Nathaniel Philbrick grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he attended Linden Elementary School and Taylor Allderdice High School. He earned a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in America Literature from Duke University, where he was a James B. Duke Fellow. He was Brown University’s first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978, the same year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI. After working as an editor at Sailing World magazine, he wrote and edited several books about sailing, including The Passionate Sailor, Second Wind, and Yaahting, A Parody.
In 1986, Philbrick moved to Nantucket with his wife Melissa and their two children. In 1994, he published his first book about the island’s history, AWAY OFF SHORE, followed by a study of the Nantucket’s native legacy titled ABRAM'S EYES. He is the founding director of the Egan Maritime Institute and a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association.
In 2000, he published the New York Times bestseller, IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction, followed by SEA OF GLORY, winner of the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize and the Albion-Monroe Award from the National Maritime Historical Society, and MAYFLOWER, finalist for both the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History and the Los Angeles Times Book Award and winner of the Massachusetts Book Award for nonfiction. His writing has also appeared in Vanity Fair, the New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. He has appeared on the "Today Show," "The Morning Show," "Dateline," PBS’s "American Experience," CSPAN and NPR.