair of genocide.'' A lively, penetrating follow-up to Holocaust readings that speaks volumes about the resiliency of the Jewish people. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Feb. 6, 1992

A penetrating analysis of the social, political, sexual, and cultural worlds that exist behind the four-color Caribbean travel posters. Kurlansky, who reports on the Caribbean for The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, etc., has wide-ranging interests. Here, he discusses such diverse (and unexpected) aspects of his subject as the politics of hurricanes—how island leaders and their rivals take advantage of natural disasters to further their aims; the effects of AIDS on sexual practices throughout the region—the sections on Castro's handling of the AIDS emergency are particularly engrossing; and the impact of American Fundamentalist proselytizing on traditional West Indian religious groups. The author leavens his material by alternating these in-depth discussions with amusing vignettes of some of his own experiences below the Tropic of Cancer. His description of the arrival of the first McDonald's outlet on Barbados, for example, is hilarious: The Bajans, originally excited at the prospect of Big Macs, considered the burgers disappointing ``little bitty thing[s]'' when they finally appeared. One of Kurlansky's major themes is the danger inherent in a tourism-based island economy—which he believes could lead to the corruption of West Indian culture. He speaks eloquently about the cultural roots of the Caribbean peoples—though he seems not fully aware of the discrepancies that lurk there—pointing out, for example, that ``There are those Caribbeans, usually lighter- skinned, who argue that Caribbeans...use their history as an excuse...to avoid accepting responsibility....Even this is part of the conditioning of their history....To fight this mentality is to fight the legacies of history.'' Should be read by every West Indies traveler and even by old Caribbean hands, who will find here page after page of highly original insights. (Black & white photos—not seen.) Read full book review >