top of page
  • NYS Writers Institute

Albany Book Festival author spotlight: Nathaniel Philbrick

We'll use this space to introduce you to featured authors coming to our 4th Annual Albany Book Festival, scheduled for Saturday, September 25, at the University at Albany.

Today's featured author: Nathaniel Philbrick

Nathaniel Philbrick and Dora, the pup he refers to as his "research assistant."
Nathaniel Philbrick and his "research assistant"

Nathaniel Philbrick is the author of several bestselling books of narrative history. He won the 2000 National Book Award in Nonfiction for In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, about the sinking of the American whaling ship Essex in 1820, an event that inspired Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick.

In the Heart of the Sea was later adapted into a popular film, directed and produced by Ron Howard. The book also inspired a 2001 Dateline special on NBC as well as the 2010 PBS American Experience film “Into the Deep” by Ric Burns.

Philbrick was an All-American sailor at Brown University and he wrote and edited several books about sailing, including The Passionate Sailor, Second Wind, and Yaahting: A Parody. He lives on Nantucket Island with his wife Melissa.

At the Albany Book Festival, Philbrick, in conversation with Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl. will discuss his upcoming book Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy, along with his research on Melville and the Essex.

The event is presented in advance of the annual Researching New York 2021 conference to be held later in the fall at the University at Albany.

The books

In 2000, Philbrick published the New York Times bestseller, In the Heart of the Sea, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction.

Mayflower was a finalist for both the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, won the Massachusetts Book Award for nonfiction, and was named one the ten “Best Books of 2006” by the New York Times Book Review.

In 2010, he published the New York Times bestseller The Last Stand, which was named a New York Times Notable book, a 2010 Montana Book Award Honor Book, and a 2011 ALA Notable Book. Philbrick was an on-camera consultant to the 2-hour PBS American Experience film “Custer’s Last Stand” by Stephen Ives.

In 2011 Philbrick’s Why Read Moby-Dick? was a finalist for the New England Society Book Award and was named to the 2012 Listen List for Outstanding Audiobook Narration from the Reference and User Services Association, a division of the ALA. That year Penguin also published a new edition of his first work of history, Away Off Shore.

In 2013 Philbrick published the New York Times bestseller, Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution, which was awarded both the 2013 New England Book Award for Non-Fiction and the 2014 New England Society Book Award as well as the 2014 Distinguished Book Award of the Society of Colonial Wars.

In 2016, he published the New York Times bestseller Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, winner of the 2017 George Washington Book prize, the James P. Hanlan Book Award, and the Harry M. Ward Book Prize.

In his new book, Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy , Philbrick argues for Washington's unique contribution to the forging of America by retracing his journey as a new president through all 13 former colonies. Travels with George, scheduled for a September 14 release, marks a new first-person voice for Philbrick, weaving history and personal reflection into a single narrative.

All of Nathaniel Philbrick's books are available at the local, independent Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. Here's a link to his catalog:

Philbrick inspired these teenagers' "book report"

In 2016, a pair of 11th graders wrote a ditty based on Nathaniel's In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.

The video was uploaded to YouTube and has been viewed more than 800,000 times.

Find out more about Nathaniel Philbrick

Visit his website at

and find him on social media at | | |

About the Albany Book Festival

The fourth annual event, on Saturday, Sept. 25, at the University at Albany, will be held in-person for the first time since 2019. Events will begin at 10:30 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. More information at

The list of Albany Book Festival guests includes (subject to change):

  • Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Friday Black: Stories),

  • Ayad Akhtar (Homeland Elegies),

  • Robert Boyers (The Tyranny of Virtue: Identity, The Academy, and the Hunt for Political Heresies),

  • Elizabeth Brundage (The Vanishing Point),

  • Mary Gaitskill (This is Pleasure),

  • Garth Greenwell (Cleanness),

  • Farah Jasmine Griffin (Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature),

  • Janell Hobson (When God Lost Her Tongue: Historical Consciousness and the Black Feminist Imagination),

  • Quiara Alegría Hudes (My Broken Language: A Memoir, co-wrote the Tony Award-winning stage musical "In the Heights" with Lin-Manuel Miranda.),

  • Amitava Kumar (A Time Outside This Time),

  • Reif Larsen (Uma Wimple Charts her House),

  • Emily Layden (All Girls),

  • Ed Lin (David Tung Can’t Have a Girlfriend Until He Gets Into an Ivy League College),

  • George Makari (Of Fear and Strangers: A History of Xenophobia),

  • Bethany C. Morr