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.