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The Spice of Life: A book review of Salt: A World History

September 26, 2018

 

Whether you sprinkle it on your eggs in the morning or soak it in at the spa as a treat, I'm willing to bet you have a little salt somewhere in your life.

 

Turns out this unassuming condiment has played a dramatic role in shifting empires, transforming economies, and shaping our cultural tastes...literally.

 

For years, I've been searching for a comprehensive book about the history of the world that isn't a complete snore or so academic that I  don't understand what's being said after about the first couple paragraphs. Who knew that I'd find it in a book about salt.

 

Hang with me here because I know you're thinking, "Seriously, salt?" The book Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky begins at the dawn of civilization and traces the path of salt through until modern times. Far from a bore, Kurlansky deftly illustrates how the desire (and physical need) for this basic mineral propelled commerce, innovation, and even intrigue. 

 

Kurlansky leads readers through centuries of salt use in a way that feels more story than study. At times, he takes a step away from the narrative and examines other social issues - poverty, slavery, classism - through the lens of access to commodities that fuel economies. With detailed research and a smooth writing style, Kurlansky opens readers' eyes to the [strangely] influential world of something that sits in our kitchen cupboards, if not on our tables.

 

If you're looking for a highly-engaging read that will also give you a broad picture of the scope of world history, look no further. And I promise you, after reading this book, you'll never look at your salt shaker the same way again. 

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