Monday, August 20, 2007

Recent books

Reading is another passion, although one for which I have regrettably little time. It seems like most books take me about a two to three weeks to read, depending on random physical characteristics like length, mass, and density. (You get to pick how those interrelate in a literary sense versus what they teach you in physics.)

Since starting this blog, I've read a number of volumes that I would suggest picking up, including Guns, Germs, and Steel, and 1491. I also read cod, which lead me to the back I last finished, which will be tonight's topic. That book would be Salt, which, like cod, was written by Mark Kurlansky. I would recommend both books, and found both to be engaging, if somewhat obscure, histories. The history of the world as centered on the use of salt is certainly an arcane and fascinating one. I wasn't aware that Cape Cod was once a huge saltworks, primarily to supply the cod industry. (Makes sense, but who knew?) Of course, there are lots of English words based on either the Latin or Greek words for salt, like salary and soldier.

Most interestingly, the table salt we all take for granted, and is now extremely cheap, is new in the last 120 years or so. Go back in time a bit, and the stuff we now think of as exotic and expensive, like fancy gray sea salt from France, was the common stuff, and the white even-grained stuff was a serious luxury item. It's funny how these things work out!

Anyway, I suggest reading all of the above. In progress: The Peloponnesian War, by Donald Kagan. Up after that: The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman.

More soon!


Tom said...


When you read The Peloponnesian War, you might also like the "original" by Thucydides.

I had it assigned by Professor Allen at HMC in "Rhetoric", way back when. It was hugely interesting, although it was not an easy read. The book was the entire class; each week we had a 1 (and only 1) page essay on the reading for the week.

Tom J., HMC '87

David said...

Yup, read the original at HMC. It's a pretty rough read, as I recall. Perhaps it's better in Greek.... This one leans heavily on Thucydides, but is a much more accessible tome.

More once it's done!