Leviathan by Eric Jay Dolin

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Leviathan:

Poor whales. What did they ever do to us?

Quick synopsis:

The history of whaling in America.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Yeah, there’s three pages on whale penis in here. You’re welcome.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Right whales couldn’t swallow humans even if they wanted to because of how their throats are structured. It could however destroy your boat very quickly if you piss it off.

My Take on Leviathan:

Whales were way more important than you realized for a very long time in the history of the U.S.

Turns out, we were very good at whaling! Coupled with the fact that numerous parts of the whale can be used for different purposes like candles, perfume, and the structural integrity of women’s clothes. Yes, you heard that right. In fact, that is one of the many truly crazy things you can do with whale oil. I don’t want to spoil it all for you already.

Dolin goes back to the very beginning of whaling in America. He takes you through the early documentation of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower up until the very last whaling ship leaving port (it went badly!).

I generally stay away from books which span long time-frames, but Dolin is the master at making it readable and enjoyable. Go read it even if you don’t necessarily care about whaling. Dolin is one of my favorite writers because it doesn’t matter if you care about the subject. He will find a way to make anything interesting and readable.


Great book spanning a lot of years. If you have any interest in whaling, this is the book for you. Buy it here!

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