This may be an odd complaint to level at a book called Salt: A World History, but Mark Kurlansky's 450-page global tour has too much salt in it. As with his prior food-centered historical exploration, Cod: A Biography Of The Fish That Changed The World, Kurlansky's latest reveals how a single curious commodity played a role in human advancement and destruction. The need for salt—useful in preserving food, vital for the replenishment of nutrients lost in blood, sweat, and tears, and delicious on fried potatoes—sparked revolutions in China and India, led to the expeditions of Marco Polo and the building of the Erie Canal, and weakened an already straggling Confederate Army during the American Civil War. Kurlansky exhaustively documents every salt-related twist and turn of world history, but that becomes problematic. The book is at its best when following an anecdotal sidebar (like Edmund McIlhenny's discovery of massive salt deposits on his Louisiana property) to its ultimate end (the invention of Tabasco sauce). But too much of Salt is concerned with breezing through a rough outline of how specific civilizations came to depend on the mineral. For the first 200 pages or so, Kurlansky essentially repeats himself, fitting the names of Egyptians, Celts, Romans, or Basques into an increasingly familiar cycle. He describes the arcane ways that certain societies manufactured salt, offers unusual recipes for cured meats and pickled vegetables, and then writes about the difficulties that developed when salt became scarce and/or governments began imposing heavy taxes on its use. History's cyclical repetitions can be worth investigating, but much of Salt's timeline-marking activity could have been collapsed into one lengthy chapter and spiked with more analysis. Kurlansky doesn't hit his stride until he gets closer to modern times, when advanced chemical and geological processes made salt easier to procure. The salt-founded drama of the past century has come from the concoction of fine-grain, easy-pouring crystals, and the controversy over government-mandated iodization, which recalls some of the millennia of people-vs.-state struggle for salt control. Kurlansky makes this more contemporary history come alive, but while his salt-packed tales from ancient times are well-preserved, their flavor is too uniform.