Free Advice

If it works for you, take it; if not, leave it.

Read for yourself.
Think for yourself.
Be intellectually honest.
Meet Melville one-on-one.

Moby Dick is considered one of America's great novels, and as one of the "greats," we should not expect it to be especially easy reading. It is not a novel to read with the intention that when we finish, we will have all the answers. In fact, two characteristics of a great novel are that, when we finish it, we have the feeling that it bears re-reading at least in part and we have more questions than answers. Therefore, accept as fact that during your first reading, you may not understand every detail, every nuance. You may intensely dislike some chapters. That's O.K.
Keep reading, page after page after page.
Don't judge it; just finish it.

Reinel compass

Your Goal: Finish a first reading of Moby Dick.

Reading Device Options

When this web site began in 1997, we read books by holding the book, probably a paperback, in our hands. We dog-eared pages, underlined memorable quotations, wrote comments in the margin, and made reminder remarks on the blank pages in the back. Holding a book and pencil in your hands is still an excellent way to read a book.
  • Print books are available at every price. Choose an unabridged book that you like to hold with a font comfortable for you and a binding that will not fall apart.
Today, you have viable options to a print book:
  • E-readers such as Kindle, Apple, Barnes & Nobel Nook.
    These handheld devices allow you to bookmark, underline, highlight, and take notes, then save those markings by linked chapter number for later reference and/or download. In addition, you may tap a word for its definition or a phrase for its allusion. Some people love e-readers. Some people are uncomfortable using them.Their eyes tire or they prefer the feel of a print book.
  • Audio books such as those available at The books are read by professional readers. Frank Muller gives an excellent reading of the unabridged Moby Dick. It is a little over twenty-one hours. A Frank Muller CD set is also available.

    Yes, we are aware that some purists do not consider listening to an audio recording as "reading." We point out that with the traditional form of "reading" we are listening to our own voice. So, what is the objection to audio recordings? As with e-books, some people love audio books. Some people are uncomfortable using them. They nod off, or they multitask and miss chapters at a time.

    Different strokes for different folks.

Prereading Video

View The True Story of Moby Dick. This video, originally produced for the Discovery Channel, is now on YouTube. It gives you historical information that helps in visualizing as you read the novel.
Boarding Ship


For a first reading, read straight through for the overall intention of the author. Pause on those chapters that you find especially thought provoking or powerfully written. Some chapters are so highly detailed that you will want to read quickly, even skim; for others, read more slowly.

After checking the Preread page and the Read page, begin reading the novel with Section 1 and continue Section by Section. Each section includes thinking and writing questions or observations. You may want to download the Vocabulary list before you begin.

Refer to the Allusions and Quotations pages as you wish. They are categorized by chapter number. They can be useful as a review if you have not read in several days.

Check out the Preread page if you have not done so, then Read!