Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What: Norman K. Risjord, Shining Big Sea Water: The Story of Lake Superior (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2008)

Why: A fascinating story of how successive waves of entrepreneurial activity have shaped the story of the world’s largest fresh water lake.

Memorial Day has just come and gone. We have now entered the season when conversations about weekend activities tend to center on trips to “the cabin,” a place of nostalgic simple pleasures located “up north.” What better way to start the season than to pass a few pleasant hours with the mother of all lakes up north, Lake Superior? I did just that—without even getting in my car—when I picked up Norman Risjord’s Shining Big Sea Water.

Risjord packs a lot into 166 pages—nothing less than the geological, political and economic history of Lake Superior. Trivia lovers will not be disappointed. I am still trying to wrap my head around Risjord’s observation that “scientists estimate that it takes about four hundred years for a drop of water entering the western end of Lake Superior to reach the St. Marys River at its eastern end.”

But even more intriguing is the economic story, which begins with animal pelts, proceeds through mining and fishing, and carries through to international shipping in the present day. Each point in the story is punctuated by entrepreneurial activity. From the voyageurs to the mining companies, the story of Lake Superior is, from this perspective, the story of successive revolutions in entrepreneurial activity.

A perfect book—with plenty of food for thought—for a lazy day up at the cabin.

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