Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, The Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes On Your Back, Gas In Your Car, and Food On Your Plate

Book review by Deane Barker tags: infrastructure, transportation

I like the subjects of Rose George’s books. She writes about the background stuff that we don’t think about. This book is about the global shipping trade. She wrote another entire book about going to the bathroom.

I think these subjects are interesting. But I don’t love how she writes about them.

She’s not straightforward or matter-of-fact. She kind of meanders around in a narrative style. Each chapter is sort of about…something, though it’s sometimes hard to figure out what until halfway through.

I wish her books were more like The $12 Million Stuffed Shark. That book just explained the economics of contemporary art. It didn’t tell stories or weave some narrative magic, like George likes to do.

Other than that, the book is fine. She explains how shipping affects 90% of everything, and frames it by traveling as a civilian – a “supernumerary” – on the Kendal, a container ship.

Chapters deal with:

  • The environmental impacts
  • Life at sea
  • How ships kill a bunch of whales
  • Shore missions and hospitality

…and I find it hard to remember more. Why? Because George is…well, vague. She’s more interested in being lyrical and telling a story than she is about just explaining a topic.

I find that really annoying and frustrating.

Book Info

Rose George

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