#BookReview: Oceans Of Grain by Scott Reynolds Nelson

Remarkable History Of Wheat As Agent Of Change. This is one that I could make a case for either 4 or 5 stars for, and because of the doubt I ultimately sided with 5. The reason here is that while there is indeed considerable time spent on how American wheat of the Civil War/ Reconstruction era (and later) destabilized Europe and eventually led to the late 19th/ 20th/ 21st century histories we know and are actively living, there is also quite a bit establishing the history of wheat being a similar disruptor throughout all of recorded human history. Thus, while the description of the book paints it mostly as a tale of the past 150 ish years, it is actually a tale of the entirety of human existence and instead of the lasting points being about the more recent history, the lasting points (at least for this reader) are more about the overall history. Which was the crux of my internal debate. In other words, no matter the focus or points retained, this is a truly remarkable history of a particular commodity that gives a more complete understanding of major world events, particularly over the last 150 ish years. Very much recommended.

This review of Oceans Of Grain by Scott Reynolds Nelson was originally written on February 20, 2022.

#BookReview: To Rule The Waves by Bruce Jones

(Mostly) Solid Examination Of History And Current Events. This is a fairly well documented – nearly 100 pages of its 400 are bibliography, *in addition to* at least a few paragraphs of footnotes at the end of every chapter – examination of both the history and current events of why both commercial and military control of the oceans is so important to human advancement. Some of the facts presented are truly mind-boggling, such as the sheer size of the Maersk Madrid – a ship used as a recurring case study, where if its full load of possible shipping containers were transported in a standard 2-high rail configuration, the train just to load this singular ship would stretch for *78 miles*. Others are more “standard fare” for most anyone who knows anything about the history of ocean travel or oceanography. Still, the book is current through March 2021, which is remarkable considering that I acquired this ARC in early June 2021. A must-read on a wide variety of issues from the complexities of modern logistics to the root cause and practical implications of modern military struggles to even the loss of American manufacturing jobs and the rise of Donald Trump, this book shows how control of the oceans has impacted all of these topics and many, many more. Really the only more “YMMV” section is the emphasis on global warming/ global cooling / climate change/ whatever they’re calling it these days alarmism in the final section, but even here there are enough actual facts to warrant close examination. Very much recommended.

This review of To Rule The Waves by Bruce Jones was originally written on July 20, 2021.

#BookReview: Arriving Today by Christopher Mims

Sweeping Revelations And Generalities Need Better Documentation. As narrative nonfiction where facts are presented without documentation in favor of a more stylized, narrative based approach, this book works. And it does pretty well exactly what its description promises- shows the entire logistics industry from the time a product is assembled overseas through its travel to the port of origin to loading onto a ship to being offloaded from said ship onto trains and trucks into the very heart of fulfillment centers and delivery services all the way to your door. It uses a blended reality approach of the emerging COVID crisis, wherein Mims claims to have actually been in Vietnam as it was beginning to a more hypothetical “this is where this item was on this date”… right as global shipping began its “holiday everyday” levels of the early lockdown period in particular, and this approach serves it well as a narrative structure.

That noted, it also uses its less-documented, more-editorial nature to have constant political remarks, where YMMV on the editorial pieces and the documentation checks in at just 13% of the overall text. (More common range for bibliography sections in nonfiction ARCs tends to be in the 20-30% range in my own experience.) It is also questionable in its facts at times, for example when it claims that the US military’s efforts in Vietnam were the drivers of ship-based containerization… which Bruce Jones’ To Rule The Waves, to be released on exactly the same day as this book, shows in a much more documented fashion isn’t exactly the case. For a reader such as myself that was growing interested in logistics and related issues even before the insanities erupted and who, in fact, read an ARC of Emily Guendelsberger’s On The Clock (2019)– cited extensively when this text looks to Amazon and their fulfillment centers directly, among many other similar works such as Alex MacGillis’ Fulfillment (2020), the aforementioned Jones text (2021), Plastic Free by Rebecca Prinz-Ruiz (2020), Driven by Alex Davies (2021), Unraveled by Maxine Bedat (2021), and even What’s The Use by Ian Stewart (2021)… this book touched on a lot of issues I was already familiar with, mostly from more fully documented texts, but placed them in a comprehensive narrative structure that indeed flows quite well.

Read this book. It really is utterly fascinating, and many of the books referenced above face similar issues regarding their politics, to this one is hardly alone in that regard. But also read those other books to see their particular pieces in quite a bit more detail. Still, in the end this one was quite readable and is sure to generate much conversation among those who do read it. Very much recommended.

This review of Arriving Today by Christopher Mims was originally written on July 27, 2021.