cover image Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse

Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse

Eric Jay Dolin. Norton/Liveright, $29.95 (560p) ISBN 978-0-87140-668-2

Historian and maritime expert Dolin (When America First Met China) sheds light on the proverbial “beacon in the night” in this meticulous look at American lighthouses, starting with the creation of the Boston Lighthouse in 1716 and following the narrative up to the present. The history of these fixtures, as Dolin presents it, is as much about “the farsighted colonies that built the first lighthouse on the East Coast to welcome commerce safely to their shores” as it is “a history of government ineptitude and international competition” and “a history of lighting innovation.” In tracking social, political, cultural, and technological threads, he creates a fascinating picture of American life and its relationship with the sea over the centuries. Dolin also chronicles the slow decline of an American institution and the steps taken to preserve the remaining lighthouses in a world that has mostly moved beyond them, he continues to make the case for their existence. His passion is on full display: “They truly are national treasures worthy of awe and admiration.” Dolin’s style, which is engaging yet dense, makes this a slow but rewarding read, and anyone studying lighthouses will find this an indispensable resource. [em]Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary. (Apr.) [/em]