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Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate
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Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,906 ratings  ·  450 reviews
Eye-opening and compelling, the overlooked world of freight shipping, revealed as the foundation of our civilization

On ship-tracking websites, the waters are black with dots. Each dot is a ship; each ship is laden with boxes; each box is laden with goods. In postindustrial economies, we no longer produce but buy. We buy, so we must ship. Without shipping there would be no
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 13th 2013 by Henry Holt (first published August 6th 2013)
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Start your review of Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate
This was an interesting enough book about the shipping part of our capitalist world. But from the perspective of a yacht on the ocean, container ships are considerably less than amazing and somewhat frightening. They often are on autopilot and no one is on watch or monitoring the radio - they have such skeleton crews, maybe only 6 people. They sometimes run a black ship which means no navigation lights, so you can't see their hulks on a cloudy, moonless night even though you can hear their engin ...more
Sep 07, 2013 rated it liked it
If you are super super interested in shipping, you're going to love this book. I picked it up because of all the container shipping we've been doing with all these Wickeds. It's an interesting book but I'm happy to sum it up for you in five handy points here:

1. Don't be a sailor.
2. Seriously, it REAAAAAALLY sucks.
3. Like you'll get captured by a Somali pirate and that shit is no joke.
4. Also, the shadowy individual who owns your boat (whose name you will never know) can legally just dump your as
Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: miscellaneous
This book is about the merchant ships which cross our oceans, or more specifically about container transporters, as the author, Rose George, takes us on a journey on the huge container ship Maersk Kendal.


I found the book a bit piecemeal. I can understand why - George wanted to talk about the voyage she took and the people she met, rather than give us an analytical run down on the state of shipping. I do however think the book could have been greatly enhanced with the inclusion of some chart
I love ships. I remember looking at a silhouette picture of an old man in my ChildCraft set, his hand on the shoulders of a young boy, looking out over the sea at a three-masted schooner. The image still creates a frisson of nostalgia for something I never really experienced but always wanted. Some of that interest stemmed from four voyages on transatlantic liners to and from Europe in the fifties and sixties when I was younger, and I’m sure that my view was unrealistic and nonrepresentational a ...more
Richard de Villiers
Jan 29, 2014 rated it liked it
I don't know who came up with the title for the book but they did the author a disservice. If Sister Paul back in 8th Grade English would have been grading this book she would've given it a "C", circled the title in red and declared in big bold letters, "Has nothing to do with the story!"
Rose George has written a travelogue, an otherwise fine travelogue but one that really doesn't tell you all that much about the shipping industry. At least not in the detail that it promises. You never do lear
Many books come along that state how a certain innovation, product or idea changed the world. The substitution of sugar for honey, domestication of the horse, creation of manned flight and invention of the telephone all shaped our modern worlds in ways that still continue to resonate. But refined sugar has been discovered to be bad for us, hardly anybody rides a horse except for recreation, lots of people are terrified to fly and will do almost anything to avoid it and the landline is going the ...more
Greg Streech
Feb 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
What might have been a "must read" book was nothing but a series of semi-related term papers. Pretty disappointed that the author (I've already forgotten her name) spent more time discussing her vegetarian diet needs than on the companies operating these shipping lines. What about a chapter on how these boxes get on the ship? Or how about how do they design and build these rigs? Or maybe the actual operations and process of stopping or turning a ship? The chapters about whale watching and sonic ...more
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Book Club selection about the shipping industry- how we get 90% of our "stuff". The author boards a shipping container to learn about life in this somewhat secretive profession. It's a lot more interesting than it sounds with sea rescues, piracy, marine animals, and land sanctuary out-reaches where my dad used to volunteer. A pretty painless way to educate myself about those huge ships chugging along on the horizon
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Rose George--she of scatological fame--is back at it. In Ninety Percent of Everything, she delves into the shipping industry. The sheer magnitude of it. The damage done to sea life. And above all, the human cost: the dangers of being a victim of (mostly Somali) piracy, the risk of capsizing, and the devastating, mind-boggling, never-ending life of loneliness.

The "merchant navy," as they are called, are often overlooked. The military navy, they get medals and honorifics and glory, but the merchan
Jul 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2016
There is a high chance that you are reading this on some sort of screen that arrived in your country in a container, or box, having been shipped across the oceans of the world to the high street shop of your choice. The ship that brought it was one of 40,000 that ply the world’s oceans carrying 80% of everything you purchase and 90% of the energy that you consume.

This huge global business is safely out of sight and out of mind; you’ve probably never even thought about it.

To find out about this
Larry Deaton
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me start my own review by quoting from another review, this one in the NYT:

“Ninety Percent of Everything,” is timely as well as deft. It’s about shipping, and thus about globalization, and it’s a thing you’ll want in your hands after seeing “Captain Phillips” and “All Is Lost,” the new, oceangoing Tom Hanks and Robert Redford movies. Her spirited book cracks open a vast, treacherous and largely ignored world. ...In part, “Ninety Percent of Everything” is an adventure story. Ms. George — she
Chris Steeden
Mar 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Friday in June and the author is boarding the massive container ship, Maersk Kendal. Just take a look at the size of this ship on Google images. It is huge. She is going to be on-board from Felixstowe to Singapore for 5 weeks and 9288 nautical miles. Kendal's actual route is Felixstowe, Bremerhaven, Rotterdam, Le Havre (The Harbour), Suez Canal, Salalah, Oman, Colombo (Sri Lanka), Straits of Malacca, Port Klang (Malaysia), Singapore, Laem Chabang (Thailand) and back again.

Rose George provides
Kuang Ting
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Author Rose George hopped on a container ship in England heading to Singapore.
The ship was Kendal operated by Maersk.
Maersk is one of the largest shipping company in the world.
It contributes nearly 20% of Denmark GDP, which is very impressive.
Rose is a journalist writing articles for prominent media such as New York Times and The Guardian.
The writing style of this book is similar to news articles. It gets interesting or less vigorous sometimes. Overall, it's an enjoyable read. I learn new inter
Dec 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
I read George's The Big Necessity and really enjoyed it. Working in Supply Chain, I thought I would really enjoy her take on ocean shipping. Maybe I am too close to the industry and really did not enjoy this book. As with other books of this genre, it pulls together history and interesting stories around one theme with some tangible link to pull them into a cohesive book. For this one, the book really didn't hold together. Rose George had the opportunity to travel from England to Singapore on a ...more
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
The start of a long journey is always the best bit, as you set out with anticipation and promise - a bit like this book. It began strongly, the style and the narrative engaging from the outset as the author joins a the crew of a massive container ship sailing from England to the Far East. It’s made clear that these are the vessels that service our world with innumerable material goods from all corners of the globe, without which we wouldn’t have the lifestyles we currently enjoy (providing you e ...more
David Stone
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After reading this book you will want to knit a warm cap for a seafarer. It should be required reading for everyone on the planet since we are indebted for just about everything we buy to the invisible and largely ignored "human element" upon which modern shipping is still begrudgingly dependent. Rose George travels 9000 miles on a Maersk container ship but her curiosity travels much further. This is the best treatment of Somali piracy I have read, and she also goes on pirate duty with the Portu ...more
Apr 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
I finished this book as I sailed past some container ships on a ferry.

This book was pretty interesting because it shows you how much work and danger goes into the providing you with products. You also go for a ride along with the author on a container ship as it goes from Europe to Singapore. You learn a bit about the shipping industry including the legal issues, the sailor's life, piracy, and the accidental killings of wildlife.

If you find yourself awestruck with the amazingness of globalizati
L.A. Starks
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This nonfiction book is a soup-to-nuts description of ocean-going container shipping, ending with a vital history of merchant marines' overlooked bravery in war. For any reader with an interest in how things really work, this book is a guide to a hidden, vital part of the world's economy.
Michael Burnam-Fink
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018
90% of everything moves by ship, but these days we barely think about shipping. It's just something that happens. Rose George has written an interesting book about the human experience of maritime shipping today, but one that I wish got a little more technical.

The book is structured around a journey from the UK to Singapore on the Maersk Kendal, a 300m containship capable of hauling almost 6500 standard contains or 75000 tons of cargo. Kendal is captained by a senior Brit with 40 years of marit
Simon Eskildsen
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fun, quirky, and different. British woman somehow got fascinated by the shipping industry and decides to go on a container ship from England to Singapore. The book is written as part diary, part account of the shipping industry. She takes us through how the shipping industry works. I imagine that she put herself on the ship with a few dozen books and is essentially compiling what she finds interesting weaved in with the narrative of her actual journey. I can weirdly relate so much to how this is ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a five-star book, which lost a star because of what I felt was padding at the end. But 90 percent of the book is awesome. (haha)

Rose George, a journalist, did a very courageous thing. She signed on to sail from Rotterdam to Singapore on a Maersk freighter, a world inhabited almost exclusively by men, to write about the virtually unknown commercial shipping industry. She details the exhausting, dangerous, boring and poorly paid existence of seafarers today as they transport the bulk of t
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. The story of container shipping. How it gets from A to B. Why it gets from A to B and under what constraints. What it transports from A to B and then from B to A. How goods got from A to B prior to container shipping... and so on.

There was me thinking that I was trying to be green, avoiding air freight where possible. It turns out that container ships are dirty, polluting, can employ crew in less than savoury conditions and for slave-wages, and which expose them, among other things,
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
More shit I had no idea about and will never fully comprehend
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This brilliantly written and researched book brings into sharp focus the dark blue empty expanse that we glimpse from our airplane windows, or more likely see on our screens as we glide slowly by. We might think that expanse has nothing to do with us, but anyone reading this book will soon discover otherwise. The facts and numbers revealed are truly astounding, covering anything from the sheer volume of stuff transported, to the capture of ships by Somali pirates, and practices within the indust ...more
Laura HP
This was an interesting and at many times depressing look at an industry that goes largely unnoticed by our modern society. I really appreciated the many issues approached by the author - seafarers' rights (or lack thereof), the change of shipping over the years, shipping's carbon emissions, the issue of ship strikes and whales, piracy, the merchant navy in the wars. Each chapter was illuminating about a different issue I had rarely considered before. The book would have really benefited from a ...more
Rob Adey
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliantly informative and digressive portrait of an overlooked business. George is excellent on the failings of an incredibly callous industry, but also shows the glimmers of romance that still survive on what are basically massive floating prisons. Really wanted to sound a foghorn when I'd finished it, but there wasn't one to hand.
Susan Gallagher
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Fascinating stories that painted a very human (often disturbing) picture of the container shipping industry. Well written in a first person narrative.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I found the title of Rose George's book, Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate, to be a little misleading. Although she did a great deal of research, as indicated in the notes and recommended reading sections, there was very little about the actual operations of the ships and the cargo they carry. What is in the containers? How do they arrive dockside? How are they loaded and unloaded? As ever ...more
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I heard about this book on Radio 4s a Good Read, and was intrigued enough to buy it straight away. In doing so I discovered a hitherto invisible world that is all around us, rooted in our lives in every way, and utterly indispensable to our modern world. A journey on a container ship, from Felixstowe to Singapore. Doesn't sound so enticing a read, does it? And yet there wasn't a page in this book that didn't have me smiling, frowning, laughing or raging with the everyday injustices that happen, ...more
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