What I Read: Nathaniel Philbrick

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How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? Do they have some secret? Perhaps. We are asking various journalists who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is from an exchange with Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Mayflower and In the Heart of the Sea, which won the National Book Award.

My wife insisted that I needed to get a Blackberry about a year ago. I got one, but I wish I hadn’t. Before I walk the dog or work out or whatever, I’ll turn on my Blackberry and see what comes through. I get a few newsletters, some of them local. One of them is a sailing newsletter called Scuttlebutt and there’s a local Nantucket-related newsletter Mahon About Town.


We now have a Kindle, on which we get our New York Times, but we also get the paper version of the Boston Globe in the morning. On Nantucket, we get a lot of fog, so often the paper doesn’t get here because the plane can’t get in. If we get a bad sequence of storms it can be three days before we get a paper. So the Kindle has been a revelation; at least we always have The New York Times. Also, some mornings if we’ve got a little time, we’ll turn on the TV and watch the morning shows, just a matter of minutes, just to see what’s out there.

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I always get my coffee at the local drugstore downtown and I get a lot of my news there from overhearing what people are saying and from scanning the headlines of the newspapers -- The Wall Street Journal, The Cape Cod Times -- on the racks.

Then, when I’m driving to a place to walk the dog, I listen to the radio, usually NPR, but also the local radio station that emanates from Martha's Vineyard called WMVY, which has great music but also local news.

By nine, I’m in the office getting to work. What I'm finding now is that there are all these potential distractions and I have to shut down my e-mail and Blackberry and try to get down to the work in a way I never had to before. I'll work all morning and try to live in whatever century I’m writing about.

If the weather allows it, by 1:30 or 2:00 the mail arrives. We get the New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Smithsonian, WoodenBoat, Rolling Stone, National Geographic Explorer, Newsweek and The Atlantic.

I’m not on Twitter and Facebook, but I've got a book

, The Last Stand, coming out in May and I’m going to be. Mayflower, my previous book, came out in 2006 and I was kind of in denial. I’m beginning to realize that this is the way it’s going and I can't go in my bunker and refuse to participate. The problem is time, and not frittering away your day in meaningless exchanges. I love the concept of interacting with my readers, but I don’t want to make it impossible to write. This month is going to be about figuring it all out as best I can.

I'm often so burned out by reading all day that I like to watch really stupid TV for a half hour or so before going to bed. I’m a huge 30 Rock fan.

Right before bed, I may also read a bit.

I’m one of the sorts who will read for five minutes and fall asleep and what I read varies, but on my nightstand right now are Mark Twain’s Roughing It and Lee Child's One Shot.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.