“Like the novel from which it has borrowed at least a portion of its title, Moby-Duck is a far-ranging, delightfully narrated masterwork of adventure, science, exploration, and much more. Imagine a real-life Ishmael in the 21st century on a quest to discover how a container full of little rubber duckies washed up on the wave-battered shores of Alaska, and you have the wacky and wonderful premise of this wacky and wonderful page-turner of a book.”

—Nathaniel Philbrick


“Hohn moves easily between the micro and the macro, weaving personal histories into science and industry as he roams... [He] 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. ”

—Elizabeth Royte, The New York Times Book Review


“Masterful... Hohn does justice to the scope and magnitude of his subject, while carrying the reader with him on his epic voyage of discovery rather than presenting it ready-packaged. ‘There are more consequences to a shipwreck than the underwriters notice,’ wrote Thoreau. Moby-Duck proves the point magnificently. ”

—Carl Wilkinson, The Financial Times


“This is as much a literary as an environmental expedition, though. It isn't a book that bludgeons you so much as seeks to seduce you in – invites you to drift companionably alongside the author and his Floatees... At its best it is sublime... Here's something original and eccentric and multi-faceted that tells you a good many interesting things about the world.”


—Sam Leith, The Guardian

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 world 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.

More praise for Moby-Duck . . .

“Entertaining as well as philosophic… his quest is puckish, profound and as irresistible as the yellow bath toy itself.”

People (four out four stars)


"Moby-Duck—an exploration in every sense—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


Moby-Duck is highly readable and, importantly, alive with a sense of intellectual curiosity. Beyond just reporting the facts, Hohn engages with them philosophically. It’s a comprehensive account of everything connected to the spill of those toys. Indeed, what Melville did for whaling, Hohn has done for plastic bath toys lost at sea.”

The Boston Globe


“Hohn navigates the complicated fields of oceanography, environmentalism, globalization and maritime shipping with surprising humor and ease, raising pressing questions about these topics without giving any clear answers to them—because there aren’t any. 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?”

The Chicago Sun-Times


“A metaphysical quest, an encyclopedic rummage through the mysteries of the ocean and the history of plastics, a meditation on the meaning of toys and childhood and fatherhood, and a close-up look at what we are doing to our planet. Like its literary eponym, Moby-Duck plunges into the depths of what it is to be land-walking mortals in a world surrounded by water.”

The Dallas Morning News


"An epic book. Although Hohn's various quests to find his elusive duck are described with verve his conclusions are inescapably sobering for anyone concerned with the future of the planet, both his enthusiasm and vulnerability provide a warming counterpoint to the environmental musings that form much of the narrative.”

The Daily Mail (on Sunday)


“The cast of characters Hohn encounters would do any sea dog proud. . . . Never didactic, always self-deprecatory, Hohn makes for a good shipmate, discussing a great deal of ecological calamity without going shrill. Cultural history, sea lore and nuanced readings of Melville are adroitly interwoven through rich descriptive passages and elegantly summarized swaths of oceanographic arcana. All of which leaves the reader feeling much as Hohn himself did upon observing a scientist delineate the complex habits of Arctic seafowl: ‘Although I have no use for such ornithological information, I admire it. I'd like to be able to read all the world so closely.’”

Time International


“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.… Rubber ducks as harmless, ubiquitous symbols of childhood? Not anymore, not by a long shot. This dazzles from start to finish.”

—Booklist (starred review)


“A finely spun chronicle… a gladdening, artful journey of discovery.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


“Whimsical curiosity begets a quixotic odyssey and troubling revelations… Charming… and packed with seafaring lore and astute reporting, this enthralling narrative is the Moby-Dick of drifting ducks.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)


“Intimate, intrepid and often shocking. Hohn gives us a sea that is not wild and limitless, but ‘smaller and more vulnerable than we’d thought.’ It is our own bathtub, you could say, and we are apparently sitting in the dirty water.”

Sunday Times of London


“Some years ago a cargo container of rubber bath toys fell overboard and dispersed its contents far and wide, and something about this book is as turbulent and as abundant as that incident, as though a whole cargo container of exquisite sentences were washing up in the reader's mind, a whole Pacific current of engaging ideas and encounters was sweeping that reader away. It's a marvelous journey, in which rubber ducks only bob on the surface of an exploration of the ocean, the container ships that traverse it, and the characters who still plunge into its still-perilous waters.”

—Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell


“A wonderfully willful and picaresque adventure, Moby-Duck takes us on a rollercoaster transoceanic trip through a modern world threatened by its own addiction to plastic. This is a wry and witty tale of heroes and villains and bath toys. And if Donovan Hohn charts the unconscionable at least he does it in highly readable and supremely entertaining style.”

—Philip Hoare, author of The Whale


Moby-Duck is a mind-blowing book, a rare page-turner that makes you think, feel, and laugh out loud, often all at once. Here is an adventure story, an important environmental book, a big piece of reportage, and a cabinet of wonders in which Hohn, the essayist and argonaut is at his finest, hashing, synthesizing, and reflecting the most pressing concerns of our world today. But most of all, this book is an exquisite delight to read.”

—Michael Paterniti, author of Driving Mr. Albert


“What to do with a book like Moby-Duck? Its structure seems to be quite traditional but is in fact audaciously strange. Its narrator claims to be meek and clumsy but is in fact funny and brave. Its central quest appears to be silly but is in fact a matter of great human and environmental seriousness. So here is what you do with a book like Moby-Duck: Read it twice. Then tell everyone you know that you have discovered a writer of immense skill and originality.”

—Tom Bissell, author of Chasing the Sea


Moby-Duck is an impossibly, distressingly wonderful read, by one of our very best contemporary essayists."

–Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances


“Captain Ahab chased the Great White Whale; Donovan Hohn hunts the Tiny Yellow Duck. In tracking the mysterious fate of more than 28,000 plastic bath toys that tumbled into the Pacific, Hohn takes us on a journey almost as epic as Moby-Dick, a revelatory adventure over the high seas and into the murky backwaters of our throw-away consumer culture.  As a storyteller, he’s every bit as perceptive and entertaining—and a hell of a lot funnier—than Melville’s Ishmael.  Call me impressed.”

--Miles Harvey, author of The Island of Lost Maps


Hohn has a dramatist’s feel for pacing that left us breathless despite knowing, from the outset, how the story ends — or so we thought. Seamlessly interweaving reflections on his impending fatherhood with lessons about global supply chain economics, Moby-Duck pulls off an increasingly difficult feat: getting us to care about the impact of our consumption on our planet. We were thoroughly entertained by Hohn’s portrayals of the eccentric cast of characters surrounding the wayward bath toys, and hypnotized by his great storytelling gifts.

--Brain Pickings


"Hohn is an exceptional writer.”

The Times of London


“This is a great book.”

—Tony Wheeler, of Lonely Planet




Australian edition, Scribe, August 2011

UK hardcover, Union Books, February 2012

Spanish edition, Aguilar, February 2012

UK paperback, Union Books, August 2012

DONOVAN HOHN
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