402 pages, 2 b/w maps
When the writer Donovan Hohn heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, and read up on Arctic science and geography. 'But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away.' Hohn's accidental odyssey pulls him into the secretive world of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories.
Moby-Duck is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy, and some of the worst weather imaginable. With each new discovery, Hohn learns of another loose thread, and with each successive chase, he comes closer to understanding where his castaway quarry comes from and where it goes. In the grand tradition of Tony Horwitz and David Quammen, Moby-Duck is a compulsively readable narrative of whimsy and curiosity.
"Like the novel from which it has borrowed at least a portion of its title, Moby-Duck is a far-ranging, delightfully narrated masterwork of adventure, science, exploration, and much more. Imagine a real-life Ishmael in the twenty-first century on a quest to discover how a container full of little rubber duckies washed up on the wave-battered shores of Alaska, and you have the wacky and wonderful premise of this wacky and wonderful page-turner of a book."
– Nathaniel Philbrick, author of The Last Stand
"Whimsical curiosity begets a quixotic odyssey and troubling revelations [...] Charming [...] and packed with seafaring lore and astute reporting, this enthralling narrative is the Moby-Dick of drifting ducks."
– Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Like Bill Bryson on hard science, or John McPhee with attitude, journalist Hohn travels from beaches to factories to the northern seas in pursuit of a treasure that mystifies as much as it provokes [...] Rubber ducks as harmless, ubiquitous symbols of childhood? Not anymore, not by a long shot. This dazzles from start to finish."
– Booklist (starred review)
"A finely spun chronicle [...] a gladdening, artful journey of discovery."
– Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A wonderfully willful and picaresque adventure, Moby-Duck takes us on a roller-coaster transoceanic trip through a modern world threatened by its own addiction to plastic. This is a wry and witty tale of heroes and villains and bath toys. And if Donovan Hohn charts the unconscionable, at least he does it in highly readable and supremely entertaining style."
– Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan: Or, The Whale
"Moby-Duck is a mind-blowing book, a rare page-turner that makes you think, feel, and laugh out loud, often all at once. Here is an adventure story, an important environmental book, a big piece of reportage, and a cabinet of wonders in which Hohn, the essayist and argonaut, is at his finest – hashing, synthesizing, and reflecting the most pressing concerns of our world today. But most of all, this book is an exquisite delight to read."
– Michael Paterniti, author of Driving Mr. Albert
"In tracking the mysterious fate of more than 28,000 plastic bath toys that tumbled into the Pacific, Hohn takes us on a journey almost as epic as Moby-Dick, a revelatory adventure over the high seas and into the murky backwaters of our throwaway consumer culture. As a storyteller, he's every bit as perceptive and entertaining as – and a hell of a lot funnier than – Melville's Ishmael. Call me impressed."
– Miles Harvey, author of The Island of Lost Maps
"What to do with a book like Moby-Duck? Its narrator claims to be meek and clumsy but is in fact funny and brave. Its central quest appears to be silly but is in fact a matter of great human and environmental seriousness. So here is what you do with a book like Moby-Duck: read it twice. Then tell everyone you know that you have discovered a writer of immense skill and originality."
– Tom Bissell, author of Chasing the Sea
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Donovan Hohn is a journalist whose work has appeared in Harper's Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Outside and the Best Creative Nonfiction. The recipient of Whiting Writers' Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, he is currently a senior editor at Harper's. He lives in New York with his wife and children.