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Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them
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Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them

3.30  ·  Rating details ·  2,721 ratings  ·  592 reviews
A revelatory tale of science, adventure, and modern myth. A New York Times Notable Book of 2011. One of NPR's Best Books of 2011. One of Janet Maslin's Ten Picks for 2011.

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
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published March 3rd 2011 by Viking (first published March 1st 2011)
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Timothy Abbott Yes, for the snappy writing style of Hohn. Your mind is blown by what's in those oceans.…moreYes, for the snappy writing style of Hohn. Your mind is blown by what's in those oceans. (less)

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Start your review of Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them
Will Byrnes
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Plastic Duckie, Youre the one. Well, one of 28,800 anyway.

Donovan Hohn begins his tale with an accident at sea. A container ship, in the face of fifty-foot waves, rolls sufficiently to dump more than a few containers, those box-car sized giant legos that we use to transport stuff from here to there. One such dumpee held a large quantity of plastic bath toys. Included were beavers, frogs, turtles and the most-familiar, ducks. Not rubber, mind you, but plastic. His aim is to find as many places
Jeanette (Again)
I never could get all the way through Moby Dick. Maybe I'll have better luck with Moby Duck.
Mar 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
A pretty disappointing book all around. Hohn had the opportunity to tell a great story about the bath toys that were lost at sea in a shipping accident, comment on the environmental threats facing our oceanic ecosystems, and tell a personal story.

Instead he threw together a horribly disjointed rant with a few funny comments here and there. Half the time he's just describing and telling the reader how he feels. The rest of the time he briefly comments on a certain topic before randomly changing
Mar 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I could be flip, and just say that this book told me more about ducks than I really wanted to know. But to be fair, there's a lot of fairly dense scientific information about plastics pollution, global warming, and ocean currents. Hohn interviewed real scientists, and a few whose science is more questionable. The information is interspersed by Hohn's thoughts on such things as the artistic representation of children, his parents' divorce, the popularity of duck breeds, his myopia, Melville, his ...more
Mar 06, 2011 marked it as didntfinish-yet  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
Ahhhh. This was such an interesting book but it just has so many digressions, so many rabbit holes to dive down, so much exposition.... I just drifted away and never quite found my way back. Yet.


Just when you think there is nothing new under the sun, along comes something totally fucking insanely surprising.

Here is a totally true story, which I am not just making up so that I will win the First Reads giveaway for this book (but please can I have this book, Goodreads Gods??): Donovan Hohn,
Apr 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Reading Moby Duck is an adventure worth taking, but not without its hazards. Like the journey of the lost bath toys, this book took me through channels more complex than I anticipated. I want to fault Hohn for taking sidetrips onto uncharted shores, and I want to accuse him of leaving the reader in the doldrums of the open sea. However, I can't criticize him for taking such a broad scope at times and for exploring minutea at others. Much of the charm of this book occurs when he describes a ...more
Bill Sleeman
Jan 31, 2011 rated it did not like it

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn proved to be a disappointing book. I had high hopes for the book as it received quite a few positive reviews both on Goodreads and in the book press in general. Unfortunately I could not get past the self-revelatory clap trap that the author seemed hell bent on sharing whether it was relevant or not. I

This is just the kind of random, wide-ranging book I love: part memoir, part travelogue, part philosophical musing on human culture and our impact on the environment, Moby-Duck is an uncategorizable gem. In 1992 a pallet of Friendly Floatees bath toys fell off a container ship in a storm in the north Pacific. Over the past two decades those thousands of plastic animals have made their way around the world, informing oceanographic theory and delighting children but its a more complicated story ...more
As interesting as this book was, I was disappointed because I was expecting basically a book about would be an environmental disaster - 28,800 plastic ducks and other bath animals lost at sea - turned into an unprecedented opportunity to study the ocean currents. What I got was a book about how plastics are literally everywhere where the ocean touches the land. Perhaps this beach has been kept clean by nearby businesses due to tourism and idealized sand beaches but most have become covered in ...more
Kristin Little
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
So unbelievably disappointed. First of all, the title is super-misleading. The lost bath toys are just an opening for the author to go off on a hare-brained adventure that is loosely related to the bath toys but has more to do with the author's curiousity about EVERYthing. (Kind of like the pre-schooler who repeatedly asks, "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" and so on...) Not that that in and of itself is a bad thing; that premise COULD have led to a great story... but it just missed. This book had so ...more
May 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
I was sorely disappointed in this meandering book. I almost had to add it to my "Didn't Finish Reading" shelf, but every so often my interest was well-captured. The premise is great: Donovan Hohn heard about the container ship that spilled its contents, included 28,800 bath toys that started to wash up on shores in Alaska, and perhaps in Maine. He sets out to investigate and winds up on a journey of several years. He travels to Alaska, and joins in major beach cleanup projects, finding one of ...more
Nov 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
a really great natural history of oceanography, shipping and commerce, climate change, freak waves, ocean currents, the writing and research process, the HUGE ASS plastic pollution problem (and how THAT is just a tiny bit of the OTHER pollution problems we are making in the seas, as well as air and land),... and on and on. This book is a bit of a master class in all things ocean. This one along with "Flotsaemtrics" and "The Wave" (author Casey wrote "White Teeth" too about the great whites off ...more
So it was extremely interesting? Absurdly long? Highly wordy? (My little bro told me the title is 100% something I'd come up with, so obviously Hohn and I think on the same wavelength and fall into the same writing pitfalls.) Honestly, I was just worn out by the time I got to the end. So many wordsssss, and this isn't even Moby-Dick. Anyhoo, I have once again resisted shelving this as i-ship and thus deserve another medal. Thankee all.
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A couple weeks ago I went to a lecture by the author of Moby Duck, Donovan Hohn. I was interested in this because of a story that I remember reading a few years ago. The story was about a flotilla of 1000 ghost rubber ducks, bleached by the sun, about to invade the coast of the UK.

That story turns out to have been false, part of the growing myth surrounding the Friendly Floatees. Much like the white whale, a figment of the collective imagination.

This book tells the story, as best can be
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. And sometimes I did. I enjoyed learning about the plastic toy factory in China, for example, and I enjoyed reading about the ways container ships can encounter dangerous wave patterns, and how many things are lost at sea as a result; I enjoyed learning a bit about Inuit children staying up all night unsupervised in Alaska so their parents can work during the day(!).

I didn't always enjoy the 305,017 other details the author felt the need to research and share (and I
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
I wanted to read this book because I thought it would be a fun adventure about rubber duckies lost at sea and the people who tried to find them again. No such luck! It was a very long read mostly about pollution (which is a serious thing, I grant you) and the people and organizations trying to stop it.

It was way too detailed when it came to names, dates and somewhat irrelevant connections between people. He jumps about in the timeline in a very confusing way sometimes and when giving examples
Jenny Brown
Jul 21, 2011 rated it did not like it
Did not finish.

I kept expecting to learn something, but gave up. This book was obviously sold on concept and the real concept was to give the author the chance to take adventure vacations paid for by grants and an advance.

The author, who is obviously one of the privileged (no one else can afford to teach at the kind of NYC private school he taught at) pretends to be poor, which is offensive, and his reporting on other people is permeated with conceit he seems unaware of. He lost me completely
Katherine Rowland
Hohn writes beautifully. Let me get that right up front. Many of his passages are lyrical and evocative. I just wish that those bits had been more liberally sprinkled in the vast sea of this (pretty hefty) book. Inspired by a student's work, Hohn becomes obsessed with the fate of crates of bath toys that spilled into the ocean, and goes a-hunting. As he writes about his travels, he refers often to Moby Dick, and uses that theme and his experiences to delve into his own thoughts and heart. The ...more
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Moby Duck is hard to describe: part travelogue, part scientific and environmental reporting, part meditation on modern consumerism, and part journal of self-discovery and adventurism. In 1992, a container ship accident dumped over 28,000 rubber toys into the Pacific Ocean, and for years after, they washed up around the Pacific Basin and some even claimed they had floated over the Arctic into the Atlantic.This saga captures the imagination of writer Donovan Hohn, who embarks on a multiyear and ...more
Dec 08, 2011 rated it liked it
This book meandered from topic to topic, but maybe it was a metaphor for the way the ducks wandered through the oceans? If you look at this as the story of the ducks, which the title begs you to do, you might find yourself bored or just lost among the waves of information flowing your way. But if you look at the ducks as a gateway to information on ecology, oceanography, pollution, childhood and children's literature, the ocean-bound shipping industry, toy manufacturing, and the economy, then ...more
Benjamin Kahn
Mar 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
I have to admit, I couldn't get past page 60 in this book. I found the author unappealing, and he spent too little time on the subject at hand and too much talk talking about himself and his own (uninteresting) reflections. I reached a point where I just couldn't bring myself to read anymore.

He talks about feeling trapped and that his life is no longer his own after seeing his child's ultrasound. He then proceeds to take off on a bit of a fool's errand just before his wife's due, and from what I
Hank Stuever
Aug 31, 2011 rated it liked it
All the criticisms of this book are valid: certainly too long, by at least 100 pp., even if that's meant to be Melvillian in scope; could do with less self-absorption and lamentations of the lonely father who leaves child and wife at home, even if that's meant to echo Ishmael and/or Starbuck; attempts to make one thing about ALL things can often be clumsy. Etc., etc.

But also, much of the praise for this book is valid too. Something about it compels you to stick with it, mirroring many readers'
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Donovan Hohn has a unique writing style. It often seemed like he would have one thought completely unrelated to the next and then go on a very long rant connecting the two by a tiny thread. I honestly think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had not been reading it for school and had been able to take my time with it. This is one of those books that you just can't read fast. I'll have to try it again another time.
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this so much! A great book about plastic pollution. To be honest, the cover drew me in big time. Learned a lot from the story.
Some parts are a little drawn out though. The book has a lot of pages, but some chapters are too abstract and don't add anything to the message in my opinion.
Serena | TheBookUnicorns
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Here's the thing: I wanted to love this book. I really did. It has a fascinating premise-chasing thousands of spilled rubber ducks across oceans and through currents, from their birth to their demise, while investigating plastic pollution, global warming, and the likes. Alas, by around halfway through the book I was ready to be done with it.

Here were my main problems with it:
1. It's too fragmented. Each adventure makes sense on their own, but there's little effort to connect them into a cohesive
Mar 24, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.
Tom Bentley
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
For most of my reading life, I've been the person who finishes the book I'm reading, even if I think it's lacking in some way, or not for me, or flat-out poorly written. But in the last year or so, it's been more on my mind that there is a vast world of books (something that obviously I've known for some time), many of great grace and emotional power and wry amusement. So I've told myself that if something I'm reading doesn't send me, I will nod gently to it and send it on its way.

That's my
It can be a difficult task to describe the scientific wonders of the ocean. We all admire the creatures that teem underneath its surface, but the ocean itself can seem just as mysterious as it is vast. Mr. Hohn tries to make the ocean more accessible in this interesting, sometimes even adventurous, book about his quest to find over 28,000 rubber bath toys lost at sea in the early 1990s. By doing so, he takes readers to beach cleanups, toy factories and conventions, and even to the Arctic Circle ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: may-june-2011
The more jaded book critics clearly feel that the one object and how it changed the world and the everything that ever happened is connected to this event genres have jumped the shark. Yet even admitting their skepticism, they were caught up by Moby-Duckprobably because, as some of them explained, the authors quest is in several senses quixotic (or maybe Melvillian): Hohn is a haplessly comic, hopelessly ambitious, superficially naïve, philosophical, and sophisticated writer all at once. They ...more
Mar 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: could-not-finish
This book should be fascinating, informative and fun. Instead the writing and language makes it unreadable. The author should have stuck to teaching. He has never met an adjective or adverb he didn't like. After 50 pages I had to stop and remind myself what the subject of the book is because of the too many asides. Where is his editor?
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Donovan Hohn is the recipient of the Whiting Writers Award and a 2010 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship. His work has appeared in Harpers Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and Outside, among other publications. Moby-Duck, his first book, was a finalist for the Helen Bernstein Prize for Excellence in Journalism and runner-up for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. A former ...more

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“The imaginary child implied by the toys on exhibit in Hong Kong was impossible to reconcile with my actual child. I didn't think I'd like to meet the imaginary child they implied. That child was mad with contradictions. He was a machine-gun-toting, Chopin-playing psychopath with a sugar high and a short attention span.” 5 likes
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