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Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King

3.59  ·  Rating Details  ·  158 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
An unprecedented and masterfully told biography of Jacques Cousteau that reveals for the first time the fascinating and compelling individual behind this famous television personality.

Inventor of the aqualung and fearless scuba diver, Jacques Cousteau opened up the ocean to a mass audience for the first time. Here, with the cooperation of many of the subjects closest confi
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Vintage (first published 2009)
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Robert Stava
Feb 07, 2014 Robert Stava rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stava-shelf-i
This book was a fascinating read. Like many people growing up in the 60s & 70s 'The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau' was a riveting staple on our family television set. Consequently I had this long standing misconception of Jacques-Cousteau as this gentle father figure opening our eyes to the great world under the sea...what emerges out of this book is a more human, often flawed pioneer whom in many ways got caught up in a world of his own making. I didn't realize that much of his later y ...more
Dec 18, 2009 nicole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
jacques cousteau has got to be way more interesting than this book makes him out to be. maybe it's the fact that matsen relied heavily on interviews to tell episodic tales, but where's the gristle? the most interesting parts - the relationships behind his work, the fact that he kept a second wife that he had children with while his legal wife lived alone on the ship that made his career - are given small teaser paragraphs while the most asinine information about ship's size and berth are given p ...more
I didn't grow up watch Cousteau's films or television series. In fact, my first introduction to him was via Bill Murray's character in Wes Anderson's A Life Aquatic, which was inspired by Cousteau.

Matsen portrays Cousteau as a flawed explorer, environmentalist and philosopher who inspired a generation to look beyond land's limits and under the water. His work to focus the world's attention on the health of the oceans and the need for sustainable practices cannot be underestimated. Nor can his co
May 05, 2015 Mrs.Lady rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the early days of just playing around inventing scuba with his buddies to running his empire, what a life of love, travel, adventure and fame. And family fueds besides. OK, maybe he did go Hollywood, maybe he wasnt always aboard Calypso and maybe a few fantasies were dashed but he will still always be a great guy, RIP. ...more
Jacques Cousteau was certainly the greatest explorer of the 20th century, but maybe he was also the greatest explorer ever because he sought not to exploit his discoveries but rescue them. I recently, after reading this, went back to watch many of his videos, and they are as exciting and worldly as anything else in the great frogman's life. Here, local author Brad Matson takes us through the great man's life from WWII espionage, his inventing the SCUBA, to the tumultuous end of life estate matte ...more
I actually thought I knew about Cousteau because of my background before I read this. I knew what the general public knows I guess but that really isn't that much apparently. I was suprised by a lot of things about Cousteau. I was even more suprised by the fact that France has a navy :)
The end of his life and the mess of a family he left behind was sad. I do finally understand now why PBS always makes sure to use Jean Michel's whole name on his series. I always thought it was strange but now I k
Joyce Donahue
Jun 20, 2011 Joyce Donahue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Riveting from the first page, this biography of the unforgettable Jacques Cousteau is a great read. Unfortunately, life is often neither fair nor kind, and the ending is a bit tragic. However, it's the truth. Good read - especially for those of us who remember the TV specials and read Cousteau's Silent World. This really brings the hero of our childhood - the man with the red stocking cap who had all of us in the late 60's wanting to become marine biologists - to life.
Oct 18, 2010 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cousteau's story illuminated by a slightly warmer light than than of Munson's. A couple of nitpicks: Matsen misspells it "souscope" for Cousteau's Diving Saucer, la Soucoupe Plongeante; Rachel Carson's review of The Silent World is mistakenly cited as from the New York Times (it was the Herald Tribune).
Feb 10, 2010 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book to read because the author was able to convey what an amazing adventurer and visionary Jacques Yves Cousteau was. There were many exciting adventures under the ocean and this man was also great at leading men.
Page 117 said, "Everyone around him recognized that greatest talent was inspiring other people to help him realize vision."
When I was small, I was enthralled by the concept of SCUBA diving, fed by some of his TV programs. This was a neat read, although the details of his personal life were disappointing to me. I very much enjoyed the details of the early diving expeditions, which faded out once Cousteau spent less time at sea, and more in boardrooms and at speeches.
Katharine Holden
Jul 05, 2011 Katharine Holden rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure how one goes about writing such a boring book about an exciting, dynamic subject, but the author has achieved it. Poorly written. Full of teaser paragraphs about the big issues in Cousteau's life and work, but no follow through. Much too much about ship measurements, etc. Not worth reading.
Feb 28, 2011 Clarkman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't agree with the 3 star rating from Goodreads on this book. Maybe it is a bit more for one who already has an interest in Cousteau but it has material that is both new and informative. That is rare when reading about cousteau these days. I also found it well-written; just my take.
Stuart Lutzenhiser
Interesting but not very deep outline of Cousteau's life. He did so much in his life, it probably would have been fairer to him to highlight one time in his life, for example his time in WWII and the invention of the Aqualung, and then dealt with that in more detail.
Feb 23, 2010 Blair rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I'm glad someone else almost drowned multiple times inventing the Aqualung, because that means I don't have to do it. Pretty good biography, mostly made me wish I was also chasing aquatic life in the Riviera/Caribbean.
Chris S
Sep 01, 2011 Chris S rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brainiac, bio, france
Not much depth/detail in this overview of Cousteau's life... but enjoyable nonetheless. (No mention of my favorite JYC doc 'Voyage to the edge of the world').
Aug 11, 2010 Stowe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Especially inspiring as Cousteau and friends learn to dive off the coast of France. May we all find that synergy with our own compatriots.
Not the most gripping biography but certainly a full portrait of Cousteau-even the not so nice stuff at the end of his life.
Erin McCarthy
I don't read a lot of biographies but this book really made me want to rewatch the life aqautic.
Jan 02, 2010 Issy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an interesting character. It got a bit tedious at the end but I guess that's his life.
Susan Jo Grassi
Nov 12, 2011 Susan Jo Grassi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a SCUBA diver, Cousteau has always been a hero of mine.
Apr 21, 2010 Joel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, but sad it ended the way that it did.
Aug 28, 2012 Octopusturtle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir

He nourished my love of the oceans.
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Brad Matsen has been writing about wonders of the sea for forty years. He is the author of Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King; Descent: The Heroic Discovery of the Abyss, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2006; the New York Times bestseller Titanic's Last Secrets; Planet Ocean: A Story of Life in the Sea; and Dancing to the Fossil Record with artist Ray Troll; the award-winn ...more
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