Thursday, August 29, 2019

Moby Dick: What I Am Taking Away from My Experience Reading This Book

I've been a little obsessed this month. I read Moby Dick.

I'm not an expert. I'm just a regular, ordinary person who loves to read, a person who felt like I should read Moby Dick., and so I did.

It took me all month. I read the book while listening to narration, either from the Moby Dick podcast or the Moby Dick Big Read.

I found myself thinking about Moby Dick. A lot.

Of what did my Moby Dick experience consist?

I read a lot of books about Moby Dick. Kid books. Comic books. Whale nonfiction. Historical fiction about a (possible) relationship between Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. A whole book on why people should read Moby Dick.

I wrote reviews for ten Moby-Dick-related books:

 I loved the vocabulary in Moby Dick. I wrote a lot about the wonderful words in the book:

I wrote four other posts about Moby Dick and talked about Moby Dick covers, Moby Dick characters, Moby Dick art, and Moby Dick themes:

I watched a Moby Dick movie.

I listened to Moby Dick music.

I made a Moby Dick poll: The Moby Dick Character I Like Best. Winner? Queequeg, of course.

I made word art from the complete text of Moby Dick.

What are my take-aways from reading Moby Dick?

1. Many people have told me they have tried to read Moby Dick and came away thinking it was a daunting book or a boring book. Another huge group of people told me they never want to read Moby Dick. It is possible that Moby Dick is the classic that the least number of people ever plan or want to read. 

2. A very small group of people have told me they read Moby and loved this book. Moby Dick has a tiny, but devoted group who are obsessed with this book.

3. Reading Moby Dick is daunting. The Great Gatsby is 7.3 on Accelerated Reader's ATOS readability scale.  Tom Sawyer is 8.1. Anna Karenina is 9.6. War and Peace is 10.1. Moby Dick is 10.3.

4. I thought Moby Dick was the story of a captain who hunted a whale. It is. But Moby Dick is so much more than just the story of a man seeking a whale. It is the story of a man seeking a new life by going to sea. It's the story of man vs. nature. It's the story of whales. It's a story of adventure, drama, and even comedy. 

5. I expected Moby Dick to be structured like a typical adventure novel. It is not. Moby Dick reads like a contemporary novel, with chapters written as plays, with chapters written as soliloquies, with chapters written like nonfiction text, and with paragraphs full of action but intermingled with deeply philosophical thoughts.

6. I thought if I read far enough into the novel I would grow to love it, and that happened. I did. I loved Moby Dick, but it took me 655 pages to decide that. In the process of reading it, I also disliked huge portions of it. I can't imagine that I will reread it, but I'm terribly glad I read it.

Have you read Moby Dick? 


  1. You immersed yourself in Moby Dick for sure! I haven't read the novel and doubt I ever will. I admire you for taking it on.

    1. Thank you, Kathy. I feel like I've just run a marathon.

  2. Your long sea journey with Melville has been very enjoyable to read. You are such a careful and imaginative reader and interpreter! You tempt me to read Moby Dick again -- I last read it in 2010 after a trip to the Galapagos where we felt like we could sense the old 19th century mariners, including whalers, who stopped there for water and food (unfortunately, the food often consisted of the giant tortoises native to the islands).

    best... mae at

    1. Thank you, Mae. You should join in. Bron at Brona's Books is doing a Moby Dick readalong.

  3. I read it because I felt as a lit major I SHOULD. I liked it but did not love it, but then I did not immerse myself in all things Moby Dick as you did.

    1. The more I read it, and the more I read of it, the more I liked it.

    2. Although I appreciated Jane Austin as a writer, until I immersed myself in your Austin in August and followed your lead in that direction, I never said I LIKED her books. After total committment and immersion, I LOVED Persuasion and her other novels. It was a good reading experience, and I am grateful for your idea and lead in that direction. TY

    3. There is something about reading deeply that seems to bring on a love for the book.

  4. Wooo, great post! I can't believe how absorbed you became in such a short time. It will be an experience that will remain with you for a lifetime. Now all that's left for you to do is go whaling, lol! :-D

  5. I was going to deny being part of #2, but I suppose if I'm reading Moby-Dick twice in as many years... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    My greatest impression after the first time was that, for its Great American Novel designation, it's such a weird book. I knew of its reputation for long passages about whales and whaling, but the adventure, humor, and philosophy---that are all sort of separate but connected things---really surprised me.

  6. Wow! This is fantastic! I have to take several days to read through your posts...but I'm curious: I saw you read In the Heart of the Sea (I haven't read the post, yet), but have you seen the film (2015)?

  7. I am in the camp that has no desire to read this book, but I have been entertained and interested in your journey!

  8. I love how you threw yourself into this readalong so wholeheartedly Deb!

    I'm totally with you on #4 and #5, but unlike your #6 I've fallen in love from the very beginning - surprising myself by just how much....but I'm only up to chapter 21 and still haven't actually met Ahab!
    I suspect I will now live in the #2 camp and forever rave about how great this book is :-)

    Thanks for your contributions to my #MobyDickReadalong

  9. I read it as a teen, and I'd probably like it more now. On the other hand, I have higher standards for women in literature now so the dearth would bother me more. But I remember extremely powerful stretches and also some decided lulls. I guess the book is a metaphor for the sea...

  10. Did, or do you think it’s a *funny* book, as in funny-ha-ha rather than funny-peculiar. Certainly the latter, but HM doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the funny bits. Bildad and Peleg fighting over Ishmael’s share, the Cook’s address to the sharks, Stubb in any whaleboat chase...funny, right? Right?

  11. I have read Moby Dick in full 2 times, and sections of it more times than I can count. As I go through life, what the book "means" expands and deepens. When I read it the first time, it took 22 chapters before I began to "love" it, but as years go by I find love in progressively earlier sections. Today, I find the first 5 chapters wonderfully describe a mindset about life that almost all of us can relate to. Moby Dick was ahead of it's time when Melville imagined it 120 years ago. It's ahead of our own time.


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