Book Review: Cod

Just finished Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World over the weekend (went on a ski trip with the Junior High, will post comments tomorrow).  A fascinating little book (under 300 pages, but very easy pages) about the history of cod and it’s impact on human history.  Below is my review from LibraryThing:

         This small tome provides fascinating insight into the historical importance of cod to the development of Europe and North America.  Initially drawn by the uniqueness of the subject (Who has read a biography about a species of fish?), I was very impressed with how author Mark Kurlansky weaves the importance of cod into the narrative of history.  The secret to the Basque development in the Middle Ages? They had discovered the North Atlantic cod fields.  How were the Vikings able to survive on voyages to Iceland, Greenland, and North America? They depended on cod.  Why did Boston and the rest of the New England colonies gain power almost overnight? They had developed a great cod industry off of Cape Cod.  Throughout the last 1000 years of world history, especially North Atlantic history, the fishing of cod has been a key issue.

            Kurlansky develops the cod fishing industry through time as well as location.  Attention is given to Gloucester, Iceland, and Newlyn, three cod fish capitals in a former life.  However these towns, as well as the codfish industry itself, are being lost due to overfishing.  The author takes time to describe the current state of the codfish industry, where overfishing and the subsequent government-issued moratoriums have forced most cod fishermen into the unemployment line. 

          This very entertaining book will leave you wanting more.  I have already added a few similar subject books to my “To Read” list in order to whet my appetite.  Overall, a very good book about the impact of a fish on 1000 years of world history, and the current struggles to keep this fish from extinction. 

 Since I am a history geek, I am always a sucker for obscure yet interesting history books.  Check out my LibraryThing Library for more of my tastes in books.

   A Biography

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