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"Variably genial, cautionary, lyrical, admonitory, terrifying, horrifying and inspiring…A lifetime of thought, travel, reading, imagination and memory inform this affecting account." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Blending history and anecdote, geography and reminiscence, science and exposition, New York Times bestselling author Simon Winchester tells the breathtaking saga of the Atlantic Ocean. A gifted storyteller and consummate historian, Winchester sets the great blue sea's epic narrative against the backdrop of mankind's intellectual evolution, telling not only the story of an ocean, but the story of civilization. Fans of Winchester's Krakatoa, The Man Who Loved China, and The Professor and the Madman will love this masterful, penetrating, and resonant tale of humanity finding its way across the ocean of history.

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062020109
List price: $10.99
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Some interesting stories in here - quite a few were familiar, but just as many weren't and I put the book down feeling that I'd increased my general knowledge about the Atlantic quite a bit. Some aspects of the book made me a little uncomfortable: the very Euro-centric (Anglo-centric) point of view, for example which is understandable given that the writer is a Brit, but made me feel that the inhabitants of other continents around the ocean had been short-changed. A good example of this is in the case of the book's dedication to a Scot who died in the Dunedin Star rescue alongside a Namibian man, Mathias Khoraseb, who only seems to get mentioned in passing. I also found the personal anecdotes tedious at times, although some of them were interesting. And I don't think the use of Shakespeare's ages of man was I was reading the ebook version of this and the editing was a bit off in places - wrong words sometimes and a puzzling use of 'her' to refer to George II at one point!Overall, an interesting read, but with a background level of irritation which stops it being a really good one.more
An excellent read. A great perspective on history, politics, etc. The author brings you into the moment and in some cases incorporates his own experiences. Highly recommended.more
The "big picture" history book most popular these days is the magical mystery tour variety. These narratives combine a bunch of things - biography, science, cultural studies, geography, travelogue, personal essays, military studies, and traditional history - via a common nexus. It's usually, oddly, a food - cod, salt, coffee, spices.Winchester's nexus is a body of water, but it works the same way. Bored with one topic, 20 pages later you're on to a new one.I don't have anything against these kind of books, but, as the saying goes, "too many books, too little time". The only reason I read this one was Winchester's formal training as a geologist and his enjoyable The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology, a biography of biostratigraphy's inventor.And I wasn't disappointed. Winchester frames his story between the Atlantic's geological past and its projected future. In between, using the conceit of Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man, we get the story of that ocean's influence on science, exploration, business, and warfare. That means, among other things, slavery, pirates, oceanography, whaling, Vikings, Basques, Spanish colonization, submarine warfare, Trafalgar, transatlantic flights, shipping containers, and the Skeleton Coast,My favorite parts were, besides the geology, the business section with the American development of packet ships and the laying of the first transatlantic submarine cables. I was also entertained by Winchester's personal reminisces of being a geology student literally stranded in the wilds of Greenland with the prospect of wintering there and a gloating Argentinean naval officer he met while imprisoned during the Falklands War.But it was all well written with no section too long to wear out your patience -- or satisfy a deep curiosity on a subject. That's the nature of these books.Winchester does address a couple of important contemporary issues. He gives an account on how the Newfoundland Bank cod fishery collapsed and the possibility of other fisheries being protected on the model of the British administration of the waters around South Georgia Island. He gives a nuanced look at the possible perils of global warming - while not unskeptically throwing his lot in with the anthropogenic warming crowd or faithfully thinking that carbon trading will work. He also shows, whatever the truth about global warming and its cause, it doesn't seem well linked to increased incidence of hurricanes.more
In Simon Winchester's latest book he takes on quite a challenge. How to you tell the story of something vast and multifaceted as the Atlantic Ocean? It is a testimony to Winchester's skill as a writer that he develops a novel approach and executes it for a very readable and engaging book, Atlantic.Winchester first choose to view the ocean as a living thing, not too unusual as mariners regularly take this view. But then Winchester hits on the brilliant idea to frame the Atlantic ocean in the seven ages of man. These ages were described in a monologue by William Shakespeare's character, Jacques, in As You Like It.These ages are: Infancy - first stirrings of human development on its shores Childhood - crossings and full fledge explorations Lover - the ocean beauty in art and literature Soldier - centuries as a stage for warfare Justice - basis of trade and international law Old Age - crossings are routine and resources no longer inexhaustible Mental dementia and death - climate change and humanity's changeIn each of these stages Winchester mixes the broad perspective with anecdotal stories to enliven the story and provide the reader with interesting facts.In summary, Simon Winchester has succeeded in taking on the story of the Atlantic.more
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Reviews

Some interesting stories in here - quite a few were familiar, but just as many weren't and I put the book down feeling that I'd increased my general knowledge about the Atlantic quite a bit. Some aspects of the book made me a little uncomfortable: the very Euro-centric (Anglo-centric) point of view, for example which is understandable given that the writer is a Brit, but made me feel that the inhabitants of other continents around the ocean had been short-changed. A good example of this is in the case of the book's dedication to a Scot who died in the Dunedin Star rescue alongside a Namibian man, Mathias Khoraseb, who only seems to get mentioned in passing. I also found the personal anecdotes tedious at times, although some of them were interesting. And I don't think the use of Shakespeare's ages of man was I was reading the ebook version of this and the editing was a bit off in places - wrong words sometimes and a puzzling use of 'her' to refer to George II at one point!Overall, an interesting read, but with a background level of irritation which stops it being a really good one.more
An excellent read. A great perspective on history, politics, etc. The author brings you into the moment and in some cases incorporates his own experiences. Highly recommended.more
The "big picture" history book most popular these days is the magical mystery tour variety. These narratives combine a bunch of things - biography, science, cultural studies, geography, travelogue, personal essays, military studies, and traditional history - via a common nexus. It's usually, oddly, a food - cod, salt, coffee, spices.Winchester's nexus is a body of water, but it works the same way. Bored with one topic, 20 pages later you're on to a new one.I don't have anything against these kind of books, but, as the saying goes, "too many books, too little time". The only reason I read this one was Winchester's formal training as a geologist and his enjoyable The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology, a biography of biostratigraphy's inventor.And I wasn't disappointed. Winchester frames his story between the Atlantic's geological past and its projected future. In between, using the conceit of Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man, we get the story of that ocean's influence on science, exploration, business, and warfare. That means, among other things, slavery, pirates, oceanography, whaling, Vikings, Basques, Spanish colonization, submarine warfare, Trafalgar, transatlantic flights, shipping containers, and the Skeleton Coast,My favorite parts were, besides the geology, the business section with the American development of packet ships and the laying of the first transatlantic submarine cables. I was also entertained by Winchester's personal reminisces of being a geology student literally stranded in the wilds of Greenland with the prospect of wintering there and a gloating Argentinean naval officer he met while imprisoned during the Falklands War.But it was all well written with no section too long to wear out your patience -- or satisfy a deep curiosity on a subject. That's the nature of these books.Winchester does address a couple of important contemporary issues. He gives an account on how the Newfoundland Bank cod fishery collapsed and the possibility of other fisheries being protected on the model of the British administration of the waters around South Georgia Island. He gives a nuanced look at the possible perils of global warming - while not unskeptically throwing his lot in with the anthropogenic warming crowd or faithfully thinking that carbon trading will work. He also shows, whatever the truth about global warming and its cause, it doesn't seem well linked to increased incidence of hurricanes.more
In Simon Winchester's latest book he takes on quite a challenge. How to you tell the story of something vast and multifaceted as the Atlantic Ocean? It is a testimony to Winchester's skill as a writer that he develops a novel approach and executes it for a very readable and engaging book, Atlantic.Winchester first choose to view the ocean as a living thing, not too unusual as mariners regularly take this view. But then Winchester hits on the brilliant idea to frame the Atlantic ocean in the seven ages of man. These ages were described in a monologue by William Shakespeare's character, Jacques, in As You Like It.These ages are: Infancy - first stirrings of human development on its shores Childhood - crossings and full fledge explorations Lover - the ocean beauty in art and literature Soldier - centuries as a stage for warfare Justice - basis of trade and international law Old Age - crossings are routine and resources no longer inexhaustible Mental dementia and death - climate change and humanity's changeIn each of these stages Winchester mixes the broad perspective with anecdotal stories to enliven the story and provide the reader with interesting facts.In summary, Simon Winchester has succeeded in taking on the story of the Atlantic.more
As much as this is a book abount all things Atlantic, it is also a tribute to men who for centuries battled the unknown, the elements, time, and each other on and below this body of water. Like many, I have ties to this ocean. I was born in Virginia (on the coast), grew up in the Caribbean, sailed sailboats and worked as a deck officer on freighters and tankers. This book transported me to all the nooks and crannies and back in time to when some amazing brave souls first attempted to leave the comfortable sight of land and cross the Atlantic. I really liked this book.more
Simon Winchester can write compelling and entertaining prose and I've enjoyed several of his books. This one, though is flawed by his blatant and dishonest bias against Christianity. One example of this is his treatment of John Newton. Winchester implies that Newton was a clergyman, hymn writer and slaver all at the same time and he never misses an opportunity to sneer at him. While it's true that Newton was a slaver and continued in the trade for a few years after his conversion, he did leave the trade and eventually became a preacher. Later, he supported Wilberforce in his campaign to abolish the slave trade. Quite a difference, but evidently there is no place for reform in Winchester 's world. I enjoy a good story, but prefer that it's honest. This and other examples of bias cause me to doubt the veracity and worth of the rest of the book.more
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