Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Review: The Thief at the End of the World

So I've been reading quite a bit and I vowed to start writing about it again. It's good practice and it makes it easier to remember what I did and did not enjoy, and why!

Joe Jackson's book The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire caught my eye in a huge pile of Advance Reader Copies (seriously, 200) that I picked up a few months ago. I set it aside because I thought it was something my uncle would appreciate, but right before I went to give it to him I decided to take a look at it myself, thinking I wouldn't be interested. Turns out I devoured it in four days.

I could not have anticipated enjoying this book as much as I did. It's history, and it's the history of rubber for goodness sake. How exciting could that be? As it turns out, the history of rubber is totally fascinating, and the gentleman (Henry Wickham) responsible for one of the most globally influential acts of piracy was a big dreamer with a habit of failing at everything he tried. Somehow this makes him both lovable and loathsome as the history of rubber growth and consumption unravels amidst tales his many trials (and few tribulations.) Jackson offers up an interesting mix of economics, politics, science and travelogue in order to give the reader a sense of the whole picture of rubber and the people and places that were consumed by their want for it.

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