Nonviolence: Twenty-five
Lessons From the History
of a Dangerous Idea


As the old saying goes, "fish, cut bait, or get out of the boat." Faced with aggression, we can respond in kind, submit, or-? "The first clue, lesson number one from human history on the subject of nonviolence, is that there is no word for it." So opens Mark Kurlansky's Nonviolence, an audacious, concise, and thoroughly original sweep through human history to draw twenty-four additional lessons about the nature, meaning, implications, and potential of nonviolence.

Distinct from pacifism, not a state of mind but a technique- in the Dalai Lama's words, "a rational stimulus to action"- nonviolence has always had its practitioners, but they have been few, seldom understood, and, because considered dangerous by the state, disparaged, imprisoned, tortured, and often killed. They include Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Founding Fathers, many Abolitionists, certain Russian dissidents, the Maori leader Te Whiti, and the Dalai Lama - who has provided a heartfelt preface to this volume. His Holiness writes, "It is my hope and prayer that this book should not only attract attention, but have a profound effect on those who read it."

A scholarly and literary gem, Kurlansky's Nonviolence invites both contemplation and debate. Make no mistake, Nonviolence is a frontal assault on the ideology of warfare, the choice of us versus them, good versus evil, patriots versus traitors- fish or cut bait. Kurlansky asks, "Is the source of violence not human nature, as Hobbes contended, but a lack of imagination?" Could we, perhaps, get out of the boat, as it were? Kurlansky shows that with nonviolence, yes, and - lesson twenty-five - "the hard work of beginning a movement to end war has already been done." This is a book about hope, a book that gives hope.

—C. M. Mayo, 2007 finalist judge

2007 Nonfiction Winner

(Click play to see acceptance speech at awards dinner.)

Mark Kurlansky
Nonviolence: Twenty-five Lessons From
the History of a Dangerous Idea

Mark Kurlansky is the New York Times bestselling and James A. Beard Award-winning author of The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, Salt: A World History, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, as well as Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue (his debut novel) and several other books.

He lives in New York City.

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“I'm thrilled to receive this award because there's no subject closer to my heart. It's a valuable opportunity to ask people to rethink history, and I still believe the world can be changed.”

—Mark Kurlansky                    


Mark Kurlansky and his daughter Talia
Mark Kurlansky and his daughter Talia

In August 2014, Mark Kurlansky and his daughter Talia Kurlansky published a book about their weekly cooking ritual. They spin a globe and wherever Talia’s finger lands becomes the theme of that night's dinner. Their book is International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World and it includes recipes, stories, and pen-and-ink drawings.

Listen to an audio interview with the Kurlanskys on WNYC.


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