Paper: Paging Through History

Norton. May 2016. 416p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393239614. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393285482. HIST
A prolific author of both fiction and nonfiction, most notably the critically acclaimed Cod and Salt, Kurlansky has done considerable research to produce this illuminating work. His main thesis is that paper didn't cause change; it reflected change. He attests that the appearance of paper, writing, and printing in various societies and times reflected emerging cultural and intellectual needs. In places, Kurlansky's narrative reads more like hastily assembled historical facts, presented in long listings. Despite these shortcomings, for readers interested in exploring how paper emerged and what impact it has had on people across the globe, Kurlansky is a graceful writer and an industrious researcher, presenting a useful start toward further research on the subject.
VERDICT While Alexander Monro's The Paper Trail [reviewed below] is the more substantial account, Kurlansky's focus on the role paper has played in our modern world offers a necessary discussion. [See Prepub Alert, 11/2/15]
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