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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Read Moby-Dick?, by Nathaniel Philbrick

True confession: I have not yet read 'Moby-Dick.' It has long been on my TBR (To Be Read) list, but I was happy to leave it near the bottom of that list. Reading Mr. Philbrick's book, in which he not only poses but answers the question of the title, definitely excited me about the prospect of reading 'Moby-Dick,' and raised 'Moby-Dick' several slots on my TBR list.

Mr. Philbrick wrote in an engaging manner. He used short chapters, which I appreciate, because I could pick it up for a few minutes and complete a chapter (a small accomplishment with a big emotional satisfaction). I was a little surprised, though, at how often he managed to turn his discussion of 'Moby-Dick' into a condemnation of American slavery.

I found this quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne about Herman Melville worthy of consideration: "He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other.'

I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks they ought to read 'Moby-Dick' but lacks sufficient enthusiasm to begin.


  1. I read Moby Dick some years ago and wow was it a slog! I'm glad I read it, but it's filled with more than you'd ever want to know about whaling in the 1800s. It also has some enduring themes (Ahab chasing the whale he cannot catch, etc) so I recommend it, but be prepared. ;-)

  2. you said: I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks they ought to read 'Moby-Dick' but lacks sufficient enthusiasm to begin.

    That's me! I know so many people who had the "slog" experience that Vanessa did. But, I do have one friend who considers Moby Dick one of the best books ever written.

  3. Vanessa, I think I'm prepared. I hope I'm prepared. Anyway, while it has moved closer to the top of the TBR, it's not at the top yet.

    Deb, Mr. Philbrick claims to have read it at least a dozen times. What else does that friend like?

  4. I've read Moby Dick twice, both for lit classes, I am pretty sure. The first time was a serious slog. The second time the reality of the portrayal came through: how one man's obsession and thirst for revenge will eventually destroy everything around him, and is there possibility for redemption from that? At least I think that's what I remember. Maybe it's time to read it again...