About Mark Kurlansky

  • May 11, 2011

Mark Kurlansky


Award-winning. Critically-acclaimed. Best-selling. All over the map. Aspiring authors dream of achieving the first three of these distinctions, but Mark Kurlansky has conquered all four. And in his unique approach to history and nature, "all over the map" is a very good thing indeed.

Salt may be essential to life, but not a likely title for a best-selling historical work. With Kurlansky's touch, we learn how salt helped us preserve food, which sent us farther in search of it, which led to ocean discoveries, which led to a global trade in fish products, which led to overfishing.

Kurlansky's salt history had followed another best-seller, Cod, which had traced the global impact of a fish so perfect for human consumption that it merited its own biography. The book's title subject servces nicely as a vehicle to tell a much larger story of our relationship with nature.

In his 2006 book The Big Oyster, Kurlansky turns the trick again. New York Harbor once yielded a seemingly-unending supply of oysters "so large they must be cut into two or three pieces." But while our gastronomic love affair with the shellfish gets top billing, the back story of the conversion of the Harbor from a productive estuary to a commercial powerhouse–and dumping ground–is the moral of the story.

Two years later, Kurlansky focused on another seafood capital, Gloucester, Massachusetts. The Last Fish Tale traces Gloucester's growth into a fishing colossus from colonial times to the appalling-but-heroic loss of thousands of fishermen's lives aboard Gloucester schooners to another tragedy: the collapse of the cod fishery.

Kurlansky's latest work, A World Without Fish, sums up the threat to our oceans and is targeted at families, and the audience with the biggest stake in protecting them: Children.

When he is not focused on our oceans, Kurlansky has applied his knack for offbeat history to topics are varied as nonviolence, the traumatic events of the year 1968 and the Dominican town of San Pedro de Macoris, famed for producing both can sugar and an abnormally high number of Major League Baseball players.

Topics: Oceans, Environment