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Published May 19 2013

How to read ‘Moby-Dick’

FARGO – Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” is a book that many people probably wouldn’t consider to be recreational reading, thanks to its intimidating length and difficult writing style.

That’s why, according to people who have read and taught the book before, it’s best to not just charge through it all at once.

“Reading ‘Moby-Dick’ piece by piece is probably the best way to do it,” says Gary Totten, a professor of English at North Dakota State University who has taught the novel in his class before. “It also helps to discuss it with others, as in a literature course.”

For that reason, Totten says, the “3-2-1 Project” is a good opportunity for someone who has never read the book before to be able to bounce ideas off of other readers.

Jim Postema, professor of English at Concordia College, says his recommendation for reading “Moby-Dick” is to be patient and give yourself time to get through it.

“While it certainly is long and complex, it’s also quite rich,” he says. “I personally would give it plenty of time, to take in all the nuances and complexities.”

Postema says that he’ll occasionally recommend that readers use sources such as SparkNotes or the Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of American Literature to provide additional sources of information about the book.

“Those resources can give an overall sense of the contexts in which the book was written, which sometimes helps readers, as well,” he says.