Here's another reason to do it: Melville says things in there that many of us have already thought or felt, only he says it better. Or maybe he articulates something that was always in us, if somewhat vague and unformed.
Here's an example (and we're still in Chapter 1). Ever since I was a kid, I was drawn to water. Creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes, and the occasional ocean. Even a good mud puddle will do in a pinch. The absence of water, as in a drought, feels to me like the hatred of God. There's something soothing and calming about it. Sometimes I just want to gaze at it and do nothing.
Ishmael put it way better:
Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries- stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.
COALFIELD BLUES. Here's a great AP story on hard times in the coalfields.
TALKING SENSE AGAIN on the economy is Paul Krugman.
SPEAKING OF WHITE WHALES, this one can imitate human speech.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED