Sunday Salon: Meeting Nathaniel Philbrick

The literary highlight of my week was meeting Nathaniel Philbrick.

Philbrick’s talk at the New Canaan, CT high school auditorium on Friday night was the crowing event of the town’s first One Book program. They chose Philbrick’s National Book Award winning In The Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (2000). Five hundred people registered for Philbrick’s talk and it seemed to me that everyone else was just as riveted by his talk as I was.

If you haven’t read this book, drop everything and go get your hands on a copy. It is a fantastic story about the events revolving around the whale attack that inspired Melville’s Moby Dick. But where Melville left off (with the whale attack), Philbrick goes on to describe what happened to the crew after the attack (let’s just say the Donner Party doesn’t have sole dibs on cannibalism). It’s an adventure tale, a survival tale. Nautical history, literary history, and American history at its best.

Advanced reader edition.

Prior to the book’s publication, the bookstore where I worked received an advanced reader copy of In The Heart of the Sea. Not only did I read it, I kept it and then also bought the hardcover when it came out. I have never done that.

Dedication & autograph on advanced copy.

Philbrick was kind enough to sign both books for me. When he saw the advanced copy he ran his hand over the cover and said, “Now this goes back some time.”

Autograph on first edition hardcover. When I hesitated to answer Philbrick’s question whether I wanted this one made out to me as well, he suggested just signing it, and added that it would be worth more. Readers, it is not for sale!

Philbrick has read Moby Dick twelve times now, he said, and also has a copy on his phone that he dips into when he’s waiting around in airports.

One thing that Philbrick didn’t mention is that there’s currently a movie being made based on this book. Ron Howard is directing so I anticipate a good movie.

Hope you all have a fantastic week in books!


  1. I am rather embarrassed to admit that I have never read Moby Dick … but after this review I not only want to read the classic, but this “sequel” Excellent post and recommendation!

  2. In the Heart of the Sea is a good book to read before Moby Dick as it paints a great background picture to the novel. And as for reading Moby Dick, you'll read it when you're ready, if you know what I mean. My only advice is to give yourself the time to read the whole thing–even the chapters that might seem boring. They give the book its flavor. 🙂

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