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Publisher's Summary

So much of our human body is made up of salt that we'd be dead without it. The fine balance of nature, the trade of salt as a currency of many nations and empires, the theme of a popular Shakespearean play... Salt is best selling author Mark Kurlansky's story of the only rock we eat.

From its single origin, to the other discoveries made because of it, fascinating tales of salt and the people who have been involved with it through the ages are interwoven here. Fifteen recipes are included that will meet with every taste. Mark Kurlansky has produced a kaleidoscope of history, a multi-layered masterpiece that blends economic, scientific, political, religious, and culinary records into a rich and memorable tale.

Enjoy Mark Kurlansky's books? Listen to an interview with the author on To the Best of Our Knowlege.
©2002 Mark Kurlansky (P)2002 New Millenium Audio, All Rights Reserved

Critic Reviews

"A piquant blend of the historic, political, commercial, scientific and culinary, the book is sure to entertain as well as educate." (Publishers Weekly) "Kurlansky continues to prove himself remarkably adept at taking a most unlikely candidate and telling its tale with epic grandeur." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • andrew
  • Bountiful, UT, United States
  • 10-01-10

View through a prism

For some reason, salt has been written out of history. You hear about gold, silver, sugar, silk, all kinds of commodities, but not salt. Why this is, I do not know. You will never look at food the same way again I expect. I love food history and general history and this kind of very specific angle book which looks through a prism and expands. So this was right up my alley, but I think anyone who can take pleasure in a high intellectual read, that is a bit dry at times, will enjoy this. The book is well organized and touches on a lot of places, eras, wars, theories, and leaders. The brief "caption biography" of Ghandi was one highlight. So are tidbits and anecdotes about Roquefort cheese (if you've never had it you will miss out on the humor of that story: it is glorius by the way, so go buy some if you can find it) and the first champion of Roquefort Cheese, as well as Christianity: Charlemagne, about the staggering difference in salt consumption up to the 20th century and since the 20th century, and about Vikings, Celts, Soddom and Gommora and Lot's Wife! (that cryptic bible story debunked) and lots of others.

The only reason I do not give it 5 stars is I have heard Scott Brick read about 10 books now, and he is always good, but I am very very sick of his voice and his slow, measured, perfect pauses and emphases always put at the same point in the sentence- you could hand me any book in any genre and I could do a killer Scott Brick impression. He's pretty much the scourge of my life at this point. An excellent narrator though if you've never heard him before. This is the type of book Thomas Pynchon must read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Love it!

Anyone who likes history, strategy, world travel, or just plain wondered about the impact of salt on the world will enjoy this book. It's a wonderful sprinkling of knowledge that will appeal to anyone who likes to pull a "did you know..." out of their pocket during random conversation. I've had a great deal of fun finding ways to recall stories from this book in everyday conversations with friends and collegues to show how salt continues to shape their lives in amazing ways. (In fact I got a fake book called the History of Pepper as a gift) If you love history or technical reading this is an incredible book. To date it is my favorite and has topped my list for several years. I found the recipe section interesting, though I admit a little dry. However the wealth of other fascinating impacts of salt on world history kept me riveted. I was delighted to see the book in audio form so that I can enjoy it again during commutes. It's got everything. Stories about everyday man, ruling bodies, ancient and modern trade routes, waring factions, and usurping politicians. It honors the contributions of many cultures and beautifully illustrates the impact salt had on those civilizations. Well Done! Highly recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Robert
  • Burlingame, CA, USA
  • 02-28-07

Abridgement needed!

While there are certainly some interesting & informative facts in this book, 13 hours is far too long and I found myself "zoning out" after a while. A 5 hour abridgement would've been nice.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Salt and So Much More

In an age of plug-in refrigeration, it's easy to forget just how vital salt was to the preservation of food in a pre-electricity world. Thankfully, Kurlansky explains it all. The author paints with a big brush here (history, economics, nutrition, engineering, chemistry, sociology), so if you download, prepare yourself for an epic ride through all things salt, and on every level. The recipes do get a bit tiresome, but Kurlansky always has a point, even if he seems to be going off on a tangent. In the end, he'll tell you a lot of things you didn't know, and some things you never suspected. Great structure, amazing research, excellent Scott Brick narration. I'm just waiting for the sequel on Pepper. If Kurlansky can bring life to a substance as staid as salt, just think of what he could do with something that has a little more kick to it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Everything you ever wanted to know...

Who woulda thunk that salt had such an interesting history. Whole empires and economics lived and died by salt. Definitely a great book!!! Read it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

With a silly title like

... it is an amazingly good book. Much, much more than a mere NaCl, this is a sweeping history of man, from 4000BC to the present. But unlike so many other world histories, wars aren't the points by which the dots are connected; it's salt. While today it may seem mundane and ordinary, salt's fascinating importance throughout history is presented, with many colorful asides written and read beautifully.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Bryan
  • Parker, CO, United States
  • 02-06-04

Fascinating and informative

I found Salt to be an incredibly fascinating book. The impact of such a simple thing as salt on social, economic, and political development throughout the history of human kind is just amazing.

I am looking forward to other books by Mark Kurlansky.

Also, Scott Brick's reading is wonderful. He has a great voice that I have enjoyed on other titles.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Paul
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • 11-04-03

Surprisingly good.

*Listening* to a book on audio is not at all the same as reading it in print. This is one I would never read in print; it would put me to sleep in ten minutes. But I listened to it on a long drive and found it a surprisingly good listen. Lots of lore (for example, the origin of the words 'salad' and 'salary'), and lots of history that's far more interesting than it has any right to be! And many more recipies prominently featuring salt than you'll ever cook up in a lifetime.

As someone with a blood pressure problem, I found that -- oddly -- there only minimal discussion of the medical aspects of salt. Never mind, I'm glad I got this one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Daniel
  • Boise, ID, USA
  • 09-21-03

Fascinating view of history

I completely enjoyed this look at history from another perspective. My friends grew weary of my relating stories from what I learned day after day while listening to this book. One even broke down and listened to it himself. A very good listen and quite informative.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • William
  • Prescott, AZ, United States
  • 06-18-03

History and Chemistry!

Excellent book. The history and the science are both fascinating. Many, many insights into food and vocabulary, politics and economics. I've read The Basque History of the World and am about to buy the book on COD. I've become a great fan of Kurlansky's approach to subject matter and his unique style of writing. Very well done.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful