HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Michael Scott Moore

Journalist, Novelist, and Former Hostage of Somali Pirates


  • Grit, Epictetus, and God
  • Some Myths about Somali Pirates
  • From Journalist to Hostage
  • Pirates and Islam
  • Teaching Yoga to Pirates
  • A Brief History of Surfing
  • Somali Pirates Gave Me Toothpaste & Soap


California, Los Angeles

Michael Scott Moore is a novelist and journalist who has written about politics and travel for major publications such as Atlantic, Slate, Spiegel online, Miller-McCune magazine, Business Week, and the Financial Times. After covering a Somali pirate trial in 2012, Moore traveled to the Horn of Africa to write about piracy and ways to end it. In a terrible twist of fate, Moore himself was kidnapped subsequently held captive by Somali pirates for two and a half years.

In his most recent book, The Desert and the Sea (Harper Wave), Moore incorporates personal narrative and rigorous investigative journalism in this profound and revelatory memoir of his three-year captivity by Somali pirates—a riveting, thoughtful, and emotionally resonant exploration of foreign policy, religious extremism, and the costs of survival. Moore’s own struggle is only part of the story: The Desert and the Sea falls at the intersection of reportage, memoir, and history. Caught between Muslim pirates, the looming threat of Al-Shabaab, and the rise of ISIS, Moore observes the worlds that surrounded him—the economics and history of piracy; the effects of post-colonialism; the politics of hostage negotiation and ransom; while also conjuring the various faces of Islam—and places his ordeal in the context of the larger political and historical issues.

Based on a tweet that quickly went viral, "Somali Pirates Gave Me Toothpaste & Soap," Moore has a timely lecture in which he discusses human trafficking and smuggling to developed countries, as well as the responses that lead to humanitarian nightmares on the US-Mexican border and Mediterranean Sea. Hostage-taking is a form of human traffic, he argues, and pirates and traffickers have always done business together.

Through thoughtful, gripping talks such as this, Moore shares his ordeal as a hostage of Somali pirates. He explores piracy and captivity, while sharing insights on the power of resilience, as well as the survival and recovery process from trauma.

Throughout his journalism career, Moore has covered the European migration crisis for Businessweek, and politics, travel, and literature for The Atlantic, Der Spiegel, The New Republic, The New York Times, and The L.A. Review of Books.

Moore currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Praise for Michael Scott Moore:

"We felt very lucky to have the opportunity to bring Michael Scott Moore to our community to speak about his capture, long ordeal in captivity and subsequent release from Somali pirates, and to be able to purchase his memoir, "The Desert and the Sea" after his talk.  Michael was extremely forthcoming, articulate, self-deprecating and unabashedly honest.  He was a delight to work with, and I doubt that many in the audience will forget that evening -- or Michael -- for a long time to come."
--Evy Warshawski, Napa Center for Thought & Culture

“Hearing him talk was like listening to a short story unfold.”
-- TEDxBeaconStreet audience member, 2016

“I was super-impressed – his talk is riveting.”
-- Dennis Loy Johnson, CEO, Melville House Books, 2017

“Refreshing and funny and unexpected.”
-- Haithem Elembaby, NUMA Barcelona, 2017

“The best speaker I have experienced at Rotary since joining in 1989.”
-- Dr. Vicki Radel, Redondo Beach Rotary Club, February 2018

Praise for The Desert and the Sea:

“If you read Michael Scott Moore’s book, first clear your schedule, because you won’t put it down until you’ve finished it. The Desert and The Sea is an astonishing and harrowing story, told with great humanity, by a writer who ventures where few will ever go.”
-- Susan Casey, author of Voices in the Ocean: A Journey Into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins

“Highly addictive reading material….Michael Scott Moore delivers an amazing true-life thriller, one of the most suspenseful books written in recent years, that tracks across oceans and underworlds, culminating in a very rewarding, deeply profound end.”
-- Jeffrey Gettleman, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Love, Africa

“His account of his nearly three years of captivity is a testament to the strength of one man’s indomitable spirit and Moore’s great gifts of observation, his humor, wits, and evident gifts as a storyteller. Thank heavens he lived to tell the story, which everyone should now read and cheer.”
-- Tom Barbash, author of Stay Up With Me

Praise for Sweetness and Blood:

“A lively tour de force of travel writing and enterprising research that tells the truly fascinating story of surfing’s spread to unlikely corners of the globe.”
--Francisco Goldman, author of The Long Night of White Chickens

“Moore writes in a spirit close to Bruce Chatwin.”
--Andy Martin, New York Times Book Review

Praise for Too Much of Nothing:

“A beautiful novel that manages to be scary, funny, and absolutely compelling. Moore’s talent for transporting the reader into the very heart of his fictional California surf town is astonishing.”
--Joy Nicholson, author of The Tribes of Palos Verdes