Thanks to an educational record I had as a kid, I’ve always known that salt was once traded for gold. What I didn’t know about salt, though, is a heck of a lot, and it’s all covered in Mark Kurlansky’s 400-plus-page book Salt: A World History (Knopf Canada). It might sound like a yawner, but I read every last page and am now a proud expert on the technologies of pumping brine and thousands of years of salting fish. Kurlansky begins his odyssey with our biological need for salt and then explores the aspects of human history affected by sodium chloride and its salty cousins. The story moves from ancient China to medieval Iceland and industrial Britain with a mix of history, science and cultural studies. All in all, Salt is so well written and so interesting, you could be forgiven for thinking that salt has determined the course of human history.