Start reading Why Read Moby-Dick? on the free Kindle Reading App or on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here.

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Enter a promotion code
or gift card

Try it free

Sample the beginning of this book for free

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

To view this video download Flash Player


Why Read Moby-Dick? [Kindle Edition]

Nathaniel Philbrick
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $13.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
You Save: $5.01 (39%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Free Kindle Reading App Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Whispersync for Voice

Switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible narration. Add narration for a reduced price of $7.99 after you buy the Kindle book. Learn More


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition $7.99  
Hardcover $17.15  
Paperback $10.84  
Audio, CD, Abridged, Audiobook, CD --  
Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged $10.95 or Free with Audible 30-day free trial
Kindle eTextbooks
Save up to 80% with Kindle eTextbooks
Textbooks cost less when you rent or buy feature-rich eTextbooks. With flexible rental options, only pay for the time you need. Choose a rental length between 30 and 360 days and extend it for as little as one day. You even have the option to purchase at any time. Learn more.

Book Description

A “brilliant and provocative” (The New Yorker) celebration of Melville’s masterpiece—from the bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea

One of the greatest American novels finds its perfect contemporary champion in Why Read Moby-Dick?, Nathaniel Philbrick’s enlightening and entertaining tour through Melville’s classic. As he did in his National Book Award–winning bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick brings a sailor’s eye and an adventurer’s passion to unfolding the story behind an epic American journey. He skillfully navigates Melville’s world and illuminates the book’s humor and unforgettable characters—finding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. An ideal match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? will start conversations, inspire arguments, and make a powerful case that this classic tale waits to be discovered anew.

Editorial Reviews


“Gracefully written [with an] infectious enthusiasm…”—New York Times Book Review
“Exuberant.”--Boston Globe
“Brilliant and provocative…”—The New Yorker
“[A] slim, passionate manifesto…”—Chicago Tribune
 “A slim, easy-to-read argument on why you should definitely put [Moby-Dick] on your bucket list.”—History Wire
WHY READ MOBY-DICK? reels in a compelling case… short, lucid, intelligent… Philbrick’s more like a literary color analyst, helping readers see the novel better while also creating a sense of excitement about it.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“This slender volume is packed with reasons why you might want to read the whaling classic.”
—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
 “This slender, pleasant, sincere book by the maritime historian and naval enthusiast is more than a respectable tribute unencumbered by academic prose. Approaching Moby-Dick from outside the academy is refreshing, and Philbrick’s enthusiasm is contagious….So put me down for a reading of Moby-Dick in 2012, and count Philbrick’s book a success.”—The New Republic
“Philbrick does the literary world great service by bringing Moby-Dick back into popular attention and also by his skill in keeping American history fresh and alive.”—Aspen Daily News
“Sure to swell the readership of Melville’s masterpiece.”—Booklist (Starred review)
In this cogent and passionate polemic for Melville’s masterpiece, Philbrick… combines a critical eye and a reader’s adoration to make a case for Moby-Dick… Less lit-crit and more readers’ guide, this tome will remind fans why they loved the book in the first place, and whet the appetites of trepid potential readers.”—Publishers Weekly
A slim celebration of the elements of a literary masterpiece…Philbrick is an enthusiastic salesman for a sometimes daunting novel.”—Kirkus
So you liked Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea, which re-created the wreck of the whaleship Essex, inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick? Then you’ll love Philbrick’s new book… From a wonderful and knowing writer.”—Library Journal, pre-pub alert

About the Author

Nathaniel Philbrick, is a leading authority on the history of Nantucket Island. His In the Heart of the Sea won the National Book Award. His latest book is Sea of Glory, about the epic U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838–1842. His other books include Away off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People, 1602-1890 (which Russell Baker called "indispensable") and Abram's Eyes: The Native American Legend of Nantucket Island ("a classic of historical truthtelling," according to Stuart Frank, director of the Kendall Whaling Museum). He has written an introduction to a new edition of Joseph Hart's Miriam Coffin, or The Whale Fisherman, a Nantucket novel (first published in 1834) that Melville relied upon for information about the island when writing Moby Dick. Phillbick's Why Read Moby-Dick? was a finalist for the New England Society Book Award.

Philbrick, a champion sailboat racer, has also written extensively about sailing, including The Passionate Sailor (1987) and Second Wind: A Sunfish Sailor's Odyssey. He was editor in chief of the classic Yaahting: A Parody (1984).

In his role as director of the Egan Institute of Maritime Studies, Philbrick, who is also a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association, gives frequent talks about Nantucket and sailing. He has appeared on "NBC Today Weekend", A&E's "Biography" series, and National Public Radio and has served as a consultant for the movie "Moby Dick", shown on the USA Network. He received a bachelor of Arts from Brown University and a Master of Arts in American Literature from Duke. He lives on Natucket with his wife and two children.





Product Details

  • File Size: 284 KB
  • Print Length: 145 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0143123971
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (October 20, 2011)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0052RERYQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #249,280 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
  •  Would you like to give feedback on images?.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
80 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Whiteness of the Whale October 20, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Philbrick is expansive in his praise of Moby-Dick describing it variously as history, poetry, adventure story, parody, portrait of 1850's America, metaphysical blueprint and, finally, epic depiction of man's struggle against an uncaring universe. He lovingly refers to the book as a "magnificent mess" and as a "quirky and demanding ride" which he urges readers to take. Philbrick details the curious history of the book which had sold fewer than 4000 copies in the forty years prior to Melville's death in 1891, only to become subject of a reader resurgence after the first World War.

Melville's masterpiece, according to Philbrick, contains within its pages "nothing less than the genetic code of America." Because of this, the book becomes "newly important " as each new American crisis occurs. The "genetic code" in Moby Dick contains lessons in tolerance between cultures, compartmentalization of worldly and spiritual concerns, the labor theory of value, the impact of a harrowing occupations on the worker, perils of charismatic leadership, and the need for government to prevent angels from becoming sharks.

Philbrick is most effective in introducing the reader to the first anti-hero - Captain Ahab- and his fight to create meaning in a universe which can be seen as a vast practical joke on man. Nathaniel Hawthorne's emotional inspiration on Melville helped transform a more straightforward whaling story into a dive into the darkness. The white whale becomes a mask obscuring the "outrageous strength" and "inscrutable malice" of a hostile universe. Moby-Dick is nothing less than "evil personified and made practically assailable." Whether the whale is agent of darkness or its principal is unimportant, Ahab must strike a blow for man against him.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
WHY READ MOBY-DICK? may be better titled "Why Re-Read Moby-Dick?" As students, all of us were subjected to what many consider the Great American Novel. My experience came in junior high school, and the passage of many decades does not dim the excruciating boredom I felt when reading Herman Melville's epic tome. The passing years exposed me to other Melville literature, specifically the novella "Billy Budd" and the short story "Bartleby, the Scrivener." At a used book sale several years ago, I came across a beautiful copy of MOBY-DICK. The edition contained stunning illustrations and leather binding. By this time, my children were reading it in their literature classes, and I was enticed to buy it. I decided that perhaps Melville and the great white whale deserved another chance. I was not disappointed.

Nathaniel Philbrick's historical studies have often been sea-related. IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, published in 2000, was the story of a Nantucket whaling ship that, on an expedition to the Pacific in 1820, was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale. The saga of the ship, The Essex, was believed to be the inspiration for Melville's novel, published in 1851. Philbrick's maritime history of the tragedy won a National Book Award. More than a dozen readings of MOBY-DICK inspired Philbrick's brief but thorough study of what makes Melville's classic so endearing. Along the way, he provides readers with an excellent complement to the epic novel. And after reading over 800 pages, an additional 127 cannot be too taxing.

In a series of 28 essays, Philbrick covers an extensive number of thought-provoking topics. Commencing with some brief introductory information, he notes that MOBY-DICK was far from an instant classic. The book was actually a flop when it was originally published.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reading Nathaniel Philbrick January 1, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you have a couple of hours and are looking for a pleasant read that can help you to appreciate one of the greatest books around, this is a more than worthy read. While I am only giving this one three stars, since it is really an "homage" of limited ambition, not a creative work in itself, each of those stars is well earned and this will be among my most glowing three star reviews.

Philbrick gives us an entry into Moby Dick that is personal and easily accessible, and so does Melville's book a great service. All too often, Moby Dick is read at too young an age*, an age where the wry, often sardonic and subtle humor is ill-appreciated and the references are difficult and obscure, and this has given the book a bad rap - a rap as a difficult, daunting work, one a reader must steel themselves for and endure. In reality, for those who enjoy the humor, and who have enough reading behind them so that a not-too-subtle dig at the philosopher Locke, mentioning him by name, or a joke about Jonah or Job, can bring a chuckle, this is a most readable and enjoyable book, and Philbrick gets that across. He demystifies the book.

Philbrick also gives you some tools to make the read easier. By pointing out some elements of Melville's humor, which is sometimes so dry you only spot it if you're looking for it, and some of Melville's approaches to writing and characterization, he sets up an easier reading of the book. He gives you tools to climb that mountain (and, again, the mountain really isn't as tall as it looks).

Philbrick's reading of the book will not be everyone's reading.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Query: Should one read this BEFORE or AFTER reading "Moby-Dick"? (I...
When I told a friend of my intention to re-read "Moby-Dick" after thirty years, he suggested that I read this book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by R. M. Peterson
4.0 out of 5 stars Philbricks book is a winner
Ive read Moby Dick several times before but got a lot of insight from this book. Only Nate Philbrick could have written this winner
Published 2 months ago by Michael H. Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by Jeannette Speck
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected delight
I had forgotten (maybe never knew) the relationship of the book "Moby Dick" to our Civil War. There is a passage about Abraham Lincoln that took my breath away.
Published 3 months ago by paula hopewell
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatness of Moby-Dick
Nathaniel Philbrick hit a home run with this little book. I enjoy books about books and this one does not disappoint. Read more
Published 4 months ago by James L Powell
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Read Moby Dick?
Read this while you are reading Moby Dick - or insteadof reading Moby Dick. I used it as a "crib" when my book group read Moby Dick - -- very helpful. Barbara Pontecorvo
Published 4 months ago by Barbara Pontecorvo
5.0 out of 5 stars read this book!
A thoughtful and absorbing discussion of the masterpiece. Can be read before or after reading "Moby Dick". Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jacob L. Dreier
3.0 out of 5 stars I read this and learned a few new things...I suggest you read Olson's...
I heard the NPR review; my friends asked if I read it; I did. That's about it. Would I recommend this book? Read more
Published 6 months ago by dk
5.0 out of 5 stars For those not ready to sign on for the whole voyage, try a three-hour...
Recently I was chatting with a colleague during lunch, and she said her grown son and some of his friends who also took a “non-humanities” track in college have been doing an... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Walter Lowe
4.0 out of 5 stars A Guide into the Tale of the Great Whale
Why indeed? How about because it’s the best piece of literature written by an American? The Great Gatsby and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn might claim the title (from me... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Stephen N. Greenleaf
Search Customer Reviews
Search these reviews only

More About the Author

Nathaniel Philbrick
Life at a Glance

1956 in Boston, Mass.

Linden Elementary School and Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, Pa.; BA in English from Brown University in Providence, RI, and an MA in America Literature from Duke University in Durham, NC

Philbrick was Brown's first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978; that year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI; today he and his wife Melissa sail their Beetle Cat Clio and their Tiffany Jane 34 Marie-J in the waters surrounding Nantucket Island.

Melissa Douthart Philbrick, who is an attorney on Nantucket. They have two children: Jennie, 23, and Ethan 20.

After grad school, Philbrick worked for four years at Sailing World magazine; was a freelancer for a number of years, during which time he wrote/edited several sailing books, including Yaahting: A Parody (1984), for which he was the editor-in-chief; during this time he was also the primary caregiver for his two children. After moving to Nantucket in 1986, he became interested in the history of the island and wrote Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People. He was offered the opportunity to start the Egan Maritime Foundation in 1995, and in 2000 he published In the Heart of the Sea, followed by Sea of Glory, in 2003, and Mayflower, due in May 2006.

Awards and Honors
In the Heart of the Sea won the National Book Award for nonfiction; Revenge of the Whale won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award; Sea of Glory won the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize and the Albion-Monroe Award from the National Maritime Historical Society. Philbrick has also received the Byrne Waterman Award from the Kendall Whaling Museum, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for distinguished service from the USS Constitution Museum, the Nathaniel Bowditch Award from the American Merchant Marine Museum, and the William Bradford Award from the Pilgrim Society.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

(What's this?)
#76 in Books > History
#76 in Books > History

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?


There are no discussions about this product yet.
Be the first to discuss this product with the community.
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Look for Similar Items by Category