Book Review: Cowries to Crypto

“To be worth something, money must be wanted by someone else.”

Money – we all use it. Whether it’s paper, coin, plastic, or online transfers – money is at the core of how our society works. In Cowries to Crypto, we are taken on a whirlwind of a ride through the history of money, and offered the chance to learn about different currencies, cultures, and are even offered glimpses into the future of finance. 

Book cover for Cowries to Crypto

The author does a wonderful job of starting at the very beginning of money’s story by covering proto-money and moves through history swiftly discussing the inventions and uses of coins and paper currency as well as stories of inflations, recessions, and early investments. It impressively covers a wide variety of topics and events in different centuries and countries and serves as an accessible and interesting resource on the history of how we spend.  However, it is best if the reader bears in mind that this book covers quite a lot of ground and that there are occasionally areas of history that are a bit oversimplified in order to keep a clear focus on the story of money.

There is a wonderful rhythm to this book – where each chapter focuses on themes such as ‘Gold’ or ‘Crisis’ and simultaneously provides details such as Benjamin Franklin being the father of paper money since he owned a printing press, while still focusing on larger stories such as the innovation of the first stock market. The illustrations add a bit of lightheartedness and help keep the reader engaged and entertained for all twelve chapters, as well adding to the storytelling feel of many of the books sections.

Personally, I think one of the best features of this book is the excellent areas at the end of each chapter with interesting money facts. Some focus on women in currency, others on the art of money (admittedly my favourite!) and others still on which ancient coins are valuable today. These bits of trivia help further expand

On the whole, this is a great book for anyone who wants an introduction to the history of currency and how it has been used and changed over time. From proto-money and bartering to charge cards and digital payments – this book will have you thinking a bit more critically about what’s in your wallet.

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