Salmon

A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate

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Pub Date 03 Mar 2020 | Archive Date 21 Oct 2021

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Description

"Henry David Thoreau wrote, 'Who hears the fishes when they cry?' Maybe we need to go down to the river bank and try to listen."

In what he says is the most important piece of environmental writing in his long and award-winning career, Mark Kurlansky, best-selling author of Salt and Cod, The Big Oyster, 1968, and Milk, among many others, employs his signature multi-century storytelling and compelling attention to detail to chronicle the harrowing yet awe-inspiring life cycle of salmon.

During his research Kurlansky traveled widely and observed salmon and those who both pursue and protect them in the Pacific and the Atlantic, in Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Japan, and even the robust but not as frequently visited Kamchatka Peninsula. This world tour reveals an eras-long history of man’s misdirected attempts to manipulate salmon and its environments for his own benefit and gain, whether for entertainment or to harvest food.

In addition, Kurlansky’s research shows that all over the world these fish, uniquely connected to both marine and terrestrial ecology as well as fresh and salt water, are a natural barometer for the health of the planet. He documents that for centuries man’s greatest assaults on nature, from overfishing to dams, from hatcheries to fish farms, from industrial pollution to the ravages of climate change, are evidenced in the sensitive life cycle of salmon.

With stunning historical and contemporary photographs and illustrations throughout, Kurlansky’s insightful conclusion is that the only way to save salmon is to save the planet and, at the same time, the only way to save the planet is to save the mighty, heroic salmon.

"Henry David Thoreau wrote, 'Who hears the fishes when they cry?' Maybe we need to go down to the river bank and try to listen."

In what he says is the most important piece of environmental writing...


A Note From the Publisher

MARK KURLANSKY (www.markkurlansky.com) is the New York Times bestselling author of Havana, Cod, Salt, Paper, The Basque History of the World, 1968, and The Big Oyster, among other titles. He has received the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Bon Appetit's Food Writer of the Year Award, the James Beard Award, and the Glenfiddich Award. His articles have appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including The International Herald Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, Partisan Review, Harper’s, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Audubon Magazine, Food & Wine, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Parade. He lives in New York City.

MARK KURLANSKY (www.markkurlansky.com) is the New York Times bestselling author of Havana, Cod, Salt, Paper, The Basque History of the World, 1968, and The Big Oyster, among other titles. He has...


Advance Praise

"It is a beautiful book, spangled throughout with stunning color photographs of a lovely fish, of pristine streams and landscapes. It’s a coffee-table book shrunk to shelf-size, but the images are pertinent and illuminating, and there is nothing throwaway about the text that surrounds them." –Wall Street Journal

“If there was ever a totem species for the planet, it's the noble salmon--back and forth between ocean and stream, between salt and fresh water, these creatures have nurtured our imagination as surely as our bodies. This book does them justice!” –Bill McKibben, bestselling author and environmentalist

“Mark Kurlansky’s Salmon makes the species an ecological poster child and a microcosm of the environmental challenges we face.” –Foreword Reviews

“In championing a critically important part of the natural world, Kurlansky sounds an urgent alarm that commands our attention.” –Kirkus Reviews

"It is a beautiful book, spangled throughout with stunning color photographs of a lovely fish, of pristine streams and landscapes. It’s a coffee-table book shrunk to shelf-size, but the images are...


Marketing Plan

National media campaign

Author tour (virtual & in-person)

Reader's Guide available

Audiobook published by Penguin Random House

National media campaign

Author tour (virtual & in-person)

Reader's Guide available

Audiobook published by Penguin Random House


Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781938340864
PRICE $30.00 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Salmon, A Fish, the Earth and a History of Their Common Fate by Mark Kurlansky is a fascinating dive into the wonderful, interesting and often sad tale of this beautiful fish.   We start with ‘The tale of two fisheries', which takes is behind the scenes into two commercial fishing operators, one employing a number of rookies to work the nets during the salmon run and the other a much smaller solo operator – catching less fish but still able to make a living. Either way, it seems like incredibly hard work. It also gives us some insight into the issues and challenges thrown at these operators and the fish they are trying to catch.   The author then teaches the reader about the life cycle of Salmon (he mainly uses Sockeye and Atlantic Salmon as examples). They lay their eggs hundreds or thousands of kilometres upstream, these are then fertilised by the male fish. After the little blighters have hung around their gravel beds for a while and are big enough – they head out to sea. This is where they fatten up to eventually return to the SAME river and end up at the SAME place to start the cycle again, and then sadly......die. Their urge to breed being more powerful than the will to live. They live for around 6 or 7 years.   The author describes how these beautiful animals are excellent indicators of environmental health. This, due to the fact they live inland in freshwater and also in the ocean in saltwater. He explains how industrialisation has trashed their environment, clogging up rivers with waste, warming the waters, chemicals, sawdust...and so much more. We have made life impossible for Salmon in countless places. In fact, there is a need for us to farm these fish which in itself creates a whole host of other issues.   Indigenous communities have eaten salmon for millennia. They worship the fish, and respect it’s home. Whereas Western incursions,  population growth and industrialisation has done the opposite.  Sometimes I wonder whether we deserve this planet , and the animals and plants in it. We are so determined to destroy this place, Earth would be better off without us. What do we do, to make this place better? This book really made me reflect on our purpose here. I’m not sure if this is the author’s intention, as he doesn’t smack us around the head with this message. But for me, it had this effect.   On a brighter note, this is a beautifully presented book with lots of fantastic colour pictures of the environment and the star of the show, the Salmon. Some of the colour changes of the fish when they re-enter the river , and their physical changes are astounding. The author also throws in numerous recipes, even some from Indigenous Indian culture.   This is a good book, it’s interesting and it’s subject matter is important. I highly recommend this one.   4 Stars   Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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I've read a lot of Mark Kurlansky books, because I've really enjoyed the way he takes one thing - salt, in particular - and investigates its history and place in the human and natural world. Sometimes his work can feel a bit too general; I think this is a function of the format and his purpose, which is to present a wide-ranging view of the chosen topic. However, he does also present specifics - vignettes, effectively, to illuminate a broader point. All of these comments stand for Salmon. The first chapters are largely about the biology of the fish, which is way more complicated than I had realised - what even is a salmon, basically?? - and about its natural habitat and habits. Most salmon return to their natal spawning ground for their own spawning, and then die, which is just a whole thing when it comes to life cycles and how on earth they find their way back to a particular river after hanging out in the ocean for a variable number of years. Much of the rest of the book is a litany of how humans have placed the existence of salmon in peril: through destruction of habitat in a multitude of ways, and directly through overfishing. Kurlansky touches on several ways in which indigenous peoples in what are today the USA and Canada and Japan used and managed salmon over hundred or thousands of years to demonstrate the possibility of living in balance... but all of that is against the construction of dams and other ways that 'progress' and 'civilisation' have led to the destruction of rivers, in particular. Honestly most of this book was pretty depressing to read. There's so much we just don't really understand about how to make it possible for salmon stocks to redevelop... which leads to further catastrophe in the food web. Salmon is, to an extent, just a symbol for how much the last 300-odd years of industrial development have ravaged the environment. So that's fun. If you can handle the story of environmental destruction, this is a readable and generally approachable book. As noted above, Kurlansky necessarily goes in for some generalisations - it's a result of making a readable book for the general public, I think. But he does present specifics - about particular rivers, about particular indigenous groups, about particular styles of fishing, and so on - and there's no doubt that he's put an enormous amount of research and work into telling this story. It's a sobering read, and it's a worthwhile one.

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Mark Kurlansky has a gift for being able to convey the story of a topic comprehensively while keeping the reader interested. Salmon is a comprehensive look at the different species of fish we refer to as salmon. Detailed information is presented on biology of salmon, the ecology of salmon looking at both the marine biome and terrestrial biome. Readers will finish this book with a wealth of knowledge about salmon, and conservation issues facing salmon and other marine life. Highly recommended reading for everyone. Should be required reading for science majors.

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Salmon A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate by Mark Kurlansky This book is so thoroughly researched! This is the bible of salmon! It has everything! Their biology, history of where they have been and when, who fished them, the ecology around them, life cycles, and things I would never have thought to research! Anything that effects the salmon is in here! What do they eat? Who eats them? Where do they go? Wild vs raised? Oh, and recipes! Oh my! Not just for salmon. Beer bread anyone? Climate change and other issues that are effecting them and how. All of this and so much more. I was very impressed with this book. If you are an animal lover, fish lover, or just interested in nature then this is for you. It's not written in scientific jargon either. Just every day language so we can all come together and help these beautiful fish! I received this book from NetGalley and the review is my own opinion.

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