Books from Friends: Why Read Moby-Dick and The Story of the Essex

Since I am an avid reader, I have lots of friends and family who are also avid reader. This often leads us to recommend books to one another. Here are two books that were recommended to me recently.

Why Read Moby-Dick?

I was able to get the eBook on loan from the LA Public Library. The eBook availability isn’t always the greatest, but I got lucky in this case. Here is the description from I read it in about 2 hours on this Thanksgiving Eve, taking a break from other tasks and simply luxuriating in the process of reading a book.

I would describe this as a “pre-book” if there is such a beast in literature. By reading this short treatise, you are being prepared for the larger task of facing “The White Whale” which could describe the book itself as well as its namesake. Moby-Dick has defeated many readers, but perhaps with this introduction others might attempt it again, or for the first time, and discover some of the magic it has to offer.

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.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

This is the true story that partially inspired Melville to write his epic novel.


The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth. In 1819, the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with twenty crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than ninety days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents-including a long-lost account written by the ship’s cabin boy-and penetrating details about whaling and the Nantucket community to reveal the chilling events surrounding this epic maritime disaster. An intense and mesmerizing read, In the Heart of the Sea is a monumental work of history forever placing the Essex tragedy in the American historical canon.

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