This was my first Kurlansky book, but my husband has read and loved his others, (and still quotes from Salt), so you can appreciate that I would choose this just so I could throw some facts back at him. In any case, as a graphic designer and a book lover, of course I am a fan of Paper, so this book had my name written all over it. Kurlansky, I think, has a reputation like Michener — if he is going to tell the story of paper, he is pretty much going to start at the beginning of time and work from there. This is great if, like me, you have an almost unnatural devotion to paper, but I'm guessing this is probably not a huge target audience. Oddly enough, since I got the book from NetGalley, I read a book all about paper on an electronic device, which seems kind of thoughtless and uncaring. But I do care about paper. Maybe not as much as Kurlansky, but a lot.
Veering off his topic, Kurlansky goes deeply into paper production techniques, the economies of mill towns, and all sorts of interesting bunny trails, but sometimes, this makes the almost 400-page book feel a bit longer. The paper industry was huge in my early career, so this book was nostalgic for me. There was a time when I would pray to be asked to design a paper sampler — an elaborate, no holds barred presentation used simply to show off the qualities of different types of paper to potential customers — because it offered complete freedom and exceptionally large budgets. But, like Kurlansky, I digress.
Here's the thing: Kurlansky is a master at choosing a subject and then letting it consume him. There is, I think, no stone left unturned here. If you're up for the challenge, this is your book.