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Brilliant Beacons

Coming in April 2016

In a work rich in maritime lore and brimming with original historical detail, Eric Jay Dolin, the best-selling author of Leviathan, presents the most comprehensive history of American lighthouses ever written, telling the story of America through the prism of its beloved coastal sentinels.

Set against the backdrop of an expanding nation, Brilliant Beacons traces the evolution of America's lighthouse system, highlighting the political, military, and technological battles fought to illuminate the nation's hardscrabble coastlines. In rollicking detail, Dolin treats readers to a memorable cast of characters including the penny-pinching Treasury official Stephen Pleasonton, who hamstrung the country's efforts to adopt the revolutionary "Fresnel Lens," and presents tales both humorous and harrowing of soldiers, saboteurs, ruthless egg collectors, and most importantly, the light-keepers themselves.

Richly supplemented with over 100 photographs and illustrations throughout, Brilliant Beacons is the most original history of American lighthouses in many decades.

When America First Met China

Kirkus Reviews -- One of the Best Nonfiction Books 2012

Brilliantly illuminating one of the least understood areas of American history, bestselling author Eric Jay Dolin now traces our fraught relationship with China back to its roots: the unforgiving nineteenth-century seas that separated a brash, rising naval power from a battered ancient empire.

It is a prescient fable for our time, one that surprisingly continues to shed light on our modern relationship with China. Indeed, the furious trade in furs, opium, and bêche-de-mer-a rare sea cucumber delicacy-might have catalyzed America's emerging economy, but it also sparked an ecological and human rights catastrophe of such epic proportions, the reverberations can still be felt today.

Peopled with fascinating characters-from the "Financier of the Revolution" Robert Morris to the Chinese emperor Qianlong, who considered foreigners inferior beings-When America First Met China is a page-turning saga that explores a time many years ago when the desire for trade and profit first brought America to China's door.

Fur, Fortune, And Empire

One of the Best Books of 2010 - Seattle Times

From the best-selling author of Leviathan comes this sweeping narrative of one of America's most historically rich industries. Beginning his epic history in the early 1600s, Eric Jay Dolin traces the dramatic rise and fall of the American fur industry, from the first Dutch encounters with the Indians to the rise of the conservation movement in the late nineteenth century.

Dolin shows how the fur trade, driven by the demands of fashion, sparked controversy, fostered economic competition, and fueled wars among the European powers, as North America became a battleground for colonization and imperial aspirations. The trade in beaver, buffalo, sea otter, and other animal skins spurred the exploration and the settlement of the vast American continent, while it alternately enriched and gravely damaged the lives of America's native peoples.

Populated by a larger-than-life cast-including Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant; President Thomas Jefferson; America's first multimillionaire, John Jacob Astor; and mountain man Kit Carson-Fur, Fortune, and Empire is the most comprehensive and compelling history of the American fur trade ever written.


One of the Best Books of 2007 - Los Angeles Times & Boston Globe

"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme," proclaimed Herman Melville, and the vivid story of whaling is one of the mightiest themes in American history.

Indeed, much of America's culture, economy, and even its spirit were literally and figuratively rendered from the bodies of whales. In Leviathan, the first one-volume history of American whaling in many decades, historian Eric Jay Dolin chronicles the epic battle between man and the sea — and, in this case, between man and beast — an often-violent struggle that animates the imagination and stirs our emotions.

Beginning his engrossing narrative with Captain John Smith's botched whaling expedition to the New World in 1614, Dolin traces the rise of this burgeoning industry-from its rapid expansion in the colonial era and its brutal struggles during and after the Revolutionary War, to its Golden Age in the mid-1800s, when more than 60 ports got into the whaling business and the sails of America's whaleships whitened the seven seas.

Books by Eric Jay Dolin ~