Largely considered one of the greatest novelists who wrote in the English language, Joseph Conrad was born to Polish parents in the Russian Empire before leaving at age 16 to become a sailor. He sailed the world’s oceans as a merchant mariner for the next 20 years before settling in England as an author, having navigated what he viewed as a newly interconnected world. Maya Jasanoff’s The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World follows Conrad’s ocean routes and dives into four of his best-known works: The Secret Agent, Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness and Nostromo. Part biography and part travelogue, the book is a deep expedition into the heart of Conrad’s life and his worldview of the time. (Penguin Press, $20)
If you’ve ever seen World War I ship photographs, you might have wondered why some of the vessels looked as if they were wrapped in Art Deco paintings. It turns out the louder the camouflage, the more difficult it was for German submarines to accurately determine its range, heading and speed. Chris Barton and illustrator Victo Ngai explain the history behind these paint schemes and how they befuddled U-Boats in Dazzle Ships: World War I And The Art Of Confusion. Though the book has only 36 pages and appears to be aimed at younger readers, adult friends who thumbed through the beautifully illustrated copy on our coffee table were impressed. (Millbook Press, $20)
Rick Spilman’s Evening Gray Morning Red tells the tale of 16-year-old sailor Thom Larkin, who is newly arrived in Boston in 1768. A Royal Navy press gang captures him and puts him into service on the HMS Romney, where he encounters Lt. Dudingston, one of the cruelest and most corrupt officers in the British Navy. Larkin eventually escapes but encounters the tyrannical lieutenant again years later, when Dudingston’s HMS Gaspee sails into Narragansett Bay. This time, Larkin faces Dudingston with a mind toward revenge, armed only with a packet boat, his instincts and a sandbar. (Old Salt Press, $15)
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue.