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Izzy Grinspan’s Jewcy Summer Book: Moby Dick

Moby Dick might be the most underrated book in the history of popular fiction. I’m not talking about its reputation among academics; everyone knows it’s a fixture in the canon of American literature. But unlike other canonical but widely unread AP English texts like, oh, Wordsworth’s "Preludes," or anything by Henry James, Moby Dick would make an excellent action movie. It’s like what Pirates of the Caribbean would be if it made sense. Yet most people shy away from reading it for pleasure, assuming it’ll be too difficult and too boring. True, Melville’s masterpiece isn’t a breezy read. But it’s still perfect for the beach. For one thing, the optimal Moby Dick reading experience takes place next to a large body of water, the better to pause when the going gets tough and scan the horizon for whales. It’s also extremely episodic, so you could span it out over a series of summer weekends. Mostly, though, it’s just really good. You don’t need to be a scholar of English lit to appreciate the scene in which a central character falls into a giant whale corpse and needs to be rescued — much more exciting than three hours of swashbuckling with Orlando Bloom.

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