Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries,

Titanic Storms,

and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories



AUDIOBOOK: 14:23 hours

This book counts for

My Dewey Decimal Challenge


The 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge

and for the

2011 Audio Book Challenge


Blending history and anecdote, geography and reminiscence, science and exposition, the New York Times bestselling author of Krakatoa tells the breathtaking saga of the magnificent Atlantic Ocean, setting it against the backdrop of mankind’s intellectual evolution

Until a thousand years ago, no humans ventured into the Atlantic or imagined traversing its vast infinity. But once the first daring mariners successfully navigated to far shores—whether it was the Vikings, the Irish, the Chinese, Christopher Columbus in the north, or the Portuguese and the Spanish in the south—the Atlantic evolved in the world’s growing consciousness of itself as an enclosed body of water bounded by the Americas to the West, and by Europe and Africa to the East. Atlantic is a biography of this immense space, of a sea which has defined and determined so much about the lives of the millions who live beside or near its tens of thousands of miles of coast.

The Atlantic has been central to the ambitions of explorers, scientists and warriors, and it continues to affect our character, attitudes, and dreams. Poets to potentates, seers to sailors, fishermen to foresters—all have a relationship with this great body of blue-green sea and regard her as friend or foe, adversary or ally, depending on circumstance or fortune. Simon Winchester chronicles that relationship, making the Atlantic come vividly alive. Spanning from the earth’s geological origins to the age of exploration, World War II battles to modern pollution, his narrative is epic and awe-inspiring. [goodreads] wow, a great presentation!


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. See here to know more him and his work.

There’s also a Q&A with him here.


Of all of Winchester’s amazingly educational and entertaining books, a list that includes the best-selling The Map That Changed the World (2001) and Krakatoa (2003), his latest one is perhaps the most unique and the most creative in its approach. It is presented as a biography—of an ocean! It is as if he is telling the life story of the Atlantic, and, indeed, as we learn from one of the most wondrous facts presented here, oceans actually do have life spans—they have “their beginnings and their endings.” The Atlantic, as we are told, was born 10 million years ago by the continental split between Africa and South America, and its death will occur some 170 million years from now. The geological history of this vast body of water is partnered with the human story of habitation around it, and travel over it, because in Winchester’s view, the Atlantic has functioned as the “inland sea of Western civilization.” His coverage of aspects of human involvement with this ocean is lively and extensive, with topics ranging from the Atlantic as represented in the arts to the effects of climate change and overfishing and from immigration patterns to the use of the ocean’s waters for warfare. [amazon]


I cannot add anything substantial to the great synopsis published on Goodreads. This is the most thorough “biography” I have ever read, and the most entertaining as well. One thing I would like to highlight, however, is the plan of the book, a genius idea I believe. Winchester arranges his development on each aspect of the Atlantic Ocean by following the order found in As You Like It by Shakespeare.

Here is how he explains it [available through amazon]:

This was enough to hook me. And the audiobook was read by Winchester himself, which is an additional treat!


9 thoughts on “Atlantic

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  3. I’m so glad you brought this audiobook to my attention! My library has it, and I’ve added it to my list. I think my husband and my father would both really enjoy this one as well, so I’m planning to pass the info along to them, too. Thanks!


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