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Editorial Reviews

Tackling a subject as deep — and I mean that literally — as the ocean is not a task for just any writer. But Simon Winchester, a former reporter who has put his research skills to use on books about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary, ably turns out a detailed and dramatic history of one of our most valuable resources. He also provides the book’s narration, with an expert’s reading that brings plenty of passion to an otherwise dry subject.

Winchester structures the book around Shakespeare’s famous passage about the seven stages of man — the one that starts out, “All the world’s a stage” and traces life from its “infant beginnings” to its “sans everything” end. Here, the seven stages belong to the ocean, starting with its geological development and ending with a look at just how long it may last. In between, Winchester draws together countless stories, anecdotes, trivia, and facts, showing just how influential the Atlantic has been on life as we know it: Piracy, Moroccan snails, naval development, the age of exploration, whaling, poetry, literature, art, music, the Lusitania, global warming, international laws, pollution, submarines, seafood, overfishing, the slave trade, Lord Nelson, NATO, air travel, the Titanic, deadly battles, hurricanes, and Columbus all get their spot in, as Winchester says, “the immense complexity of an ocean that has been pivotal to the human story”.

Though it’s not always purely chronological, the organization by theme makes wading through this epic biography easy, and Winchester’s authoritative British accent lends a pleasant tone. And once you’ve heard about all the misconceptions people used to have about the ocean — like that heavier objects would sink not just faster but farther toward the bottom than lighter ones, which would stay suspended at shallower depths — you’ll wonder just how much more we have to learn. —Blythe Copeland

Publisher's Summary

From best-selling author Simon Winchester comes the immense and thrilling story of the world's most mysterious and breathtaking natural wonder: the Atlantic Ocean.

Atlantic is a biography of a tremendous space that has been central to the ambitions of explorers, scientists, and warriors, and continues to affect profoundly our character, attitudes, and dreams. Spanning the ocean's story, from its geological origins to the age of exploration, from World War II battles to today's struggles with pollution and over-fishing, Winchester's narrative is epic, intimate, and awe inspiring.

Until a thousand years ago, few humans ventured into the Atlantic or imagined traversing its vast infinity. But once the first daring mariners successfully navigated to its far shores - whether they were Vikings, the Irish, the Basques, John Cabot, or Christopher Columbus in the north, or the Portuguese and the Spanish in the south - the Atlantic swiftly evolved in the world's growing consciousness of itself as an enclosed body of water. Soon it became the fulcrum of Western civilization. More than a mere history, Atlantic is an unforgettable journey of unprecedented scope by one of the most gifted writers in the English language.

©2010 Simon Winchester (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Paul
  • Portland, OR
  • 01-01-11

Another winner from Simon

I love Simon Winchester books. They are not for everyone though. If you are interested in trivia like what lured the Phoenicians out of the Mediterranean Sea into the Atlantic Ocean (mollusks that give off royal purple dye) and like the concept that the Atlantic Ocean has a history that is unbelievably interesting, this book is for you. Plus, I love Simon Winchester's reading.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Starts Better Than it Finishes

The first half or so of the book is fantastic. I immediately put several of Winchester's books on my wish list. Unfortunately the book slides into a global warming boiler plate and never regains its initial grace. Regardless of one's view on climate change - and I agree that it is changing - this just isn't how the book was billed. So I wound up with a sack of oranges when I thought I was buying apples. Climate change activists that pick up the book because of a good review based on the book's climate credentials will be disappointed overall (though they will be happy that someone of Winchester's stature is championing the cause) and the reader just looking for a good historical story will be put off by the surreptitious nature of its activist message.

36 of 47 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 11-12-10

a whale of a book

Atlantic is well researched, interesting and superbly narrated. Between the so very interesting details Winchester weaves together, ranging from geology to geography to science to the personalities, the story is captivating. Winchester's vibrancy of language, coupled with his wonderful voice, make this a most entertaining and very informative audiobook.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

I will read all of Winchester's books because....

Would you listen to Atlantic again? Why?

Yes, the narrator has a soothing intelligent voice of reason and he makes anything fascinating.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Atlantic?

Description of a South Atlantic island and how a friend ended up running the fishing industry there.

Any additional comments?

I will read everything SW writes. He's a pillar of knowledge and truth in a confusing world.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Stick it out for the second half

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I almost didn't finish this book, which is a rarity for me. The intro alone was 1 1/2 hrs long and the entire first part of the book seemed to be a snobbish name-dropping list of Atlantic coast towns and cities and his seeming assumption that everyone who reads his book is well traveled and has been to the same places. To have any idea of what the author is talking about you need to have, at the very least, an atlas beside you as you listen. He jumps from one place to another often quickly and doesn't say much of anything pertaining to the purpose of the book. However, the book redeems itself in the second half and turned out to be quite worth wading through to get there living up to it's advertising.
The author himself is a fine reader.

Has Atlantic turned you off from other books in this genre?

No

Which character – as performed by Simon Winchester – was your favorite?

N/A

Could you see Atlantic being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

No

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not successful

There are many stylistic issues with Winchester's writing. He loves to use 'infinite' as an adverb or adjective as an intensifier, but seldom really means infinite. "The continents moved infinitely slowly." But if they did, you wouldn't be able to measure any movement at all. A literary tic.

He's fond of the personification of impersonal events...ie, a volcanic explosion was 'terrifying' - even though it happened long before anyone could have been around to be terrified by the event. He's fond of imagining scenarios from the distant past when we can really know very little of what the people were actually doing.

He'll say things regarding some reported hypothesis such as, 'but that's much in dispute,' without indicating who disputes the idea or why. There's a lot what you might call the 'hopeful impersonal' going on. But to whom is the event hopeful, frightening, infinitely something-or-other? He generally leaves that part out.

The author's intensely plummy accent adds a kind of unreality to the narrative that doesn't help.

Disappointed after enjoying Winchester's "Perfectionists."

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

A wealth of content on the Atlantic timeline.

Simon Winchester is an excellent sir and a delightful narrator of his own books. I enjoyed this novel, but felt the structure hurt it's presentation and ultimately was far reaching. Full of great information and beautiful writing this book is good. I highly recommend Winchester's "Pacific" novel over this to show his full capacity to write a truly captivating novel.

As always, Simon's narration was engaging and blended well with his writing. Not all writers can narrate, but Simon excels.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great Find

Had no idea how much I would gain from my choice in selecting this book in a 2-for-1 sale. The narrator-aauther delivers a most informative, interesting and entertaining experience. I need to learn more of him as well, after encountering his portrail of the Atlantic, so entwined with his personal experience. A truely expansive and well portraid narrative.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • John
  • Sedro-Woolley, WA, United States
  • 10-31-17

Perspective

I enjoyed the creative idea at the root of this story. - telling the history of the Atlantic Ocean as a means of resetting one's perspective on our planet. The author does a nice job of weaving the, geological, oceanic, an anthropologic history into an entertaining read.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Daniel
  • Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • 07-21-17

Another Splendid Book from a Great Author

Simon Winchester writes books like no author I have ever read. He can take a word, like "Pacific" or "Atlantic" and weave it in to the grand story that you never knew, and feel you ought to have known. His intellectual powers are prodigious, yet he is a man with a soul -- as the moving ending to this book, on a forlorn and forgotten beach -- amply demonstrates. Best of all this audiobook is actually read by the author. No actor could give more power to words which Winchester researched and lived.

Winchester writes in the finest traditions of the best authors I have ever read, people like Andrew Chaiken, Richard Rhodes and Norman Mailer -- who know that melodrama is no substitute for exhaustive research. I highly recommend this, and every other Winchester book I have ever read: "Krakatoa", "Pacific" and "A Crack in the Edge of the World". I intend to read his others. Sincerely, Dan Fiorucci Odessa, TX. July 2017