So I'm a bit of a reader. Fortuitous since I spend a good chunk of my day reading professionally. Right now I'm about halfway through Nathaniel Philbrick's The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of Little Big Horn. Here's what I've gleaned so far: Sitting Bull was a bad, bad man and Custer's mom probably should have hugged him more when he was little. Frankly, it's not Philbrick's best work in my opinion—the narrative is not as tightly wound as it usually is. What is his best work, and the point of my blog as Black Friday approaches, is a book called In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. It will make a great gift for anyone who likes to read and is into boating.
Everybody knows the basic story of Moby Dick: White whale, obsessed captain, chomped leg, doomed crew, harpoons, she breeches, he beckons, all save one shall follow. Fin.
But what a lot of people don't know is that Herman Melville based his classic book on a true story—that of the Essex, an 87-foot long whaling ship out of Nantucket that was attacked and sunk by a giant sperm whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in 1820. Philbrick recounts the incredible tale—which was the stuff of legend in the 19th century but eventually faded from the public consciousness —with an equal eye towards adventure and nautical detail. In the end, he winds up with a very cool story that anyone who has ever ventured out to sea will enjoy.