Book Review: Ninety Percent of Everything

posted in: Being Human, Book Review | 0

This is a book about the shipping industry. That may not inspire you, but as a sometime-sailor, and person concerned about both human impact on our planet and the potential for the future, I read this book and was extremely pleasantly surprised.

Ostensibly, Ninety Percent of Everything is ‘just’ the story of one journalists travel aboard a large container ship. But, because of the reality that 90% of ‘stuff’ in our world is shipped by ships, it is actually a book that touches our lives in more ways than we think. George deftly ties together the individual stories of the crew of the ship she meets – and some interesting characters along the way – with the bigger issues surrounding the shipping industry. Without being exhaustive, this includes piracy, pollution, consumerism, economics, ethics, and politics. This is a book that covers a huge percentage of human activity – simply because of it’s ostensibly ‘boring’ subject matter.

George is an excellent writer – she draws you in to the story, and leaves you thinking about the reality she is describing – and the hidden reality of the life of seafarers and the mysterious ownership patterns and legal minefields of our culture’s foundational reality.

I’d strongly recommend reading Ninety Percent of Everything to get a handle on how the global economy actually works, whilst simultaneously understanding a little bit more about the people on whose lives our lives and general state of living quite literally depend. One of the sub-plots is the sobering autumn of one captain’s career – his story made me quite emotional. I read it on a boat as we sailed/motored around the East Coast of England on a beautiful bank holiday weekend – but this book is an important one whatever your connection with the sea, or otherwise.

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