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: 9781101545218
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/20/2011
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 217,715
File size: 802 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

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 University’s 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 island’s history, Away Off Shore, followed by a study of the Nantucket’s native legacy, Abram’s Eyes. He was the founding director of Nantucket’s 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 “Custer’s Last Stand” by Stephen Ives. The book is currently being adapted for a ten-hour, multi-part television series. The audio book for Philbrick’s Why Read Moby-Dick? (2011) made the ALA's Listen List in 2012 and was a finalist for the New England Society Book Award.
Philbrick’s 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.
Philbrick’s 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, PBS’s American Experience, C-SPAN, and NPR. He and his wife still live on Nantucket.


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

Customer Reviews

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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.