Nathaniel Philbrick biography

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Nathaniel Philbrick
Photo by Ellen Warner

Nathaniel Philbrick

Nathaniel Philbrick Biography

Nathaniel Philbrick grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and earned a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in America Literature from Duke University, where he was a James B. Duke Fellow. He was Brown University's first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978, the same year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, Rhode Island. After working as an editor at Sailing World magazine, he wrote and edited several books about sailing, including The Passionate Sailor, Second Wind, and Yaahting: A Parody.     In 2000, Philbrick published the New York Times bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction. The book is the basis of the Warner Bros. motion picture Heart of the Sea, directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Benjamin Walker, Ben Wishaw, and Tom Holland. The book also inspired a 2001 Dateline special on NBC as well as the 2010 two-hour PBS American Experience film Into the Deep by Ric Burns.   Philbrick's writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. He has appeared on the Today show, The Morning Show, Dateline, PBS's American Experience, C-SPAN, and NPR. He and his wife live on Nantucket.

Nathaniel Philbrick's website

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Interview

Find out what fascinates Nathaniel Philbrick about writing survival tales, why he thinks such stories are so popular today, and why he felt that the story of the Essex needed retelling at this time.

Why do you believe the tale of the Essex needed retelling? Why is it important to tell now?
Except for at a few old whaling ports such as Nantucket and New Bedford, the story of the Essex was known, if it was known at all, as the story that inspired the climax of Moby-Dick. It seemed to me that the Essex was something more than the raw material for Melville's miraculous art; it was a survival tale that also happened to be an essential part of American history. Back in the early nineteenth century, America had more frontiers than the West; there was also the sea, and the Nantucket whaleman was the sea-going mountain man of his day, chasing the sperm whale into the distant corners of the Pacific Ocean. Americans today have lost track of the importance the sea had in creating the nation's emerging identity. It wasn't all cowboys and Indians; there was also the whalemen and Pacific. More than a decade before the Donner party brought a story of frontier cannibalism to the American public, there was the Essex disaster.

You brought a historic tale to life with vivid detail and emotional content that rivals narrative fiction. Did it feel like you were writing fiction?
I am ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Nathaniel Philbrick at BookBrowse
In the Hurricane's Eye jacket Valiant Ambition jacket Bunker Hill jacket The Last Stand jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Nathaniel Philbrick but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Susan Casey

    Susan Casey

    Susan Casey is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks. She served as creative director of Outside Magazine, where she was part ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    In the Heart of the Sea

    Try:
    The Devil's Teeth
    by Susan Casey

  • Abby Geni

    Abby Geni

    Abby Geni is the author of The Lightkeepers, winner of the 2016 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction and the inaugural Chicago Review of Books Awards for Best Fiction, and The Last Animal (2013)... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    In the Heart of the Sea

    Try:
    The Lightkeepers
    by Abby Geni

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View all 5 Readalikes

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Editor's Choice

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Book Discussion
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A story of war and medicine, of finding love in the sweeping tides of history, and of the mistakes we make.

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Readers Recommend

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    "An engrossing tale of family, faith and love in the life of one remarkable woman." - Booklist
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