A revelatory tale of science, adventure, and modern myth
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 and geography. But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away. Hohn’s accidental odyssey pulls him into the secretive dealings of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories.
Moby-Duck is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy, and some of the worst weather imaginable. With each new discovery, Hohn learns of another loose thread, and with each successive chase, he comes closer to understanding where his castaway quarry comes from and where it goes. In the grand tradition of Tony Horwitz and David Quammen, Moby-Duck is a compulsively readable narrative of
whimsy and curiosity.
‘Like Bill Bryson on hard science, or John McPhee with attitude, journalist Hohn travels from beaches to factories to the northern seas in pursuit of a treasure that mystifies as much as it provokes ... This dazzles from start to finish.’
Colleen Mondor, Booklist (starred review)
View all reviews
'Hohn cleverly uses the deceptively whimsical premise of chasing a little plastic duck to provoke a massively complicated and thought-provoking conversation. Who knew spilled bath toys could be so important?'
'He writes always entertainingly, often gorgeously.'
Dallas Morning News
'Delightfully wide-eyed ... A gladdening, artful journey of discovery.'
Kirkus (starred review)
100 Most Notable Books 2011
New York Times
'Entertaining but also philosophic ... [Donovan Hohn's] quest is puckish, profound and as irresistible as the yellow bath toy itself.'
‘Whimsical curiosity begets a quixotic odyssey and troubling revelations about plastics polluting the seas in former high school teacher and journalist Hohn’s charming account of what he learned searching for 28,800 rubber bath toys lost at sea ... Packed with seafaring lore and astute reporting, this enthralling narrative is the Moby Dick of drifting ducks.’
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
‘Curious, whimsical, learned, perceptive and humorous.’
'Donovan Hohn ships out with an engaging Moby-Duck ... an exploration in every sense [Moby-Duck] will remind readers of the best of John McPhee and Ian Frazier. And maybe, even, of the weird and wonderful Herman Melville himself.'
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer
'The book [is] by turns light-hearted and serious but always a pleasure to read ... Moby-Duck is highly readable and, importantly, alive with a sense of intellectual curiosity. Indeed, what Melville did for whaling, Hohn has done for plastic bath toys lost at sea.'
The Boston Globe
'Adventurous, inquisitive and brightly illuminating ... [Moby-Duck] works as a lively travelogue as well as a voyage of discovery and philosophical inquiry.'
Janet Maslin, The New York Times
'Dazzling ... Hohn seems to have it all: deep intelligence, a strikingly original voice, humility and a hunger to suss out everything a yellow duck may literally or metaphorically touch.'
The New York Times Book Review
‘A striking book, fascinating and unusual’