Why Read Moby-Dick?

Why Read Moby-Dick?

by Nathaniel Philbrick


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A “brilliant and provocative” (The New Yorker) celebration of Melville’s masterpiece—from the bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea, Valiant Ambition, and In the Hurricane's Eye

One of the greatest American novels finds its perfect contemporary champion in Why Read Moby-Dick?, Nathaniel Philbrick’s enlightening and entertaining tour through Melville’s classic. As he did in his National Book Award–winning bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick brings a sailor’s eye and an adventurer’s passion to unfolding the story behind an epic American journey. He 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. 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.

“Gracefully written [with an] infectious enthusiasm…”—New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143123972
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/24/2013
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 125,101
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Nathaniel Philbrick is the author of In the Heart of the Sea, winner of the National Book Award; Mayflower, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Valiant Ambition, winner of the George Washington Prize; Bunker Hill, winner of the New England Book Award; Sea of GloryThe Last StandWhy Read Moby Dick?;  Away Off Shore; and Second Wind.


Nantucket, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

June 11, 1956

Place of Birth:

Boston, Massachusetts


B.A., Brown University, 1978; M.A., Duke University

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Gracefully written [with an] infectious enthusiasm…”—New York Times Book Review
“Exuberant.”—Boston Globe
“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… Philbrick’s 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 Philbrick’s enthusiasm is contagious….So put me down for a reading of Moby-Dick in 2012, and count Philbrick’s 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 Melville’s masterpiece.”—Booklist (Starred review)
In this cogent and passionate polemic for Melville’s masterpiece, Philbrick… combines a critical eye and a reader’s 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 Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea, which re-created the wreck of the whaleship Essex, inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick? Then you’ll love Philbrick’s new book… From a wonderful and knowing writer.”—Library Journal, pre-pub alert

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Why Read Moby-Dick? 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great companion to Moby Dick, with infomative and interesting insight. I am going to reread Moby Dick again now.
Artgardener More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Lots of insight & explanations which motivated me to read the original Melville novel. Good resource for acquainting the reader with the basic plot, characters and narrative.
insanepoet65 More than 1 year ago
Two weeks ago, I went to a book sale with my wife and my mother-in-law (yes, mom and I enjoy each other’s company.) The selection of books was awesome, we were in a huge room filled with boxes of books that had at least two titles in each box; we are talking at least a thousand titles offered. Then I came across a book I knew I had to get. Why Read Moby Dick? By Nathaniel Philbrick. I was never required to read Moby Dick in school. Each year, I tell myself I will read it, and each year I get sidetracked onto something else. I know the story, I’ve seen the movies (Gregory Peck and Patrick Stewart), but I am also one of those people who maintains that the book is always better; let’s face it, the book always is. So, that Saturday night, I started Why Read Moby Dick?... This had to be one of the most compelling books I have read in a long while. From the first page, it is evident that Nathaniel Philbrick LOVES the book Moby Dick, and in the 127 pages that follows he makes an excellent case as to why it is an American classic that should not be missed. Why Read Moby Dick? Is a fast read and one that should not be missed by anyone who loves a good read, but be warned, you WILL want to read Moby Dick afterwards, so you might want top pick that one up while you are at it.
auntmarge64 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, he¿s convinced me. Philbrick, who wrote "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex", seems a natural to comment on the story and meaning of Melville¿s masterpiece. Melville was inspired to write "Moby Dick" by the events surrounding Essex¿s destruction, and Philbrick, a sailor and long-time resident of Nantucket, clearly loves the book. In 28 short chapters he demystifies and makes less-threatening this leviathan of American literature, and I, for one, am enthusiastic to get going. Mission accomplished!
timothyl33 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Regardless of whether most people thought Philbrick gave a compelling answer to the title of his book (Why Read Moby-Dick?), there can be no doubt of the love he has for the original source material.And no. I have yet to read Moby-Dick ...but maybe I shall.Take that as whatever you will. ;)
troysworktable on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For the newcomer, this is a helpful introduction to themes encountered within the pages of Moby-Dick, as well as the life of Melville. For the convert, each brief chapter acts as a meditation, a devotion, for this "one book that deserves to be called our American bible" (9). For everyone, it is a tribute from an admiring and passionate reader to an author influenced by Owen Chase, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Shakespeare, the Bible, and his own whaling experiences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seriosuly, if you are going to offer a free sample, it needs to go at least a couple pages beyond the table of contents and copyright pages. Useless.