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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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  • Frances
  • Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 08-04-12

Couldn't finish this one

I loved Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa and thought I would like this as well. Unfortunately I found it unfocused and didn't like the first few stories. I usually finish books I start, but I abandoned this one early on. Maybe it gets better further into it?

Simon Winchesters voice is a delight to listen though.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Another Masterpiece by Simon Winchester!

Where does Atlantic rank among all the audiobooks you???ve listened to so far?

This book is easily among the 10 best audiobooks I own.

What did you like best about this story?

Simon Winchester tells a story like no one else writing today. His classical education simply sparkles in this book. He looks at the history and geography of an entire ocean and asks questions no one else would think of, and then goes on to answer them using the old oral tradition of true storytelling.

Any additional comments?

If you're not farmilliar with Simon Winchester, this is a good book to read as an introduction to his work. Atlantic will surprise you with how interesting a subject can be, when most of us would simply think of it as an ocean that we learned all we needed to know about years ago. If you don't purchase this book, do try something by Simon Winchester. You'll be glad you did.

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  • Stephen
  • Enumclaw, WA, United States
  • 05-31-12

A beautiful book

This book is amazing. It covers a broad span of subjects with sufficient depth to be interesting. It is coherent, cogent and concise. It is also poetic and emotional without being sappy.

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Magnificant overview of the magestic Atlantic

Simon Winchester at his best. If you yearned for more books like Outposts (30 years ago) then this is a treasure. The author has had 30 years to refine his already great skill with prose into a truly unique view of the Atlantic Ocean. A must read for everyone! William Manchester glanced off the topic in a World Lit By Fire but Winchester hits his target right on. I have an English professor friend who refuses to go on the the next Winchester book until she has relished every word. That person is now four books behind in reading and has yet to get to Krakatoa or the Man Who Loved China. What a loss.
Thank you Simon Winchester once again. Maybe a book about Chaucer and Phillipa next?

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

More of, brilliant, same.

Simon Winchester once again charms with an inspired framework and ever lilting tongue, wrapping the deep history of the Atlantic Ocean in beautiful language, personal narrative and a sprinkling of Kiplingesque turns of phrase. My only disappointment is that Winchester occasionally speaks with undue authoritative confidence about some ‘facts’ of history and science, without putting them in their rightfully muddied and complex context.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Ehhh kinda good

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

Probly. Audio book only.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Simon Winchester?

No. His accent was so pompous and waaay to english. Some parts were good just too many random facts that did not connect well.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

no way

Any additional comments?

Modern historians like Winchester just cant seem to help themselves from critiquing people in the past from an arrogant progressive stance, as if hes saying, "If i where back then i would have been a moral giant that would not have put up with ignorant ways or thinking." This is the historians blunder. Writers cannont superimpose modern beliefs on people of the past, it just doenst make good history. Sadly of course when it came to right moral historical contributions he jumped right over William Wilberforce and his efforts to end the slave trade. Biased is he? Yup. There were some really interesting facts but just tell the story of the Atlantic man! Its not that hard!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • G-Man
  • Eugene, Orygun
  • 02-23-13

Stick it out for the second half

Any additional comments?

I didn't find the first half of the book interesting and stopped listening. Randomly, one day I started listening to the second part. (The book downloads in two parts.) I enjoyed the second half quite a bit and was glad I got it.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim
  • Beaufort, NC
  • 10-20-12

Reads like a lecture

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Scholars

What do you think your next listen will be?

Biography

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Boredom

Any additional comments?

This audio book sounded too much like some of the lectures I sat through back in my college days. Lots of great information but delivered in such a way as to make it uninteresting.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful