The Sea Inside (Melville House, $27.99) takes up Ishmael’s project of seeking out the meaning of “that marvelous painting,” the ocean. Philip Hoare, author of the definitive The Whale, has written a book shimmering with sea scenes, sea-faring legends, personal experiences, science, history—and even action shots of breaching whales and charming pen-and-ink drawings. Hoare explores oceans worldwide, starting with exuberant pre-dawn swims (in all seasons) in the industrial waters off his native Southampton, and moves on to dives close by the blue whales of Sri Lanka and amid pods of dolphins near New Zealand. His fascination with all things aquatic leads to dazzling essays on the largest of leviathans and the smallest of porpoises, as well as devastating accounts of the many creatures we’ve driven into extinction. There are also lively profiles of islands and islanders, particularly the Maori, who recognize “no demarcation between the life of the land and that of the ocean”; it’s all home, as it is also for Hoare.
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