Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms & a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories” as Want to Read:
Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms & a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms & a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories

3.63  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,554 Ratings  ·  444 Reviews
Blending history and anecdote, geography and reminiscence, science and exposition, the New York Times bestselling author of Krakatoa tells the breathtaking saga of the magnificent Atlantic Ocean, setting it against the backdrop of mankind's intellectual evolution

Until a thousand years ago, no humans ventured into the Atlantic or imagined traversing its vast infinity. But o
Hardcover, 495 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Harper (first published October 27th 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Atlantic, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Atlantic

John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinA People's History of the United States by Howard ZinnBattle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
Best American History Books
433rd out of 1,247 books — 1,667 voters
Packing for Mars by Mary RoachStiff by Mary RoachThe Cows by Lydia DavisLondon Under by Peter AckroydBreasts by Florence   Williams
What an Odd Thing to Read About!
9th out of 69 books — 22 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
This “biography” of the Atlantic strives with impossible ambition to paint a picture of the role of the Atlantic Ocean over all of human history using Shakespeare’s scheme of the Seven Ages of Man. A bit of a poetic stretch but ultimately a practical way of framing all the scientific and cultural perspectives he works to include. This is no dry linear account, but a meandering and often lyrical narrative with lots of idiosyncratic digressions energized from personal experiences from Winchester’s ...more
Will Byrnes
Dec 04, 2013 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
Using as his central pillar a Shakespearean monologue from As You Like It that lists the seven stages of a man’s life, Simon Winchester offers us the life of an ocean.

He covers a very wide swath in his examination of that very un-pacific Atlantic. Beginning with big-picture geology, he looks at the infant Atlantic and gives a preview of what the world will look like when the Atlantic is no more. There is plenty here about tectonics, volcanism and the mighty forces of a planet that is constantly
Jan 25, 2011 Margaret rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Oh, dear, Simon Winchester, I think you have to stop being my literary boyfriend now. Someone get this man an editor, quickly. I've never skipped over so many pages of a book before.

It's not that he hasn't dug up fascinating facts and interesting tidbits. It's just that it feels like he took all his notes on 3 x5 cards, then threw them in a pile on the floor and wrote the book like that. I'm reading an interesting description of St. Helena, and then there are poems? A passing mention of how the
Mar 09, 2011 Trevor rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, science
I can't be objective about this guy. I listened to this as a talking book - and I just love this guy's voice. I could listen to him reading the telephone directory and still be fascinated. This is a 'let me tell you everything I know about the Atlantic' kind of book. He tries to give it a structure, but really, this is just someone very intelligent talking about something they are very interested in.

The stuff towards the end about the damage we are doing to the ocean - particularly the fish that
Feb 20, 2016 Jason rated it liked it
This “biography” of the Atlantic ocean is not a straightforward, objective history, not even trying to be. The tone of the book was a bit surprising: how dreamy and abstract Winchester’s attitude towards the Atlantic is! He opens with a journey he once took from England to Montreal by ship, and as he recalls what it felt like traversing the Atlantic for the first time, we can almost see Winchester getting all misty-eyed. He heightens his prose. He reaches for the paint brush. He waxes poetic. Th ...more
Feb 08, 2016 Chris rated it it was ok
I never managed to get into this book. I think the scope was too broad and the smaller sub-topics were too brief and shallow to make for an interesting read. There is no cohesion to the book and Winchester bounces around from topic to topic, interspersing them with uninteresting personal stories tangentially related to the Atlantic. Maybe if Winchester had narrowed down his list of things to cover, and get into more depth about fewer things, it would have been more informative and entertaining.
Michael Feaux
Aug 03, 2013 Michael Feaux rated it it was ok
As a fan of historical nautical books like Seawolves and Barrow's Boys, and of Golding's Ends of the Earth series, I started this book figuratively rubbing my hands in anticipation of some great sea stories and novel science facts to quote to people down the pub. But after about 70 pages I couldn't stand it anymore.

One reason was Winchester's explanation of the thematic thread of the book, a story arc following the idea of Shakespeare's seven ages of man. That it needed explanation just pointed
This was a very engaging read. I highly recommend to anyone with an interest in nautical history and the Atlantic Ocean. I enjoyed it immensely.
Oct 17, 2011 Alan rated it it was ok
In short...a great opportunity wasted. Winchester set out to accomplish the bold task of describing the natural and human history of the Atlantic Ocean...probably an impossible task for anyone.

Winchester does an admirable job of describing the geologic past and future of this ocean basin, but in between it seemed like he was unable to develop a meaningful train of thought. And even worse, he couldn't keep himself out of the narrative. It's almost like he didn't think anyone would believe him un
Nov 28, 2013 Kevan rated it really liked it
This is a biography of the Atlantic ocean. It tells of the story of every major event that has ever taken place on the sea. We get to learn about the early days of exploration by ship, of development of the the slave trade, of the sinking of the Titanic, of naval warfare, of maritime trade, of the laying of the first transatlantic cable, the rise and fall of the Grand Banks fishery, the explosion at Halifax, the first days of cross-ocean flight, and dozens more amazing stories and periods of tim ...more
Jan 22, 2011 David rated it really liked it
This is a very enjoyable book; it covers many aspects of the Atlantic Ocean. The book describes its formation and its ultimate end, exploration, the use of the ocean for commerce, for food, for battles, and the inspiration the ocean has for literature, art and music. And of course, the book contains some stories of shipwrecks and of the ecological damage that people have inflicted on the ocean.

Unlike some of the other reviews, I found this book to be an easy read. Winchester writes in a delight
Nov 22, 2015 Daniel rated it liked it
It isn't a bad book but it too quickly skips over the subjects I was interest in goes considerably faster then I would like to the modern era. I believe my problem with this book as it needed to be twice as large or half the scope and finally its preachy global warming message in the last part was a bit annoying, I understand why it was there but a history book should be about history, your results may vary.

Now that all the bad parts out of the way the book does give a very good overview of a v
Nov 30, 2010 Emily rated it it was ok
Shelves: set-aside
I'm not sure why I thought I would like this book, given that I haven't liked Winchester's other work. I suppose it's because I've liked other book on maritime themes (e.g. The Outlaw Sea). By the time I made it through the opening anecdote about a transatlantic sea voyage and a drawn-out comparison to flying, and got to his plan to structure the book around the Seven Ages of Man from "As You Like It," I had already totally lost patience.
Winchester presents the vast history of the Atlantic Ocean and man's interaction with it. From the first sailors to the sprawling traffic that now travels below, on and above this ocean.

Why I started this book: I just finished it Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers and was interested in how Winchester's explained the other ocean.

Why I finished it: Lots of interesting tangents and
May 29, 2014 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, travel
People have critiqued the sprawling nature of this book, but such a nature seems fitting for a book on something as large (geographically, historically, geologically) as the Atlantic Ocean. Besides, overall he groups his material into considering the Atlantic from various angles: geological, exploration history, commercial history, military history, and environmental impact. I listened to this book as an audiobook, and it was simply a pleasure to have Winchester in my car for several weeks, tell ...more
Mar 29, 2014 Quo rated it really liked it
I suspect that to really savor this book, one has to accept the author's premise: treating the Atlantic Ocean as the subject of a biography. In fact the original title was to be, "The Atlantic--A Biography". Simon Winchester once commented that the premise for & structure of a book are more important than the actual story or the words used to tell it. While there are sections of this book, paralleling the 7 stages of man, as listed in Shakespeare's As You Like It, that do tend to seem less c ...more
Jun 25, 2011 Jake rated it really liked it
As a space enthusiast, I sometimes encounter opponents who argue that my priorities are misplaced. They criticize my cosmic fixation by reminding me that, without leaving the surface of the Earth, one can reach a vast and largely unexplored frontier: the ocean. Their argument has great merit. So, having read and enjoyed Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa , I was very excited to see Atlantic show up on the new release shelf in my public library. Here was an irresistible chance for me to give the oceans ...more
Deborah Ideiosepius
This was a very enjoyable book and I am very glad that I took Will’s recommendation and bought it sight unseen. I am pretty sure I will both re-read it and use it as a reference in future.

The book is kind of a biography of the Atlantic Ocean as seen by mankind. There is a brief introduction to its formation and information about its habits, tides, winds and other quirks are scattered throughout the book. The narrative is easy, familiar and personalised, I do not recall ever having read anything
Karl Rove
I admit I'm a Simon Winchester fan. I met him with THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN, a slim and fascinating book about the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary. Being the son of a geologist, I was wowed by THE MAP THAT CHANGED THE WORLD and blown away by his KRAKATOA. So I was eager to dive into ATLANTIC. It's good, but not great. Winchester is a wonderful storyteller, particularly good at coming out of left field with a connection of Point A and Point B that's unexpected and brilliant. But ...more
Jack Erickson
Mar 28, 2014 Jack Erickson rated it really liked it
Reading Simon Winchester Simon Winchester is like sitting down at a banquet with an historian, a geologist, a linguist, a meteorologist, a geographer, a novelist, and a world traveler. You're going to hear incredible stories about world events and adventures that will remain with you as long as you live.

Winchester was an Oxford-educated geologist before he became a journalist and prolific author of books about fascinating topics: the history of the first geological map; an Oxford scholar who wr
Andrew Walczak
Jun 21, 2011 Andrew Walczak rated it liked it
I am a huge Simon Winchester fan...My dad consistently passes his books down to me, and was quite pleased when Atlantic finally showed up at my house!

In sum, this book is all over the place. Winchester has a background in geology, so a good bulk of the book describes the scientific history of the Atlantic. By no means am I a scientist, but his descriptions on the origins of the Atlantic were informative, and the type of science writing a novice like me can comprehend. From there, Winchester del
Caitlin Marineau
Jul 23, 2011 Caitlin Marineau rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I really wanted to love this book. I love stories about sailing, adventure, and the sea, and, as a history nut this seemed right up my alley. However, I just could not get into it. I listened to the audiobook of this particular title, and I kept getting lost because it just could not hold my attention, and his subjects switched around so much that if I ever zoned out I completely lost the thread of the book. Though full of interesting information, the book feels disorganized, rather like the aut ...more
Mar 11, 2014 Ray rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't feel this book lived up to its title: "Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms,and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories". Part of my disappointment may have been thinking it would live up to the subtitle and be more exciting. The only part of the subtitle which seemed accurate was the part about "a million stories". Winchester covered a lot, perhaps too much, from the formation of the earth and oceans over the past millions of years to early man all the way through to using t ...more
Mar 20, 2015 Libby rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
Simon Winchester is a magic man of words,cunning and devious at sucking you into his subject matter. He takes on a mighty subject, the Atlantic, embarking on a voyage to places like Hy Braseal, St. Helena,
Tristan de Cunha, Patagonia and Vinland. He shows us bloody-handed pirates, dogged rescuers, explorers, daredevils and merchant adventurers. We get a look at desperate battles, with heroes such as Horatio Nelson and Francis Drake. We double Cape Bojador with Gil Eannes, a Portuguese navigator.
Dileep Sankar
Aug 14, 2013 Dileep Sankar rated it it was amazing
I give a full rating for the book. Mr. Winchester has done a great job. The effort he has given for the book is extremely appreciable. I now feel as though the whole history, present and the future of The Atlantic has just been unfurled in an unbroken flow.
The author has supplied intricate details of many an event, that common man will never even guess, leave alone be knowing. After reading the book, I am really happy to mention that I was not aware of almost 90% of the matter mentioned in the
Feb 19, 2013 Neil rated it it was ok
Winchester takes a great topic and makes it a crashing bore here. Covering the ground he intends in 450 pages would already be a tall order, as he's looking at the geologic history of the Atlantic, its exploration, scientific discoveries related to the ocean, military conflict on the ocean, piracy, commercial enterprise on the ocean, its environmental degradation, and its geologic future. But he aggravates this problem by wasting about a third of those pages on personal stories that seem to have ...more
Oct 12, 2011 Doug rated it liked it
It definitely was no Professor & Madman. Not a bad book, but certainly uneven in its pacing, quality of information and writing. Some of it was very interesting, especially those parts about the age of exploration and global warming. Other parts had all the hallmarks of Wikipedia writing. The parts Winchester seemed rather weak on were the geology and early Atlantic exploration. Granted, the evidence for the latter is less fulsome and more mythic, but he certainly didn't seem to have a stron ...more
Oct 30, 2014 Matt rated it liked it
Even people incredibly good at some things aren't good at everything. Simon Winchester is an amazing writer. He's incredibly good at drawing connections between events in history and bringing out magic in moments that might be mundane in the hands of a lesser writer. 80% of Atlantic is on par with Winchester's best books, but he goes seriously off the rails for me when talking about climate change. It took a while to put my finger on what went wrong, but it mostly comes down to him not taking a ...more
J M Leitch
Jun 11, 2013 J M Leitch rated it really liked it
A beefy book about the Atlantic Ocean and the significant role it has played in mankind’s development on planet Earth, Winchester uses the unusual approach of structuring his novel according to Jacques’s 7 stages of man in the “All the world’s a stage…” speech from As You Like It. Jam-packed with fascinating kernels of information (like the young men from the Faroe islands of Scotland who risk life and limb every Spring clambering up sheer basalt cliffs to place single lambs on patches of luxuri ...more
Jenny Brown
Nov 24, 2010 Jenny Brown rated it did not like it
Contains huge chunks of information taken from other recent books without attribution, for example the story of the castaways whose fate is echoed in Shakespeare's Tempest laid out in the book, The Brave Vessel, by Hobson Woodward. It struck me as one of those books that would never have been published had the author not been a bestseller. The research is so sloppy that I noticed quite a few errors. Franklin would not "go on to" discover the lightning rod after his voyage in the mid 1780s, for e ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean
  • Thames: Sacred River
  • Panama Fever: The Epic Story of One of the Greatest Human Achievements of All Time-the Building of the Panama Canal
  • Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild
  • The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage
  • The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One
  • Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentleman Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail
  • Empire's Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day
  • Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature
  • Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings
  • Champlain's Dream
  • 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance
  • Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish
  • Eruptions That Shook The World
  • The Conquest of the Ocean
  • The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name
  • True North: Travels in Arctic Europe
  • The Last Voyage of Columbus: Being the Epic Tale of the Great Captain's Fourth Expedition, Including Accounts of Mutiny, Shipwreck, and Discovery
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...

Share This Book

“Montana named Triple Divide Peak.” 0 likes
“Americans” 0 likes
More quotes…