Synopses & Reviews
The New York Times bestselling author of seagoing epics now celebrates an American classic.
Moby-Dick is perhaps the greatest of the Great American Novels, yet its length and esoteric subject matter create an aura of difficulty that too often keeps readers at bay. Fortunately, one unabashed fan wants passionately to give Melville's masterpiece the broad contemporary audience it deserves. In his National Book Award- winning bestseller, In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick captivatingly unpacked the story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex, the real-life incident that inspired Melville to write Moby- Dick. Now, he sets his sights on the fiction itself, offering a cabin master's tour of a spellbinding novel rich with adventure and history.
Philbrick skillfully navigates Melville's world and illuminates the book's humor and unforgettable characters-finding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. A perfect match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? gives us a renewed appreciation of both Melville and the proud seaman's town of Nantucket that Philbrick himself calls home. Like Alain de Botton's How Proust Can Change Your Life, this remarkable little book will start conversations, inspire arguments, and, best of all, bring a new wave of readers to a classic tale waiting to be discovered anew.
"Answering the negative of Philbrick's titular question is easy: Moby-Dick is intimidatingly large, scientifically rigorous, esoteric, and to some, may seem outdated. While the size of The Whale cannot be debated, Philbrick's entreaty is as approachable as it is persuasive. In this cogent and passionate polemic for Melville's masterpiece, Philbrick (In the Heart of the Sea) combines a critical eye and a reader's adoration to make a case for Moby-Dick. The plights of the Pequod, Ishmael and Ahab may seem irrelevant (or worse, quaint) compared to today's troubles, but Philbrick opines that within the pages of this American classic lie timeless archetypes whose relevance stretches across human history. Upon the loom of Melville's narrative run numerous threads of insight and argument dealing with subjects as diverse as multiculturalism, homoeroticism, and transcendental experiences of the natural world. Less lit-crit and more readers' guide, this tome will remind fans why they loved the book in the first place, and whet the appetites of trepid potential readers." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Gracefully written [with an] infectious enthusiasm…”—New York Times Book Review
“Brilliant and provocative…”—The New Yorker
“[A] slim, passionate manifesto…”—Chicago Tribune
“A slim, easy-to-read argument on why you should definitely put [Moby-Dick] on your bucket list.”—History Wire
“WHY READ MOBY-DICK? reels in a compelling case… short, lucid, intelligent… Philbricks more like a literary color analyst, helping readers see the novel better while also creating a sense of excitement about it.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“This slender volume is packed with reasons why you might want to read the whaling classic.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“This slender, pleasant, sincere book by the maritime historian and naval enthusiast is more than a respectable tribute unencumbered by academic prose. Approaching Moby-Dick from outside the academy is refreshing, and Philbricks enthusiasm is contagious….So put me down for a reading of Moby-Dick in 2012, and count Philbricks book a success.”—The New Republic
“Philbrick does the literary world great service by bringing Moby-Dick back into popular attention and also by his skill in keeping American history fresh and alive.”—Aspen Daily News
“Sure to swell the readership of Melvilles masterpiece.”—Booklist (Starred review)
“In this cogent and passionate polemic for Melvilles masterpiece, Philbrick… combines a critical eye and a readers adoration to make a case for Moby-Dick… Less lit-crit and more readers guide, this tome will remind fans why they loved the book in the first place, and whet the appetites of trepid potential readers.”—Publishers Weekly
“A slim celebration of the elements of a literary masterpiece…Philbrick is an enthusiastic salesman for a sometimes daunting novel.”—Kirkus
“So you liked Philbricks In the Heart of the Sea, which re-created the wreck of the whaleship Essex, inspiration for Herman Melvilles Moby-Dick? Then youll love Philbricks new book… From a wonderful and knowing writer.”—Library Journal, pre-pub alert
“Succeeds spectacularly . . . Olsens highly accessible writing on such a beloved classic will appeal to Tolkien fans at all academic levels, while the detailed and thoughtful analysis of the original text will keep literary scholars and fantasy lovers engaged.” - Library Journal
Unabridged, 2 CDs, 2.5 hours
Read by the author
One of our great chroniclers of American history celebrates an American classic.
A brilliant and provocative” (The New Yorker) celebration of Melvilles masterpiecefrom the bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea
One of the greatest American novels finds its perfect contemporary champion in Why Read Moby-Dick?, Nathaniel Philbricks enlightening and entertaining tour through Melvilles classic. As he did in his National Book Awardwinning bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick brings a sailors eye and an adventurers passion to unfolding the story behind an epic American journey. He skillfully navigates Melvilles world and illuminates the books humor and unforgettable charactersfinding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. An ideal match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? will start conversations, inspire arguments, and make a powerful case that this classic tale waits to be discovered anew.
Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" is an insightful companion volume to the original work, designed to bring a thorough and unique new reading of The Hobbit to a general audience. Corey Olsen, host of the popular podcast "The Tolkien Professor," takes readers on a compelling, in-depth tour of Tolkien's novel, illuminating the secrets and stories behind the characters within the enchanting prelude to The Lord of the Rings.
“An admirable and thought-provoking consideration of the underlying themes of The Hobbit
, following the there-and-back-again progress from its famous first line on through to Bilbos return home at the storys end.” —Douglas A. Anderson, author of The Annotated Hobbit
The Hobbit is one of the most widely read and best-loved books of the twentieth century. Now Corey Olsen takes readers deep within the text to uncover its secrets and delights.
Exploring J.R.R. Tolkiens “The Hobbit” is a fun, thoughtful, and insightful companion volume, designed to bring a thorough and original new reading of this great work to a general audience. Professor Corey Olsen takes readers on an in-depth journey through The Hobbit chapter by chapter, revealing the stories within the story: the dark desires of dwarves and the sublime laughter of elves, the nature of evil and its hopelessness, the mystery of divine providence and human choice, and, most of all, the transformation within the life of Bilbo Baggins. Exploring J.R.R. Tolkiens “The Hobbit” is a book that will make The Hobbit come alive for readers as never before.
About the Author
Nathaniel Philbrick grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and earned a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in America Literature from Duke University, where he was a James B. Duke Fellow. He was Brown Universitys first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978, the same year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI. After working as an editor at Sailing World
magazine, he wrote and edited several books about sailing, including The Passionate Sailor, Second Wind
, and Yaahting: A Parody
In 1986, Philbrick moved to Nantucket with his wife Melissa and their two children. In 1994, he published his first book about the islands history, Away Off Shore, followed by a study of the Nantuckets native legacy, Abrams Eyes. He was the founding director of Nantuckets Egan Maritime Institute and is still a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association.
In 2000, Philbrick published the New York Times bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction. The book is the basis of the forthcoming Warner Bros. motion picture Heart of the Sea,” directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Benjamin Walker, Ben Wishaw, and Tom Holland, which is scheduled for release in March, 2015. The book also inspired a 2001 Dateline special on NBC as well as the 2010 two-hour PBS American Experience film Into the Deep” by Ric Burns.
His next book was Sea of Glory, published in 2003, which won the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize and the Albion-Monroe Award from the National Maritime Historical Society. The New York Times Bestseller Mayflower was a finalist for both the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, won the Massachusetts Book Award for nonfiction, and was named one the ten Best Books of 2006 by the New York Times Book Review. Mayflower is currently in development as a limited series on FX.
In 2010, he published the New York Times bestseller The Last Stand, which was named a New York Times Notable book, a 2010 Montana Book Award Honor Book, and a 2011 ALA Notable Book. Philbrick was an on-camera consultant to the two-hour PBS American Experience film Custers Last Stand” by Stephen Ives. The book is currently being adapted for a ten-hour, multi-part television series. The audio book for Philbricks Why Read Moby-Dick? (2011) made the ALA's Listen List in 2012 and was a finalist for the New England Society Book Award.
Philbricks latest New York Times bestseller, Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution, was published in 2013 and was awarded both the 2013 New England Book Award for Non-Fiction and the 2014 New England Society Book Award. Bunker Hill won the 2014 book award from the Society of Colonial Wars, and has been optioned by Warner Bros. for feature film adaptation with Ben Affleck attached to direct.
Philbrick has also received the Byrne Waterman Award from the Kendall Whaling Museum, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for distinguished service from the USS Constitution Museum, the Nathaniel Bowditch Award from the American Merchant Marine Museum, the William Bradford Award from the Pilgrim Society, and the Boston History Award from the Bostonian Society. He was named the 2011 Cushing Orator by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and has an honorary doctorate from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, where he delivered the commencement address in 2009.
Philbricks writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, the New York Times Book Review, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. He has appeared on the Today Show, the Morning Show, Dateline, PBSs American Experience, C-SPAN, and NPR. He and his wife still live on Nantucket.
Table of Contents
A Most Excellent and Audacious Hobbit 17
In the Lone-lands 39
The Ridiculous and the Sublime 54
Over the Edge of the Wild 69
The Turning Point 84
Where the Wild Things Are 111
The Friend of Bears and the Guest of Eagles 127
The Stinging Fly 147
Burgling Faerie 166
The Return of the King 183
When the Thrush Knocks 196
Bilbo Earns His Reward 206
A Burglar Indeed 226
The Meeting of Opposites 238
To Sit on a Heap of Gold and Starve 248
A Leap in the Dark 258
The Sudden Turn 265
Snow After Fire 275
Under Cloud and Under Star 288
Index of Names and Places 309