Reading Moby Dick

Every so often, when the interval between meetings will be longer than usual or when a consensus choice for next month doesn’t emerge or when, perhaps, we just feel a bit bolder one of my book group will look around and say, “what’s on your ‘to be read’ stack?” It’s an opportunity to pull out that giant Victorian novel (The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope) or serious social novel (The Street by Ann Petry) or unaccountably missed classic (Don Quixote by Cervantes).

One member asked if we were willing to read Moby Dick with her.  Another said she’d never read it either.  I admitted to reading it only a few years ago but had loved it and was eager to read it again.  The others had all read it a long time past and were ready to revisit.  So Moby Dick it is.  

A great book doesn’t require embellishment, of course, but often inspires it.  I had been lucky years ago to find a copy of the beautiful Random House edition (from the Lakeside  Press edition of 1000) illustrated by Rockwell Kent.  It was an extraordinary reading experience.


Curious about other fine editions, I learned of a 1979 printing by Arion Press with illustrations by Barry Moser.  I may never see one of the 265 original copies of that hand press edition, but The University of California offers a handsome trade edition.

Andrew Hoyem, the publisher of Arion Press, on the opening page:  “The wave of the ‘C’ of “Call me Ishmael” almost jumps out of the book like a Hiroshiga wave.”


Time to dive in…


Author: abookwomansholiday

The perfect holiday for a lifelong reader is one with a stack of books and few distractions. Retiring after three decades as a bookseller, I look forward to reading my way through the stacks and shelves and lists of books waiting for me. This blog will be something of a grab bag or commonplace book of reviews, quotations, notes on the history of books, the contemporary book trade, and anything connected with books and language. Reading is a great pleasure. Thinking and talking about books multiplies and intensifies that pleasure.

2 thoughts on “Reading Moby Dick”

  1. Beautiful illustrations!! Wonderful story! I am listening to the Moby Dick Big Read project by University of Plymouth. Each chapter is read by a different reader – Stephen Fry, China Mieville, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mary Oliver among many others.


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