The Biography of the Fish That Changed the World

by Mark Kurlansky

One emerges from Mark Kurlansky’s little book with a feeling that the codfish not only changed the world during the past 1,000 years but seemed to define it. Cod is also a history lesson in North Atlantic seafaring. For example, Kurlansky tells us that cod were being caught by Basque fishermen on the Grand Banks, and presumably salted on some part of mainland North America, several hundred years before Columbus landed.

Also intriguing is a section on the so-called cod wars from the 1920s to 1976 between Iceland and Britain, which saw Iceland’s Coast Guard shooting at British trawlers and cutting their nets.

Walker and Company, New York, N.Y.; 212-727-8300; 294 pgs.; $21.

By Ocean Navigator