Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Eric Jay Dolin

Eric Jay Dolin is the best-selling author of Leviathan and Brilliant Beacons. His new book is Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates. Dolin and his family live in Marblehead, Massachusetts, from which the pirate John Quelch departed in 1703, and returned to in 1704, only to be hanged in Boston.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Dolin's reply:
I always pick book topics that I know little about. That is because, I want to stay interested and engaged in the researching and writing process, which takes roughly 18 months to 2 years from start to finish. By not knowing much about a topic, you are guaranteed to find surprises virtually every day, and that keeps it exciting, and, hopefully, that excitement translates to the written page.

Since I know little about my topics, almost all of my reading is focused on books related to the topic I am working on at the moment. That leaves me hardly any time for pleasure reading. But, there is one way in which I get outside of my bubble. I am often asked to write blurbs for upcoming history and natural history publications. This introduces me to some great books (at least the ones I blurb; there are quite a few books I am asked to blurb, but don’t because I didn’t find the books very appealing).

Three of the most recent books I blurbed are Thor Hanson’s, Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Honey Bees (2018); Ben Goldfarb’s, Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter (2018); and Brian Murphy and Toula Vlahou’s, Adrift: A True Story of Tragedy on the Icy Atlantic and the One Who Lived to Tell about It (2018). The blurbs are below, and I think (or hope) they give you a flavor of the books.

Buzz: "As he did for feathers and seeds, Thor Hanson has written a wonderfully engaging work of natural history that will delight readers with its elegant prose, surprising stories, and deep humanity. Bees, so important to life on earth, are fortunate to have someone as passionate and knowledgeable as Hanson tell the tale of their evolutionary past, turbulent present, and precarious future. After reading Buzz, you will look at bees with a profound mixture of awe and gratitude.”

Eager: “In this beautifully written tribute to beavers, Ben Goldfarb paints a vivid and captivating portrait of two of nature's most fascinating species. Seamlessly combining history, ecology, biology, politics, and compelling stories of those battling over the proper role of beavers in today's anthropocentric world, Eager resoundingly proves that these magnificent rodents do indeed matter a great deal. In so doing, this gem of a book offers hope not only for the beavers' future, but also our own.”

Adrift: “The dramatic story of Thomas W. Nye, the sole survivor of the John Rutledge's tragic encounter with an iceberg in 1856, is beautifully rendered, gripping, and emotionally engaging from beginning to end. Murphy and Vlahou perform a literary magic trick of sorts, transporting readers into another era and enabling them to see and feel what it was like to travel across the ice-choked north Atlantic in the depths of winter, and confront the ultimate nightmare scenario -- a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean with no help in sight. Adrift is a chilling and searingly memorable tale of unimaginable suffering and one man's bittersweet triumph over the odds.”

So, that’s what I have been reading lately.
Visit Eric Jay Dolin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue