Leviathan: Or, The Whale by Philip Hoare

An exploration of whales. The author has a fascination with them, as most of us do (or am I just projecting?). This book mentions Moby Dick a lot. If haven’t read it, you will miss a lot of nuance from this book. Also, why haven’t you read Moby Dick yet? When I first started reading this book, I was sort of confused about why it was talking about Moby Dick so much. You have been warned!

“Whales existed before man, but they have been known to us only for two or three generations: until the invention of underwater photography, we hardly knew what they looked like. It was only after we had seen the Earth from orbiting spaceships that the first free-swimming whale was photographed underwater. The first underwater film of sperm whales, off the coast of Sri Lanka, was not taken until 1984; our images of these huge placid creatures moving gracefully and silently through the ocean are more recent than the use of personal computers. We knew what the world looked like before we knew what the whale looked like.”

What topics does the author cover?

The author explores whales in pop-culture. He talks about parts of the Moby Dick novel. He visits the locations of Moby Dick. He gives us history lessons on whales, and whaling cities. He approaches the subjects of “whales” from all angles. He makes it very personal at times, and some parts of the novel read a bit as a journal.

One of my favourite parts of the book was when he describes swimming with the whales. I could picture it in my head and I wish I could’ve done that but it also sounded terrifiying. What an experience that must’ve been! Whales are so big and make us humans seem so small and insignificant.

It is a bit rambling at points but I also have a deep fascination with Moby Dick, the whaling industry, and whales, as does the author. You should probably not read this book unless you are seriosuly interested in these things as well.

My favourite whale is the humpback whale. What’s yours?

Rating: ★★★★

Book #2 in my 2023 Reading Challenge

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