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The Pacific
Simon Winchester
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The Pacific

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  1,254 Ratings  ·  233 Reviews
Why has the Pacific region reached such preeminence? What links its disparate cultures? In a provocative analysis that combines politics and culture as well as economics, Winchester gives readers a remarkable new look at the people of this region, from Japan to Australia, Korea to the west coasts of North and South America. 25 maps.
Hardcover, 500 pages
Published May 15th 1991 by Hutchinson
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(showing 1-30)
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Will Byrnes
7/7/16 - I added a link to NY Times on China's seaward expansion. Check out the article at the bottom in EXTRA STUFF.

Simon Winchester takes pride in being a traveler. It was another traveler, the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who, in 1520, gave the largest body of water on our planet the name by which we have known it ever since. After surviving a trip through the straits (now called the Straits of Magellan) at the southern tip of South America, his ships sailed into a very welcome calm sea. He
Brendon Schrodinger
Simon Winchester has been on my radar for a while now. I love history, geography and science, so it was bound to happen eventually. By why did it take this long? On my last trip to my favourite bookstore in Sydney I noticed that his new book was out. Why not?

Well I enjoyed this read immensely. Each chapter revolves around one theme of the Pacific. For example, the first chapter looks at nuclear testing in the Pacific and relates it to world politics at the time. Simon also uses this as a springb
Steven Z.
Nov 28, 2015 Steven Z. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simon Winchester’s latest book, PACIFIC: SILICON CHIPS AND SURFBOARDS, CORAL REEFS AND ATOM BOMBS, BRUTAL DICTATORS, FADING EMPIRES, AND THE COMING COLLISION OF THE WORLD’S SUPERPOWERS reinforces why I am such a fan and admirer of this eclectic social scientist. No matter what topic Mr. Winchester takes on he has the uncanny ability to unwind what is a standard interpretation or history of a well-known topic and ferret out little known details to make something that is quite interesting, fascina ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Ints rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: january-2016
Saimons Vinčesters, manuprāt, ir viens no labākajiem non-fiction autoriem. Viņa stāstiem varbūt nepiemīt Braisona humors, bet toties ir ļoti dziļas zināšanas par apskatāmo tēmu. Es melotu, ja teiktu, ka esmu izlasījis visas viņa grāmatas. Viena, kura veltīta Ķīnai, man plauktā jau stāv gadus septiņus. Šo grāmatu es iegādājos janvārī, bet izlasīju tikai pēc astoņiem mēnešiem. Iemesls - viņa tika nobāzta augšējos grāmatskapja plauktos un nebija acu priekšā.

Klusais okeāns ir milzīgs, un tikpat milz
I'll admit: I'm not a Winchester fan. But I'll also admit a deep (ha!) interest in the history, politics and science of the Pacific Ocean.

I'll admit: this may be among Winchester's best books. But it left me cold. His writing is so fussy and pedantic--it's big and important; you should be paying attention--and repetitious. Not to mention ass-backwards. This is a 2.5 - 3 star book.

Who else but Winchester would *start* with a huge chapter devoted to atomic and hydrogen bombing? As it happens, I br
It is hard not to enjoy the popular history and travels that Simon Winchester writes. At his best he is a page turner. Pacific at its best is that. It was also not what I expected as I grabbed my copy a few days prior to heading to the tropical beaches of Fiji with the thought that I was reading an entire history of the ocean itself. That will teach me to not read up on what I am about to read.

In the end we have a book that consists of almost essay like vignettes of various events that have hap
Michael Rodriguez
A pleasure read with surprising moral heft and geopolitical insight. Popular history at its finest.
Apr 21, 2016 Krista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love well-researched but readable and accessible histories. This is one of them.

Broken up into long-article length chapters (Winchester says this "structural vade mecum" was inspired by a book by Stefan Zweig, most recently translated with the title Shooting Stars. A "slender collection of ten ruminative essays...about what Zweig considered to be seminal moments in the tide of human experience."

Pacific is not slender but it is ruminative and I would agree that most of the 10 incidents Winchest
Sep 21, 2015 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Today's post is on Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers by Simon Winchester. It is 480 pages long and is published by HarperCollins. The cover is a beautiful mix of pictures and art work of the pacific ocean. The intended reader likes history, grand stories, and good research. There is no language, no sex, and no violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the b
Jonathan Leblang
Just finished listening to this on Audible. Not only is Winchester a pleasure to listen to (there is some of that "well, he has a British accent, so he must be educated" air about his diction), but he is a great storyteller. Not as much as a book about a specific thing, but a collection of rather good New Yorker or (heh) The Atlantic length magazine articles, held together by their connection to the Pacific Ocean. He jumps from the US A-Bomb tests, to the origins of the Sony Corporation, to surf ...more
Zeb Kantrowitz
Sep 08, 2015 Zeb Kantrowitz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edleweiss-read
NOTE: this was a free eBook from Edelweiss

In the preface, Winchester presents his premise that he will write the book about the history of the Pacific Ocean, based on ten major occurrences from the 20th century. He starts with a discovery, political upheaval or cultural change and then goes on to explain the history behind it and the geographic area.

The first vignette relates to the use of remote Pacific Islands and Atolls as places to test nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. After discussing th
David Bales
Dec 29, 2016 David Bales rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Another magnificent book by journalist and author Simon Winchester, somewhat different from his book "The Atlantic." This one is done in several interlocking chapters about various historical epics concerning the Pacific today, concentrating on post-1950 events; included are such things as the atom and hydrogen bomb tests in the late forties and early fifties and their terrible aftermath for the citizens of Bikini, the rise of Japan with the invention of the miniature transistor and its subseque ...more
Kenneth Iltz
Jan 14, 2016 Kenneth Iltz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-books
Simon Winchester is famous for books such as Krakatoa and The Professor and the Madman. Tackling the Pacific is a task as big as the planet’s largest body of water. it occupies roughly 64 million square miles and measures 10,000 miles from Panama to Palawan and nearly 9,000 from Marie Byrd Land in Antarctica to the Bering Strait.

Simon Winchester’s method involves examining 10 key moments in the ocean’s recent history. It is a Whitman Sampler of what is happening around the Pacific Ocean. These
David Hill
Dec 27, 2015 David Hill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a set of eleven essays -ten chapters and an epilogue - anchored on events that took place after 1950 in the Pacific Ocean.

It's an interesting technique - every story has to start somewhere, and Winchester's selection of the specific events is generally pretty good. His essay on China's current naval strategy begins with the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. The immediate effect of the eruption was the closure of the two large USA bases in the Philippines: Clark Field and Subic Bay. Almost immed
Mar 04, 2016 Teri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016, hbc-bom
Pacific is really a set of essays by the author about historical events and people centered around the Pacific Ocean. Winchester takes us on a chronological journey starting with the testing of a-bombs at the Bikini Atoll in the 40s and 50s and ending with the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, leaving the area defenseless at a time when China was wielding its strong arm of power. Along the way we learn about such things as the rise of Sony Corporation, the influence of surfing ...more
Winchester never disappoints, or at least not totally. This "biography" of the Pacific ocean focuses on history, sociology, economics, and politics--not nearly enough geology for me, but that's a small quibble about an enormously informative and entertaining book. It's well-researched, written in polished prose, and filled with personal anecdotes that make the information all the more accessible. It's also issue-oriented, and he lays out his concerns for the future of this largest ocean and all ...more
Nov 15, 2015 Rob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, five-stars
If you’re a fan of Simon Winchester’s books, this one’s his best. It’s a topsy-turvy look at the Pacific Rim and the various activities by the countries involved that have affected our everyday lives. From the testing of nuclear weapons, the development of the transistor radio, to Hawaiian surfing, it’s all here. It’s not only an interesting history lesson (the capture of the USS Pueblo, the sinking of the RMS Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong harbor come to mind), but it’s a timely forecast with a l ...more
This book is so timely in terms of geopolitics (China, N Korea) and the environment (El Nino weather, coral bleaching) but it's not Winchester's best writing. He strays off topic too much and sometimes repeats himself within a chapter. I liked the El Niño chapter and the chapter about the deep sea thermal vents the best.
Matt Stevens
Nov 05, 2015 Matt Stevens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Library Audiobook. Winchester is fantastic as always. Love hearing him read his own books. A couple chapters feel a bit wandering at times. But the stories always come back to the central idea.
Douglas Gorney
Sep 30, 2015 Douglas Gorney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Props to Mr. Winchester for picking a topic as immense as the Pacific Ocean (64 million square miles, not counting all the atolls, islands and coasts) and rendering something eminently readable.

The book is something of a sampler: Winchester tweezes out incidents like Truman's decision to make the H-Bomb, or the Alvin encountering a hydrothermal vent 8,250 feet below the surface, as entrees into salient aspects of this full third of the world's surface—features that have shaped global history an
Jul 07, 2016 George rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating topic, but, given its scope, lacking in the fine detail of his studies of say Krakatoa or the strange relationship around the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary between Scottish Oxford lexicographer Sir James Murray and insane ex-patriate American Army surgeon Dr. W. C. Minor. While I applaud Winchester's decision to follow Stefan Zweig's lead from The Tide of Fortune: Twelve Historical Miniatures (1940), and tell his story through a series of singularly focused snapshots, w ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore almost everything Winchester has written, and as a scientist working in the Pacific I approached this book with very high expectations. These were only heightened after seeing him speak at the New York Public Library. I love his voice and I read most of his works with hearing his voice in my head. Like Atlantic this book approaches a tremendously large topic. Much like in Atlantic, Winchester tells the story of the general though insights into the specific. In Pacific he talks about monu ...more
Jan 08, 2016 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author initially recognises that is probably impossible to write a comprehensive yet accessible book about the Pacific. Inspired by Stefan Zweig's concept of Sternstunden he instead decides to choose evocative stories and events from the last 65 years. This succeeds very well. Gifted with a light flowing pen and a sense of mission in choosing and recounting the stories he brings the reader into contact both with horror of the nuclear tests, the emergence of Sony, how surfing came to the US, ...more
Justin Gaynor
I'm not sure why Simon Winchester's books leave me so cold. For the most part, this book is highly readable and educational, but there are enough pedantic intrusions to seriously distract me. This has been true of each of his books I've read.

In this particular book, he's decided to make a case that the Pacific is the most wonderful ocean on earth. Biggest! Deepest! Most fish! Hottest volcanoes! etc. etc. He mentions all sorts of interesting historical events, and concludes by saying something li
Oct 29, 2015 Vicky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a big fan of Simon Winchester books. I have not read Atlantic, but having worked and traveled in the Pacific region for two years, I definitely wanted to read Pacific. I would give it 3 1/2 stars. I didn't think it as good as the others I've read (Krakatoa and Professor and the Madman being two of my favorites), but I found the way he approached the topic very interesting, using Stefan Zweig's Decisive Moments in History as his model. Some of Winchester's choices work better than others, th ...more
Lisa Houlihan
"The northeast trade winds that blow at a steady fifteen knots onto the cliffs and reefs of the islands’ lee shores produce endless trains of eminently glidable waves." This is a continual problem with Winchester. I'm reading along, enjoying his style and subject, and then an error like this makes me doubt everything I think I've been learning. — Nov 12, 2015 09:30AM

Also, "Current thinking holds that the world's outer solid crust is composed not of one continuous surface, as on an orange or a ba
Jan 08, 2016 Martha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, audio
I listened to this in my car, pretty much a chapter at a time. Winchester chose to focus on the aspects of the Pacific noted in the long sub-title. Most of it was utterly fascinating, especially the chilling details of the detonation of atom bombs on the Bikini Atoll. As someone who loves history for the social and cultural aspects of it rather than the numbers and names and ranks, I thought that the author did a good job of balancing the two. He obviously loves detail, but he manages not to ge ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Simon Winchester's Pacific is filled with information of all kinds, which he is skilled at slipping into a discussion of something seemingly very different. A big book that had a handsome cover and would make a good Christmas present for somebody you don't know well. You can trust it to be worth reading. While I didn't have time to finish the book before it had to go back to the library, I gave it a three based on the other books I've read by Winchester.
Nov 22, 2015 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Truly fascinating stories of various countries and peoples in, on or around the Pacific Ocean. In a few very engaging chapters, Simon Winchester manages to give a fairly comprehensive history of many of the salient events occurring around the Pacific rim. He touches on the history of surfboarding, coral bleaching in Australia, and the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines and its implication of future military competition. An easy and informative reading experience.
Oct 22, 2015 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A typically lyrical and well-researched tour d'horizon of the world's largest ocean. Focussing on the period since 1950, Winchester examines a raft of issues, historical, geological, political, technological, which frame the area's current importance and attempts to divine its future.
The best book I have read in 2015.
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Simon Winchester, OBE, is a British writer, journalist and broadcaster who resides in the United States. Through his career at The Guardian, Winchester covered numerous significant events including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal. As an author, Simon Winchester has written or contributed to over a dozen nonfiction books and authored one novel, and his articles appear in several travel publ ...more
More about Simon Winchester...

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