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Pacific
Cover of Pacific
Pacific
Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers
Borrow Borrow

One of Library Journal's 10 Best Books of 2015

Following his acclaimed Atlantic and The Men Who United the States, New York Times bestselling author Simon Winchester offers an enthralling biography of the Pacific Ocean and its role in the modern world, exploring our relationship with this imposing force of nature.

As the Mediterranean shaped the classical world, and the Atlantic connected Europe to the New World, the Pacific Ocean defines our tomorrow. With China on the rise, so, too, are the American cities of the West coast, including Seattle, San Francisco, and the long cluster of towns down the Silicon Valley.

Today, the Pacific is ascendant. Its geological history has long transformed us—tremendous earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis—but its human history, from a Western perspective, is quite young, beginning with Magellan's sixteenth-century circumnavigation. It is a natural wonder whose most fascinating history is currently being made.

In telling the story of the Pacific, Simon Winchester takes us from the Bering Strait to Cape Horn, the Yangtze River to the Panama Canal, and to the many small islands and archipelagos that lie in between. He observes the fall of a dictator in Manila, visits aboriginals in northern Queensland, and is jailed in Tierra del Fuego, the land at the end of the world. His journey encompasses a trip down the Alaska Highway, a stop at the isolated Pitcairn Islands, a trek across South Korea and a glimpse of its mysterious northern neighbor.

Winchester's personal experience is vast and his storytelling second to none. And his historical understanding of the region is formidable, making Pacific a paean to this magnificent sea of beauty, myth, and imagination that is transforming our lives.

One of Library Journal's 10 Best Books of 2015

Following his acclaimed Atlantic and The Men Who United the States, New York Times bestselling author Simon Winchester offers an enthralling biography of the Pacific Ocean and its role in the modern world, exploring our relationship with this imposing force of nature.

As the Mediterranean shaped the classical world, and the Atlantic connected Europe to the New World, the Pacific Ocean defines our tomorrow. With China on the rise, so, too, are the American cities of the West coast, including Seattle, San Francisco, and the long cluster of towns down the Silicon Valley.

Today, the Pacific is ascendant. Its geological history has long transformed us—tremendous earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis—but its human history, from a Western perspective, is quite young, beginning with Magellan's sixteenth-century circumnavigation. It is a natural wonder whose most fascinating history is currently being made.

In telling the story of the Pacific, Simon Winchester takes us from the Bering Strait to Cape Horn, the Yangtze River to the Panama Canal, and to the many small islands and archipelagos that lie in between. He observes the fall of a dictator in Manila, visits aboriginals in northern Queensland, and is jailed in Tierra del Fuego, the land at the end of the world. His journey encompasses a trip down the Alaska Highway, a stop at the isolated Pitcairn Islands, a trek across South Korea and a glimpse of its mysterious northern neighbor.

Winchester's personal experience is vast and his storytelling second to none. And his historical understanding of the region is formidable, making Pacific a paean to this magnificent sea of beauty, myth, and imagination that is transforming our lives.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, The Men Who United the States, The Map That Changed the World, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa, all of which were New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. In 2006, Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. He resides in western Massachusetts.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Simon Winchester has narrated his own books for years, and if his British accent sounds more throaty these days (he recently turned 71), it just gives him more authenticity as a well-traveled polymath with a gift for weaving disparate stories. In PACIFIC--his portrait of the unimaginably vast ocean--Winchester's narrative playground is as large as it's ever been. He takes listeners on a voyage that is, by turns, historical, political, meteorological, geological, and biological, covering subjects as diverse as atomic testing, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo and its aftermath, and the discovery of giant tube worms miles under the surface. As we expect from Winchester, the stories are peppered with anecdotes of his own adventures in many of these ports of call. D.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 27, 2015
    Earth’s largest ocean inspires expansive ruminations from renowned British journalist Winchester (The Map That Changed the World) in this far-ranging but unfocused and overwrought meditation on recent geo-history. Winchester spotlights post-WWII episodes that crystallize an increasingly Pacific-centered modernity: atomic testing at Bikini Atoll and the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo symbolize the horrors of the Cold War; the 1972 burning of the liner Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong harbor symbolizes the sunset of Western imperialism; Sony Corp.’s development of transistor radios symbolizes the rising Asian industrial colossus; typhoons and bleached coral reefs symbolize the threat of climate change; the surfing movie Gidget symbolizes the globalization of Hawaii’s dolce vita. Winchester’s organizing principle—things that happen in or around the Pacific—yields little thematic coherence beyond platitudes such as “There is just one world.” The “unchallengeable superlative” of his oceanic subject stimulates his own limitless penchant for hyperbole and lurid metaphor: one surfboard manufacturer is called “powerful beyond imagination,” and he describes a wrecked warship’s cannons “lolling out of their upended casements like the tongues of the hanged Mussolinis.” Still, Winchester’s vigorous prose and tireless dragnetting of interesting lore make this an entertaining read.

  • Library Journal

    September 1, 2015

    Covering a third of the planet's surface and containing some of its most perilous storms, unique ecologies, and troubling geopolitics, the Pacific Ocean is the stormy heart of the modern world. So argues best-selling author and retired journalist Winchester (The Professor and the Madman), whose latest book is popular history at its finest. The author tackles the last 60-odd years of Asia-Pacific history through linked stories illustrating essential patterns or developments, ranging from the globalization of the Polynesian surfing tradition to endless North Korean provocations and the (predictably) chaotic climate generated by the El Nino cycle. Adding moral weight to this storytelling, the book focuses initially on U.S. nuclear testing on Bikini and other Polynesian atolls--tests that displaced indigenous islanders, rained deadly clouds of radioactive particles on natives and American sailors alike, and rendered the Pacific the globe's "atomic ocean." Fittingly, a story that begins with American supremacy concludes with the rise of China as the new oceanic superpower. VERDICT Sure to appeal to history buffs or anyone in search of a pleasure read with surprising moral heft and geopolitical insight.--Michael Rodriguez, Hodges Univ. Lib., Naples, FL

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from August 1, 2015
    The preternaturally curious writer about everything from the Oxford English Dictionary to volcanoes to the Atlantic Ocean (Atlantic: A Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, 2010, etc.) returns with a series of high-resolution literary snapshots of the Pacific Ocean.Winchester, who now lives in Massachusetts, does not do the expected: there is no chapter about the geological history of the ocean, followed by a slow chronology. Instead, realizing the difficulty of his own task, the author focuses on 10 aspects of the ocean and its inhabitants-islanders, those on the shores-and uses them to illustrate some historical points. He issues dire warnings about the damage we're doing to the natural world and about the geopolitical forces-especially the military rise of China-that threaten us all. Occasionally, Winchester makes what seem to be odd pairings (a chapter on both a volcano in the Philippines and the rise of China) and narrative choices (a chapter on the rise of Japan accelerated by manufacturing transistor radios), and he also looks at the international nightmare caused by the 1968 case of the USS Pueblo and North Korea. No matter what the putative subject of the chapter, though, we learn a lot about the ocean: its challenged wildlife, the swirling areas of plastic debris, the Pacific Plate, El Nino, and the Pacific's vast dimensions. As we've come to expect from Winchester, there are plenty of delights. A chapter on surfing has guest appearances by both Jack London and the Beach Boys; and the author examines America's egregious abuse of islanders during aboveground nuclear testing. Deep worries abound, as well: the dying coral reefs, climate change, and military posturing of the superpowers. The author ends with a hopeful but probably doomed wish for international fraternity. Winchester's passionate research-on sea and land-undergirds this superb analysis of a world wonder that we seem hellbent on damaging.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Pacific
Pacific
Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers
Simon Winchester
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