A sea captain’s beautifully written tour of our planet, our oceans, and our ever-changing atmosphere
“An extraordinary book by a modern-day Melville.”—Mark Vanhoenacker • “Immensely rewarding and entertaining.”—Lincoln Paine • “Full of history, wisdom, and hilarious stories from life on the open seas.”—Daniel Stone
What’s in a cloud? Did you know that water vapor is invisible and actually lighter than dry air? What separates a tropical storm from a winter blizzard? And what exactly is El Niño? Elliot Rappaport, a professional captain of traditional sailing ships, has spent three decades at sea, where understanding weather is crucial to the safety of vessels and their crews. In Reading the Glass, he offers a sailor’s-eye view of the moving parts of our atmosphere and unveils the larger patterns it holds: global winds, storms, air masses, jet streams, and the longer arc of our climate.
Told through a series of tall ship voyages, Rappaport’s narrative takes readers from the icy seas of Greenland to the Roaring Forties, places where one can experience all four seasons in an hour. He navigates the turbulent waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, en route to storied port cities of the Mediterranean. In the vast tropical Pacific he crosses the equator, where heat, moisture, and unsettled winds churn out powerful squalls, and drops anchor in isolated ports of call. He explores wide swathes of ocean to explain how the trade winds have carried ships westward for centuries, and how ancient Polynesian explorers pushed back the other way, leveraging their mastery of waves and weather to achieve what may be humanity's greatest navigational achievement.
Written in stunning prose, brimming with wisdom, curiosity, and humor, Reading the Glass brilliantly blends science and memoir to reveal how weather has shaped our oceans, our history, and ourselves.
About the Author
Elliot Rappaport has sailed as a captain in the US maritime industry since 1992, involved primarily in the training of other mariners aboard a variety of traditional sailing ships. Presently a faculty member at Maine Maritime Academy, preparing cadets for professional careers at sea, he has also worked extensively at the SEA Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, an organization that offers shipboard programs in ocean science and leadership to college undergraduates. A graduate of Oberlin College and the University of Maine, Elliot lives in coastal Maine when not at sea.
“This is a must-read even for landlubbers.”—Booklist, starred review
“Vibrant accounts of sailing around the world... Fascinating journeys with an expert guide.”—Kirkus, starred review
"I loved this book. What a fabulous compendium it is of terror and disaster, expertise and courage, by a man who knows with true intimacy what he calls ‘the vast planetary engine’ of the weather. Chapter after chapter is filled with a vivid sense of being out at sea in storm and calm and every page has his decades of lived life embedded in it, years and years of looking, responding, making the good and necessary decisions. It feels written, in other words, by a man you would be more than happy to go to sea with."—Adam Nicolson, author of Life Between the Tides
“Reading the Glass is an extraordinary book by a modern-day Melville whose deep knowledge, boundless curiosity and endearingly wry humor make him the perfect guide to the world beyond our shores. Elliot Rappaport has completely transformed my awareness of the vast reaches of water that dominate our planet's surface, and of the debt we all owe to our ancestors who made a science and an art out of crossing them. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.”—Mark Vanhoenacker, author of Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot and Imagine a City
“By turns anecdotal, expository, and analytical, Elliot Rappaport's Reading the Glass illuminates the very real challenges of long-distance voyaging posed by fickle weather and a changing climate. Immensely rewarding and entertaining, and graced with vivid turns of phrase, this is one of the best introductions to the seafarer's world to appear in years.”—Lincoln Paine, author of The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World
“We live on a planet—easy to forget in your secure suburban home, but not out on the open sea. The author provides a gripping account of what weather is, how it feels to be in the middle of it, and what we can expect going forward!”—Bill McKibben, author The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at his Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened
“Part Bill Nye, part Captain Cook, Elliot Rappaport leads an around-the-world adventure filled with eye-popping insights from the deepest depths to the high atmosphere. For those of us too chicken to cross thousands of miles on ships, Rappaport's action-packed logbook is full of history, wisdom, and hilarious stories from life on the open seas.”—Daniel Stone, national bestselling author of The Food Explorer and Sinkable: Obsession, the Deep Sea, and the Shipwreck of the Titanic