Brooks & Crowley April 2018

Review Brooks & Crowley

April 2018


439 Washington Street Dedham, MA 02026

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the whalers would pull the carcass alongside the ship, cut off its head, and haul the head on deck. Then, whalers would cut a hole and bail out the oil inside with a bucket. Oil harvested from the whale burned brightly and was odorless, so it was used to illuminate street lamps. The Nantucket whaling fleet was prolific, and the whale oil was shipped to municipalities the world over to light their street lamps. This resource made Nantucket one of the richest places in the world during that time. Eventually, the invention and stabilization of kerosene and natural gas supplanted whale oil as a cheaper alternative. I picked up this book while on vacation down the Cape. I didn’t know a thing about it. It was on a display table at a monument we checked out. The cover looked intriguing and indicated that it had won a National Book Award. Good enough for me. I don’t really go looking for a particular book or do any research before hitting the library. I just pick one that catches my eye. It keeps my expectations low, and I haven’t been disappointed. Sometimes, it is okay to judge a book by its cover. Currently, I tend to read three books at a time — all of different styles. At any given moment, I could be part-way through a self-help or business book, a biography, and a novel, depending on my mood. Right now, I’m actually reading another of Nathaniel Philbrick’s books. This one is about General Custer’s last stand. The time period makes the story a bit harder to read. I never knew much about the plains. I’ve just flown over them, like everyone else, while on my way to the West Coast. There is a ton of history out there, and it is vastly different from our Boston history. Whether or not you immerse yourself in multiple books at a time and prefer nonfiction or fiction, reading is thoroughly enjoyable. If you ever find yourself in a bookstore and a cover or spine happens to catch your eye, go ahead and pick it up. You never know— you might find yourself entertained or learn something new. –Neil Crowley


1820. This book begins where “Moby Dick” ends, and the sinking of the Essex was the inspiration for the ending of “Moby Dick.” Philbrick’s book picks up with an 80-ton sperm whale striking and sinking the Essex. The book follows the crew as they struggle to survive on lifeboats without food and with very little water, until the boats are found by fellow Pacific Ocean sailors 90 days later. This book is not for the faint of heart. Only eight of the crew of 20 survived. While entertaining, this is a story of survival you wouldn’t wish on anyone. Philbrick follows the survivors through the rest of their lives. Since reading the book, I’ve noticed several street signs on the Cape and Islands named for these characters. I enjoyed the book because I was able to learn a lot about the whaling industry and the history of Nantucket and New England in the 1820s. I never knew why Nantucket was one of the richest places in the world at that time. It certainly wasn’t tourism in those days; it was the whaling industry. As it turns out, whales, especially sperm whales, were hunted primarily for the oil they contain, mostly in their heads. A sperm whale can contain as many as 500 gallons of oil! After killing a whale,

International Children’s Book Day was on April 2, and it had me thinking about what I enjoy most about reading, both as a kid and now. I read a ton when I was young. Maybe it was because we didn’t have cellphones and video games back then, but I enjoyed reading for entertainment. I was pretty fond of the book “Two-Minute Mysteries.” It was a collection of 79 short stories, each just a page or two long and jam-packed with cryptic clues to a mysterious story. After the story, it would explain how everything unfolded and what the clues meant, but you needed to try and unravel it yourself before looking. I’d try to figure out the mystery before I finished reading the story. Later, I graduated to full-length mysteries, but I enjoyed the pace of the two-minute versions. They let your mind fill in the details about the time period, etc. Nowadays, I tend to follow my interests, and that has me gravitating toward nonfiction, mostly biographies. By reading real-life stories, you learn so much history about life in particular periods of time. A good book can feel like a form of time travel. One book that I really enjoyed reading was “In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathaniel Philbrick, which is the tragic tale of the sinking of the Nantucket whaleship, Essex, in the Pacific Ocean in


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