Nathaniel Philbrick grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and earned
a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in America
Literature from Duke University, where he was a James B. Duke
Fellow. He was Brown University's first Intercollegiate
All-American sailor in 1978, the same year he won the Sunfish North
Americans in Barrington, RI. After working as an editor at "Sailing
World" magazine, he wrote and edited several books about sailing,
including "The Passionate Sailor, Second Wind," and "Yaahting: A
In 1986, Philbrick moved to Nantucket with his wife Melissa and their two children. In 1994, he published his first book about the island's history, "Away Off Shore," followed by a study of the Nantucket's native legacy, "Abram's Eyes." He was the founding director of Nantucket's Egan Maritime Institute and is still a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association.
In 2000, Philbrick published the "New York Times" bestseller "In the Heart of the Sea, "which won the National Book Award for nonfiction. The book is the basis of the forthcoming Warner Bros. motion picture "Heart of the Sea," directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Benjamin Walker, Ben Wishaw, and Tom Holland, which is scheduled for release in March, 2015. The book also inspired a 2001 Dateline special on NBC as well as the 2010 two-hour PBS American Experience film "Into the Deep" by Ric Burns.
His next book was "Sea of Glory," published in 2003, which won the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize and the Albion-Monroe Award from the National Maritime Historical Society. The New York Times Bestseller "Mayflower "was a finalist for both the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History and the "Los Angeles Times" Book Award, won the Massachusetts Book Award for nonfiction, and was named one the ten Best Books of 2006 by the "New York Times Book Review." "Mayflower" is currently in development as a limited series on FX.
In 2010, he published the "New York Times" bestseller "The Last Stand," which was named a "New York Times" Notable book, a 2010 Montana Book Award Honor Book, and a 2011 ALA Notable Book. Philbrick was an on-camera consultant to the two-hour PBS American Experience film "Custer's Last Stand" by Stephen Ives. The book is currently being adapted for a ten-hour, multi-part television series. The audio book for Philbrick's "Why Read Moby-Dick?" (2011) made the ALA's Listen List in 2012 and was a finalist for the New England Society Book Award.
Philbrick's latest "New York Times" bestseller, "Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution," was published in 2013 and was awarded both the 2013 New England Book Award for Non-Fiction and the 2014 New England Society Book Award. "Bunker Hill" won the 2014 book award from the Society of Colonial Wars, and has been optioned by Warner Bros. for feature film adaptation with Ben Affleck attached to direct.
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, the William Bradford Award from the Pilgrim Society, and the Boston History Award from the Bostonian Society. He was named the 2011 Cushing Orator by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and has an honorary doctorate from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, where he delivered the commencement address in 2009.
Philbrick's writing has appeared in "Vanity Fair," the "New York Times Book Review," the "Wall Street Journal," the "Los Angeles Times," and the" Boston Globe." He has appeared on the Today Show, the Morning Show, Dateline, PBS's American Experience, C-SPAN, and NPR. He and his wife still live on Nantucket.
Answering the negative of Philbrick's titular question is easy: Moby-Dick is intimidatingly large, scientifically rigorous, esoteric, and to some, may seem outdated. While the size of The Whale cannot be debated, Philbrick's entreaty is as approachable as it is persuasive. In this cogent and passionate polemic for Melville's masterpiece, Philbrick (In the Heart of the Sea) combines a critical eye and a reader's adoration to make a case for Moby-Dick. The plights of the Pequod, Ishmael and Ahab may seem irrelevant (or worse, quaint) compared to today's troubles, but Philbrick opines that within the pages of this American classic lie timeless archetypes whose relevance stretches across human history. Upon the loom of Melville's narrative run numerous threads of insight and argument dealing with subjects as diverse as multiculturalism, homoeroticism, and transcendental experiences of the natural world. 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. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
This brief title is historian Philbrick's (The Last Stand) valentine to Herman Melville's singular masterpiece-a book that, perhaps, is the most equally admired and avoided classic in American literature, although those who have embraced it know that it also is one of the few revered works capable of surpassing its formidable reputation. In numerous, brief chapters, Philbrick, who also narrates, presents in very simple terms his argument for why Melville's briny story of obsession and revenge becomes more relevant as history glides forward like the Pequod on its doomed voyage. Maybe the key to understanding life's mystery is knowing that, as aboard the ship, a madman is in charge, and you're powerless to stop him. He scrutinizes the novel's core characters-Ishmael, Queequeg, Pip, Starbuck, Ahab, and the whale itself-and ponders the ocean-deep well of Melville's creativity and melancholy. He was a man whose zeal for life was matched by an equally profound sadness. VERDICT While heartwarming for Melville fundamentalists, whether Philbrick's boundless enthusiasm for Moby-Dick is contagious enough to convince nonbelievers to take the 700-plus-page or 25-hour audio journey is debatable. But if this won't do it, nothing will. Glorious! ["While Philbrick may not persuade all readers who've been avoiding this tome to give it a try, he should succeed in swaying quite a few," read the review of the Viking hc, LJ 9/15/11.-Ed.]-Mike Rogers, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.