2021 Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
by Rebecca Giggs
Fathoms is a gorgeous meditation on the awe-inspiring lives of whales, revealing what they can teach us about ourselves, our planet, and our relationship to other species.
When writer Rebecca Giggs encountered a humpback whale stranded on her local beachfront in Australia, she began to wonder how the lives of whales reflect the condition of our oceans. Fathoms: The World in the Whale blends natural history, philosophy, and science to explore: How do whales experience ecological change? How has whale culture been both understood and changed by human technology? What can observing whales teach us about the complexity, splendour, and fragility of life? In Fathoms, we learn about whales so rare they have never been named, whale songs that sweep across hemispheres in annual waves of popularity, and whales that have modified the chemical composition of our planet's atmosphere. We travel to Japan to board the ships that hunt whales and delve into the deepest seas to discover how plastic pollution pervades our earth's undersea environment.
In the spirit of Rachel Carson and Rebecca Solnit, Giggs gives us a vivid exploration of the natural world even as she addresses what it means to write about nature at a time of environmental crisis. With depth and clarity, Giggs outlines the challenges we face as we attempt to understand the perspectives of other living beings, and our own place on an evolving planet. Evocative and inspiring, Fathoms marks the arrival of an essential new voice.
First established in 2012 as a joint initiative of Carnegie Corporation of New York and the American Library Association, the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence are awarded to the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. They are the library community's first national awards for adult trade books, and the winners are chosen by a committee of library professionals from across the country.