04 January 2011

Review: Atlantic by Simon Winchester

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.

Atlantic at Powell's
Atlantic at Book Depository
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Published by HarperCollins / Harper, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780061702587
YTD: 2
Source: Bought print; review audio (see review policy)
Rating: B+

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Sandy Nawrot 1/4/11, 7:26 AM  

Huh. Well, I never would have picked this one up, but he has a very pleasant voice (love that accent) and if he has so much passion in the subject, it should carry through. This is one of those perfect books that teach you something I'd think.

Sandy Nawrot 1/4/11, 7:28 AM  

P.S. Just ordered it...

Julie P. 1/4/11, 8:12 AM  

My dad has read a book or two by this author. I can see Booking Pap Pap liking it.

Beth Kephart 1/4/11, 8:23 AM  

This was one of the five books I bought for my dad this year. So glad to hear that you liked it. I bought it before I'd read any reviews and worried about my rashness!

bermudaonion 1/4/11, 8:44 AM  

It sounds like the author's passion shines through in this one. What a fascinating topic.

Swapna 1/4/11, 10:11 AM  

This is definitely a long listen (I'm still listening to it, though I'm nearing the end!), but I am thoroughly enjoying it. Great review!

Barbara 1/4/11, 10:16 AM  

Sounds like an excellent read. I do like this author.

Jennifer 1/4/11, 10:17 AM  

At first, this didn't really sound like an interesting topic but as I read through your review, I became interested. I never really thought of an ocean as having a history, but now that I think about it, waterways are vital to our existence. Fascinating!

Megan (Best of Fates) 1/4/11, 10:19 AM  

I hadn't heard of Atlantic but I love those kinds of non-fiction books. I'll check it out!

Anonymous,  1/4/11, 10:34 AM  

I don't think I would have even thought to check this book out but your review made me want to listen (and find a print copy).

Jennifer-Girls Gone Reading 1/4/11, 10:44 AM  

I also listened to one of Winchester's books and I really liked it. Might have to try this one as well...

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) 1/4/11, 10:51 AM  

I have a copy of this one from Harper - I cannot wait to read it! I'm glad the audio was good. I love author read books, if the author can actually read. If not, they're sort of frustrating.

Lisa@ButteryBooks 1/4/11, 1:27 PM  

I think this would be a book my son would love to read with me. Thanks for the recommendation!

Robin M 1/4/11, 2:23 PM  

Sounds interesting and educational. This might be a good one to read with James.

tolmsted 1/4/11, 6:38 PM  

I received a copy of Krakatoa for Christmas - another Winchester book and am looking forward to starting it. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed Atlantic.

caite 1/4/11, 8:50 PM  

I am not a huge non-fiction fan but this one has grabbed my interest. I too love the sea, although I have never..yet...crossed it by boat. I see a print copy in my near future...

Shelly B 1/4/11, 9:44 PM  

Not one I would pick up, but I enjoyed your thoughts on it. I have a friend who loves the ocean that would probably enjoy this.

Veens 1/5/11, 6:29 AM  

This is a subject matter I am not interested in much. But I really like your review.

nat @book, line, and sinker 1/5/11, 8:30 PM  

can you remind me of this one when i'm casting about for a father's day gift in june??? this would be perfect for my dad!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 1/7/11, 10:16 PM  

la, la, la, I can't hear you! This is on my TBR, I'll be back after I read it .... (I know there probably aren't spoilers in your non-fiction review :) )

Marg 1/8/11, 6:24 AM  

I have heard a couple of interviews with Simon Winchester about this book and even though I would probably have never picked it up before hand, I do have it on my TBR list at the moment.

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