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Extended Audio Sample Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, by Eric Jay Dolin, James Boles Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (287 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Eric Jay Dolin, James Boles Narrator: James Bole Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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This is the epic history of the “iron men in wooden boats” who built an industrial empire through the pursuit of whales. 

“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme,” Herman Melville proclaimed, and this absorbing history demonstrates that few things can capture the sheer danger and desperation of men on the deep sea as dramatically as whaling. 

Eric Jay Dolin begins his vivid narrative with Captain John Smith’s botched whaling expedition to the New World in 1614. He then chronicles the rise of a burgeoning industry—from its brutal struggles during the Revolutionary period to its golden age in the mid-eighteen hundreds, when a fleet of more than seven hundred ships hunted the seas and American whale oil lit the world—to its decline as the twentieth century dawned. This sweeping social and economic history provides rich and often fantastic accounts of the men themselves, who mutinied, murdered, rioted, deserted, drank, scrimshawed, and recorded their experiences in journals and memoirs. Containing a wealth of naturalistic detail on whales, Leviathan is the most original and stirring history of American whaling in many decades.         

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An exhaustive, richly detailed history of industrial American whaling…A real taste of the vile life aboard a whaleship and a cleareyed analysis of the cutthroat tactics of the whale-oil trade.”

    New York Times

  • “This is a lively and thorough history, with the author well-suited to sort out the fish tales and the sometimes ugly truths of a violent, pressure-filled venture”

    Boston Globe

  • “Engrossing…This account is at once grand and quirky, entertaining and informative.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “James Boles reads this well-organized history with a steadiness and clarity that keeps you listening.”


  • Boston Globe Book of the Year
  • Los Angeles Times Best Book
  • Amazon Best Book

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Nick | 2/16/2014

    " I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It goes into great detail about the rise of the whaling industry in America and the whaling culture of America during the industries heyday. The idea of taking to the ocean for 4 years at a time, in small wooden ships, to hunt these huge creatures of the deep, strikes me as both ludicrous and thrilling. I find the stories of the ships, towns and individuals who lived and breathed whaling absolutely fascinating. These individuals (both men and women) lived very hard lives and the industry they toiled in nearly wiped out several whale species, and yet there seens to be a charm to this bygone era. It is such a foreign world compared to today and yet our world of today probably would not exist without the aid of whale oil. Whale oil helped light the urban centers of the world (i.e. London and New York) and in doing so contributed to their massive growth. I completely recommend this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Christopher | 2/7/2014

    " A thorough survey, it is exciting without being sensational (except when necessary). Now it makes more sense to me why people would risk their lives in this way -They didn't have any other options. This is also a great tale of the 'independent Yankee' spirt' industrious, independent and forward looking as it was. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Dariggle | 2/1/2014

    " Great account of America's first industry. Whaling provided 50% of the export revenue to the colony in the 1760s, and was a major industry up to the 1850s, supporting the lighting and corset industries with product. Makes on want to read Moby Dick. Nice history of the whaling ports of Nantucket, New Bedford and others. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Lucy | 1/27/2014

    " It made me really want to go back to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. "

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About the Author
Author Eric Jay Dolin

Eric Jay Dolin is the author of Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, which was chosen as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe. It also won the 2007 John Lyman Award for US Maritime History. A graduate of Brown, Yale, and MIT, where he received his PhD in environmental policy, he lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.