This will be the fourth year I’ve attempted my 50 book goal. It’s funny how different years take on different themes or trends. One year I read a lot of Thomas Hardy. Last year I read a lot of Rick Riordan. This year’s common theme? Nonfiction. I have never been much of a nonfiction reader, but this year I have read eight different nonfiction books. That might not seem like a lot since I’ve read 28 total but for me eight nonfiction books is definitely more than I read on average. The general consensus–nonfiction is awesome! I think that more nonfiction nowadays is very novelistic, which makes it easy to read. When I read The Boys in the Boat, I cried at the end. That’s some powerful writing.
So this week I turned my attention to In the Heart of the Sea, which tells the story of the whaleship Essex. This tragedy was the inspiration for Melville’s Moby Dick, which I will be tackling next. In a lot of ways In the Heart of the Sea reminded me of Unbroken, for obvious shipwreck, stranded-at-sea reasons. The ordeal these men went through is absolutely incredible, and the fact that some of them survived is amazing. This book is slightly gruesome–perhaps more so than Unbroken, because it deals with the issue of cannibalism. After the shipwreck, the sailors ate their dead shipmates in order to survive. The parts of the book that deal with this issue are difficult to read and horrifying to think about.
What I really enjoyed about the book was that it didn’t rely on the sensational issue of cannibalism as its only source of interesting material. I was fascinated to learn about the process of whaling and the insular culture of Nantucket when whaling was at the height of its success. I found myself drawn into the story because of those bits of history. Once I hit the chapters about their time lost at sea I was hooked. I can see a lot of uses for this book in the classroom–like giving students a list of nonfiction books and letting them do literature circles. It would also be an awesome way to introduce Moby Dick if anyone actually teaches that in schools anymore. I could see pairing passages from this book with the classic to compare and contrast fiction and nonfiction.
On the whole, I’m glad this was one of my fifty books for the year. I haven’t come up with my own creative rating system yet, but as soon as I do I’ll let you know.