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 or about the recipes for salmon dishes from all over the world and past centuries ... If the past and the present described here indeed portend our common fate, we’ll wait until it’s too late.
More than an environmental book about overfishing, the text includes a comprehensive natural and cultural history about how the salmon impacts the world ... a fascinating mosaic of history and science, embellished by remarkable illustrations that are a riot of fins and color, ranging from closeup natural shots to various landscapes and historical illustrations. The real beauty of the book is in its subtle transformation of a species often thought of in terms of food into one that needs to be considered with care and even championed. Its historical aspects are not easier to read once these connections are made.
Kurlansky excels in this variegated research, and if you’re puzzled by the occasional omission (a 416-page salmon book, and not one mention of lox?), you’ll be amply supplied with fun fish facts for your next salmon barbecue. But while Kurlansky’s past books have been quirky cabinets of curiosities, Salmon contains more somber undercurrents ... Not all the news is bad ... How do we save [salmon]? By saving the planet.