Simon Winchester has been fascinated by the Atlantic Ocean since he was a schoolboy in the 1960s. His newest book, Atlantic, shows readers the many sides of the sea that has been a major player in Western civilization for millennia. From its geographic origins to its place in history, from legend to exploration, Winchester brings the Atlantic alive.
The book covers quite a bit of material, but the organization of the text keeps the reader engaged. Rather than follow a strictly chronological path, Winchester breaks the ocean's story into different aspects. For example, sea trade of all kinds is covered in one chapter, whereas another focuses on how the Atlantic inspired authors and artists throughout the ages.
I was particularly impressed with the way Winchester handled the more sensitive issues, such as overfishing, pollution, and the effects of climate change. He presents the information and facts, draws conclusions when he can, and leaves the door open in areas where scientists still have questions.
I also like Winchester's personal stories of his encounters with the Atlantic and the people who live on its shores. His work and travel have taken him all over the ocean, along both east and west coasts, and even to some of the Atlantic islands. Maps, illustrations, and photographs enhance the text.
Although I am often hesitant to listen to author-read books, I decided to take a chance on the audio edition of Atlantic (Harper Audio; 14 h, 30 m), read by Winchester himself. I need not have been concerned. His narration is well paced, and his voice is expressive and easy to listen to. The following 40-second video is narrated by Winchester, giving you a feel for his voice.
I bought a copy of the hardback edition for my father, so I was able to enjoy the visuals as I listened to the text. To those of you who choose the audio of Atlantic, I suggest you obtain the print edition from the library or at least look through it at the bookstore.
Atlantic was an Indie Next pick for November 2010. Simon Winchester has a website and a Facebook page and is on Twitter.
Published by HarperCollins / Harper, 2010
Source: Bought print; review audio (see review policy)
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