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Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World | [Mark Kurlansky]

Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

Talk about a fish story! New York Times and Harper's columnist Mark Kurlansky offers "history filtered through the gills of the fish trade." David McCullough, the historian behind John Adams, says Kurlansky's "charming tale" of a "seemingly improbable idea" will change the way people think of the fish and the history.
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Publisher's Summary

The innocuous cod has been the subject of international wars, national diets, economies, livelihoods, and health in general. Mark Kurlansky approaches the cod with his love of food and food culture, and leaps into history, folklore, and even recipes dating to the fourteenth century and forward. This famous fish spurred interest in the development of North America, and caused a whole nation of people to jump into fishing and ocean exploration. Including word origins, this audiobook also contains recipes and uses for all kinds of cod.

Enjoy Mark Kurlansky's books? Listen to an interview with the author on To the Best of Our Knowlege.

©1997 Mark Kurlansky; (P)2002 New Millennium Audio, All Rights Reserved

What the Critics Say

"Every once in a while a writer of particular skills takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight...No one who reads this charming tale will ever think the same of either the fish or the history." (David McCullough, author of John Adams)
"History filtered through the gills of the fish trade." (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (326 )
5 star
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4.0 (110 )
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4.1 (106 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Karen Apex, NC, United States 10-13-03
    Karen Apex, NC, United States 10-13-03 Member Since 2001

    I write my reviews under my wife Karen's account. Retired USN Russian linguist/analyst; actor; director; producer. Biography & History focus

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    "A great fish story"

    This review will be short and sweet. Fascinating but a bit long. I rate it a "4" due to it's length. Now...for a definite "5" rating, read "Salt" by the same author.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B. W. Larsen Boynton Beach, FL United States 03-01-03
    B. W. Larsen Boynton Beach, FL United States 03-01-03

    Bj

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    "Seven and a half hour about COD???"

    Yep, that's what you get from Mark Kurlansky... over seven hours of engrossing information and storytelling about a fish. What a successful blend of journalist, historian, and novelist Kurlansky turned out to be as proven by this very readable book.

    Who would have thunk that the cod played a significant role in the maintenance of the american slavery trade and keep? That the fish nearly started a war between UK and Iceland in modern time? That the Vikings discovered the American continent because of the darn cod? That our pilgrims of Thanksgiving fame failed to eat the bounty of the sea and elected rather to starve than feast on lobster and cod?

    The chapters on the Basques made me pick up the next book by Kurlanski; he clearly has a tremendous knowledge of the area and the history of the Basque people.

    Each segment is capped off by a number of appropriate recepies based on cod from the area narrated. I guess this is probably better suited to the printed page than in the audible edition.

    The narration is very good and helps keep the attention throughout the story.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Napa, CA 06-15-09
    Amazon Customer Napa, CA 06-15-09 Member Since 2002

    KMW

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    "More like a coffee table book than a real history!"

    The subject is so thin, the author padded the book out by throwing in every cod recipe he could find and many, many random quotes. Also, a good part of the book discusses how sad it is for fishing towns and generational fishermen to not have cod to fish anymore. The explanation about how modern fishing techniques ruined its own industry is pretty good. I just wonder if it is worth a whole book?

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Australia 11-09-13
    Joseph Australia 11-09-13 Member Since 2002
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    "I believe in Cod"

    This is a wonderfully written book. Mark Kurlansky’s protagonist could be seen as just a rather boring fish. But he demonstrates that this fish has been in the middle of great struggles, political battles, economic experiments and even wars. He throws a net around a thousand disparate facts and hauls in a fascinating catch.

    I was less enthused by the narration. Whilst it was a solid performance I found the accents forced, even caricature like.

    Chapters begin with a recipe, a nice technique that I quite enjoyed in the book “Like water for chocolate”. But I read that book, and listened to this one. It leaves me convinced that recipes are meant to be read, not heard.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan White Salmon, WA, USA 10-12-09
    Susan White Salmon, WA, USA 10-12-09
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    "Interesting"

    Informational, sometimes boring. Would be better read than listened to.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stanley New York, NY, USA 03-07-05
    Stanley New York, NY, USA 03-07-05
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    "Now, to find a supply of salt cod ..."

    Well recorded and full of surprises and discoveries. I'd be surpised if anybody could read this and say, on finishing it, "yeah, so what, I knew all that." Bet you didn't. A charmingly told tale that, by the end, had me searching the Internet to find a source for ordering some high-quality salt cod. Some complain about the "recipes" in the audio book -- obviously of less value than in the print version -- but even if you never cook and don't like the taste of fish you will likely find this his/story fascinating.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Healdsburg, CA, United States 06-10-04
    David Healdsburg, CA, United States 06-10-04 Member Since 2004
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    "Facsinating!"

    Enjoyed this book alot! Lots of great facts and historical links like his other book, "Salt".

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    reggie p PA 10-15-03
    reggie p PA 10-15-03 Member Since 2003

    reggie

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    "very informative yet extremely enjoyable"

    I found this book very informative and extremely interesting. I learned about fish, the fishing industry, the role cod played in this country's early history and foreign affairs as well as conservation and ecology regarding our natural resources. The narration was done very well too. There were recipes sprinkled throughout the book but they were relatively short so aren't too much of a bother. There were several grouped at the end which could probably be skipped but I perservered and learned a few interesting facts the author sprinkled about here too. Don't let the recipes stop you from reading the book. It is surprisingly enjoyable.
    I was fascinated by what I learned in this book and look forward to reading others by this author, particularly the ones on Salt and the Basques.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gene Agoura Hills, CA, USA 03-04-03
    Gene Agoura Hills, CA, USA 03-04-03
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    "A Fun Book"

    This book catapulted me into a new understanding of the major role of cod in world history. The topic almost seems absurd to begin with, but the author makes a very convincing case. A sub-theme of the book is the sad tale of how this magnificent fish is now virtually wiped out because of over-fishing. If you are looking for a book that is amusing and yet informative, this is an ideal choice. The end of the book is composed of one cod recipe after another, which you could profitably skip; it gets old after awhile. The reading is quite well done.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 07-24-12
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 07-24-12 Member Since 2006

    My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.

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    "Absolutely fascinating and outstanding!"

    Definitely one of the best books I have ever come across. Kurlansky has researched this thing to death. I had no idea how big a part cod had played in the history and exploration of the world. The number of stories and anecdotes and the historical references is just astonishing. And on top of it all there are the historical recipes. Some of those are simply impractical as written, but as appetizing as they sound on audio, you might want to pick up a paper copy if you want to try them out.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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