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NINETY PERCENT OF EVERYTHING

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 clothes, food, paper, or fuel. Without all those dots, the world would not work.

Freight shipping has been no less revolutionary than the printing press or the Internet, yet it is all but invisible. Away from public scrutiny, shipping uses a shady system of “flags of convenience;” though it is the greenest form of mass transport, its fuel emissions put it on  a par with Germany. And then there are the pirates.

For Ninety Percent, I set sail from Felixstowe through Suez to Singapore on a ship the length of three football fields and the height of Niagara Falls; I boarded a Portuguese frigate doing anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean; I went to Cape Cod to understand why manmade noise from shipping is damaging whales, mammals, fish and the ocean; and I met seafaring chaplains seeking to defend the often-neglected rights of the 1.5 million seafarers who bring us ninety percent of everything, for little gratitude.

Ninety Percent of Everything is the US title: in the UK it is published as Deep Sea and Foreign Going.

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REVIEWS

Rose George writes smart books about subjects we mostly prefer not to think about...The Big Necessity is among the best nonfiction books of the new millennium. Her spirited book cracks open a vast, treacherous and largely ignored world. Ninety Percent of Everything is consistently absorbing—New York Times

Rose George is that person at a party you might try to avoid. You've overheard her talking with enthusiasm about toilets and the shipping industry, but you’re here to unwind and enjoy a little chitchat. Trust me. Go talk to her

Washington Independent Review of Books

In George’s sharply observed account, seafaring is a dreary, arduous business. […] In a deeply researched and compelling section on modern piracy, George goes beyond the headlines to produce a more nuanced – if still crazier – picture. […] Plenty of books promise to reveal the secrets of little-known worlds but few actually deliver

The Telegraph

[George] has penetrated a world noted for its secrecy – most container ports, heavily protected by barbed wire and security cameras, are segregated from the cities in which they are found – to produce an ethnographic travelogue that is as fascinating as it is troublingly insightful. Deep Sea and Foreign Going [is] a remarkable work of embedded reportage – hair-raising, witty, compassionate.

The Guardian

George not only explores a little-known world of commerce but also introduces readers to the many people who make shipping possible. [...] she does so with great empathy and self-effacing humor. [...] If there's a downside to her seafaring, it's that it comes to an end too soon.

San Francisco Chronicle

Almost 90 percent of everything we buy arrives via ship, writes Rose George in her actually mind-blowing new book Ninety Percent of Everything, published tomorrow, which covers her months-long adventure with the shipping industry — the biggest business that you know nothing about.

The Atlantic