At the age of ten, I was drawn to a particular copy of Moby Dick that my grandmother kept on her bookshelf. Its binding was made of blue and red leather with gold lettering. I was determined to read this book and so at my young age I sat on her bed and dove into the first page. "Call me Ishmael." About an hour later, I woke up. Rather than continue reading, I decided to steal the book from her shelf and finish it at a later time. Fifteen years later, I still have yet to read Herman Melville's Moby Dick and no one has ever questioned the mysterious disappearance of my grandmother's copy.
Recently I picked up In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick, which documents the tragic sinking of the Whaleship Essex that inspired Melville's Moby Dick. Philbrick does an excellent job of describing the life of whalers not only aboard the Essex, but the hard life of a whaler during the nineteenth century as well. While this book might not be for the faint of heart (his descriptions of starvation are very graphic) or for the reader who is about to take up sailing, this may be just the read for those who are interested in history with a taste of adventure and heroics. It is also a very fast read as the writing is clear and not overwhelming with nautical jargon. And while In the Heart of the Sea and Moby Dick are closely connected together, I was also reminded of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Normally I'm the type of reader who chooses fiction over non-fiction. I may take up an historical fiction novel and then later read a related non-fiction work for more information, but this is the first time that I'm doing the reverse. In the Heart of the Sea, by Nathaniel Philbrick, has inspired me to once again revisit my grandmother's copy of Moby Dick.
These titles can be found at the Mulberry Street Branch Library or reserved online.