Atlantic: A Vast Ocean of a Million Stories

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780007341375
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/2010

Meet the Author

Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester's many books include The Professor and the Madman, The Map That Changed the World, Krakatoa, and A Crack in the Edge of the World. Each of these has been a New York Times bestseller and has appeared on numerous best and notable lists. Mr. Winchester was made Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by HM The Queen in 2006. He lives in western Massachusetts.

Biography

One of the leading practitioners of the offbeat, narrative nonfiction genre The New York Times affectionately calls "cocktail-party science," Simon Winchester studied geology at Oxford, worked on offshore oil rigs, and traveled extensively before settling into a writing career. For twenty years, he worked as a foreign correspondent for the Guardian, augmenting his income by writing articles and well-written but little-read travel books. Then, an obscure footnote in a book he was reading for sheer recreation sparked the idea of a lifetime.

The book in question was Jonathon Green's Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers and the Dictionaries They Made, and the footnote read, "Readers will of course be familiar with the story of W.C. Minor, the convicted, deranged, American lunatic murderer, contributor to the OED." Immediately, Winchester knew he had stumbled on a real story, one filled with drama, intrigue, and human interest. Published in 1998, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Oxford English Dictionary was an overnight success, garnering rave reviews on both sides of the pond, and remained on The New York Times hardcover bestseller list for more than a year.

Fueled by curiosity, passion, and a journalist's instinct for what makes "good copy," Winchester has gone on to explore the obscure, arcane, and idiosyncratic in blockbusters like The Map that Changed the World, Krakatoa, and The Man Who Loved China. Coincidentally, his subjects have placed him squarely in the forefront of the new wave of nonfiction so popular at the start of the 21st century. In an interview with Atlantic Monthly, Winchester explained the phenomenon thusly: ""It shows, I think, that there is deep, deep down -- but underserved for a long time -- an eagerness for real stories, real narratives, about rich and interesting things. We -- writers, editors -- just ignored this, by passed this. Now we are tapping into it again."

Good To Know

Winchester once spent three months looking at whirlpools on assignment for Smithsonian magazine.

He once wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times to correct a factual error in an article about where the millennium would first hit land on the morning of Jan. 1, 2000. (It was the island of Tafahi, not the coral atoll Kirabati.)

He reportedly loves the words "butterfly" and "dawn."

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      New York; Massachusetts; Scotland
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 28, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      M.A., St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, 1966
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 51 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(15)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(11)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 51 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2010

    Solid Read

    This is a solid read for anyone interested in a broad history/geography of the Atlantic Ocean. Anyone fascinated by isolated islands, plate tectonics, and transportation will enjoy this book.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2010

    Not recommended

    Full disclosure - I did not finish the book, I didn't even make it very far. I got too hung up on poor scholarship presented as incontrovertible fact and lost faith that what I was reading was a history of the Atlantic as opposed to a yarn that may be interesting to fans of florid prose but wouldn't let facts get in the way of a good story. The realization (over multiple examples in the first few tens of pages) that I just couldn't trust what was in here ruined it for me.

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 9, 2011

    A Disappointment

    A lot of good information, but the presentation lacked. The author had a penchant for run-on sentences replete with commas, dashes, colons, semicolons, etc. that was very distracting. I found myself reading some sentences two or three times before getting the meaning out of them. Also, there were far too many grammatical lapses and factual inaccuracies for a finished publication. I don't know whether this is the fault of the author or the publisher, but such should not happen. Hire some proofreaders! Further distracting was the author's use of obscure English words, when simpler wording would have made the text more readable. If he was showing off his command of the English language, he overdid it. At least in my opinion.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 25, 2011

    An ocean of information

    Extremely informative and well written. I'm pretty well read, but Winchester used a ton of words i had never seen before. I used my Nook dictionary overtime.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 19, 2011

    Great book by a master storyteller

    I love Simon Winchester's books. He's one of those few authors that you read anything they write just because it's written by them. I also happen to like the way he reads his audiobooks, so if I find him in audio I have no issue having him tell me what he has to say.

    "Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories". Wouldn't you pick a book with that massive title when it is written by one of your favorite authors? I sure did!

    Winchester is a geologist and he tells his story about the Atlantic Ocean from every possible perspective. He narrates it since the formation of this body of water, when it became a creek between Africa and South America some 220 million years ago, passing through its current growth of six inches a year and ending with how it will cease to exist some 180 million years from now.

    In between you learn about exploration, commerce, discovery, maritime biology, fishing, international law, weather, warfare, geology, boating construction, air travel, personal accomplishments and basically anything that could possibly happen where this magnificent body of water can be a part of. Historically we learn so many things about this pond containing 25% of all the water in the planet. For example, I had no idea that the Atlantic Ocean was "discovered" in the XV Century. Not because nobody had ever seen it but because nobody until then had an idea of what kind of body of water it was.

    The structure of the book, though, is a little bit weird for my taste. The chapters are divided in parts 1-9 and it became difficult to follow it at times and there are so many topics that you may feel a little bit lost every now and then. Also, there fact there are so many topics inevitably makes some of them boring, but it assures that every reader will find something for them when they decide to take on this incredible research accomplishment.

    Regardless, this is as good Winchester writing, as good Winchester writing gets. If you are a fan you will read it an enjoy it. If you are not a fan, you will still come out of this as a more knowledgeable person than when you started. That alone makes it totally worthy read.

    You can check more at my blog, LectumErgoSum dot com.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2013

    This may be unfair

    This is probably an interesting, perhaps fascinating, book. It is probably unfair that I write that it depresses me when I'm told twice within the first several pages that humanity is doomed and will become extinct. I don't want to read it. I'd like to think humanity will figure a way out. So, sorry, I was looking for history of the Atlantic Ocean, not this author's gloom and doom.

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  • Posted August 4, 2012

    Having really liked the three Simon Winchester books I'd read pr

    Having really liked the three Simon Winchester books I'd read previously, I looked forward to Atlantic. I'd have to rate Atlantic as an ambitious near miss however. If you want a better read try Krakatoa or The Man Who Loved China.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2011

    Lacking direction

    The title of this book is intriguing, but the book lacks a relevant timeline, scope, and proper direction. Instead, the author weaves in and out of history in no particular order. Also, after many pages explaining a little know historical footnote, the author attempts to quickly explain its relevance to the topic in one quick sentence, but often fails.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 11, 2011

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    Posted September 20, 2013

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    Posted March 18, 2011

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    Posted January 16, 2011

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    Posted November 28, 2010

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    Posted December 30, 2010

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    Posted November 9, 2010

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