Eric Jay Dolin is the best-selling author of the award-winning Fur, Fortune, and Empire; Leviathan, which was chosen by the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe as a best book of the year; and When America First Met China.
Dolin's new book is Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse.
From the author's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: Why did you decide to write a history of American lighthouses, and what would you say lighthouses symbolize in this country?Learn more about the book and author at Eric Jay Dolin's website.
A: After my last book, When America First Met China, my long-time editor at W. W. Norton, and the head of sales, wanted to know if I was interested in writing a book about American lighthouses.
I was intrigued. Although I had seen a few lighthouses, I knew absolutely nothing about their history. So, I asked for time to think it over, and do some research.
The more I read, the more excited about the topic I became. Every day was a revelation. I literally had no idea how important lighthouses were to American history, and how many threads of the American experience could be woven into this book.
Far from being just a story about lighthouses, it was a story about colonial commerce, nation building, war, technological innovation, engineering feats, disasters, storms, tragedy, personal sacrifice, and inspiring determination, as well as poetry, art, and hope.
After about a month, I knew this was a book I wanted to write, so I submitted a formal proposal, and the book was born.
Lighthouses symbolize beauty, permanence, safety, societal altruism, rugged individualism, and economic security.
The beauty comes from their elemental form, grand towers of brick, stone, iron, and cement, starkly etched against the sky. Nearly every one is unique, with a character all their own.
Permanence is due to their longevity. Even though many lighthouses have been demolished, either by humans or nature, most have endured for scores, if not hundreds of years.
The main purpose of lighthouses is...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Fur, Fortune, and Empire.
The Page 99 Test: When America First Met China.
The Page 69 Test: Brilliant Beacons.
The Page 99 Test: Brilliant Beacons.