I'll admit, I'd never have picked this up without someone repeatedly prodding me to do so...but I'm really glad I did. I mostly read/listen to sci-fi/fantasy, so I'm skeptical about anything non-fiction...if I wanted non-fiction I'd watch the flippin' news (is about how my poor attitude would respond...) - but this story is good...hard to put the feeling into words - kind of intriguing and horrifying...on many levels. Not just the...main tragedy part - but what makes someone want to do this...the normal things they do...that they don't consider tragedies...from the catching and processing of whales, to the stuff that happens on the islands (like the Galapagos)...my god...
If you already know the story of the Essex, there probably isn't a ton of new info - but still worth the listen. If you don't know the story that was part of Melville's inspiration for Moby Dick, you should probably pick this one up!
I enjoy non fiction almost exclusively and especially love the history of Rome, the conquest of the Americas, and early American history from the founding of the earliest colonial settlements to the Antebellum rise of the United States.
It is no wonder this received the National Book Award... This is, to put it as simply as possible, a MUST READ! You don't like history? No problem! You are not interested in whaling? No problem! This is a compelling relevant story of human nature, struggle, friendship, loss, pain, death, and whale oil. A true American story of EPIC proportions!
interested in history, science, and pulp fiction
I enjoyed every minute of this book, and was sorry when it ended. It's a tale of adventure, certainly - but also a story of bad luck and worse luck; of a series of implausible chance occurrences; and of the human ability to endure. History comes alive here, in this slice of time that encompasses the height of the American whaling industry and the peculiar dynasties of Quaker Nantucket.
This story is clearly in Nathaniel Philbrick's wheelhouse, as his other books are also about the sea and early American history. Philbrick's genius lies in his ability to give rich detail and context for everything, without going too far into the weeds or losing the story. His meticulous research supports his skillful storytelling - every sailor in the boats has a tale, and they vividly come to life. I particularly appreciated Philbrick's attention to the African American sailors. The lives of these men provided scarcer primary data, I am sure, yet the author worked to fill out the details and distinguish their experiences.
The narrator, Scott Brick, is spot on as well. Highly recommended.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I had long known that Moby Dick had antecedents in a real life event, but I had no idea so much detailed information was available about it. Philbrick does a brilliant job of pulling all the original sources together and making this story real and human. Watching this group of men deal with their circumstances, making decisions based on the available information, suffering from the consequences of those decisions, was vicarious living at its best. This book should tell you just about everything you'd ever want to know about the 19th century whaling industry. It's also a great story about human nature and how all of us act and react in the face of adversity.
Fascinating book on many levels. 19th century sailing, whaling, survival, endurance, etc….. I loved it. And like always, Scott Brick is the master of narration. If I were a history teacher this book would be required reading! Five big stars on this one!
This is a fantastic, true tale of the Whaler Essex, its fate against an angry whale and the challenges facing the survivors. Amazing story. Well read by the narrator.
The biggest flaw is the mechanical editing. Horribly spliced. Sections seem to run into each other, and volume levels are confusion. For such a fantastic story, carefully read, this is a sad and sloppy treatment of the story.
Other than that, a great listen.
This was an amazing "listen". So hard to even imagine in one's wildest dreams what these men and boys endured. The life lasting effect must have been immense - a story no author could pen without the facts to guide him. I am a history lover but would recommend this book to all those who are not as well as those who are. I thoroughly enjoyed "The Mayflower" but was awestruck by this story.
Very good historical detail. Well written. But it drags a bit. We listened on a long drive. We stopped for lunch and when we got back in the car I started to turn the book back on and my husband's comment was "Yes. Let's get back to dying S-L-O-W-L-Y." But a good book, just not the best most engaging one.
Endurance, but Endurance is better.
A 32 year old with a painfully short attention span. Audio books brought me back to reading.
The book itself is great for the most part. While I can't find myself sympathizing with the men, I do find myself getting caught up in the story and eagerly waiting to see what happens next. That's not always the case with true stories. Story wise my issue is with the graphic details of killing the whales and turtles. Don't get me wrong, I knew there'd be death. It's a whaling ship, of course whales will die. But I think the author got a little overzealous with the descriptions at times. (Do I really need the intricate details of the men slitting a sea turtle's throat and drinking it's blood? Eew.)
My issue with the audiobook is one that I've seen at least one other reviewer mention. Sometimes mid sentence it'll suddenly skip ahead. And on top of that the entire narration sounds different. It's like they recorded the book on a bunch of different machines, and at least once I wasn't even entirely sure it was the same narrator. That's such a shame too, because I love listening to Scott Brick read.
Overall I would recommend this book, I'd just warn ahead of time that it's a little wonky and a little gory.