The best books featuring spooky ships

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always lived by the coast and have a healthy respect for the sea and a mortal fear of everything within it. It’s truly terrifying to me that around 80% of the ocean is unexplored – what is down there? This fear partly inspired me to write Those We Drown, my YA horror debut set aboard a cruise ship and featuring a splash of oceanic horror.

I wrote...

Those We Drown

By Amy Goldsmith,

Book cover of Those We Drown

What is my book about?

When Liv lands an all-expenses-paid opportunity to study aboard the luxury cruise ship The Eos for a semester, she can’t believe her luck. Especially since it will offer her the chance to spend time with Will, her ex–best friend, who’s barely spoken to her since the night their relationship changed forever.  

But as soon as she steps on board, Liv realizes just how out of her depth she is. Liv quickly discovers that the only reason she was invited to join the trip is because another girl disappeared shortly after enrolling—and no one seems to know what happened to her. When further disappearances rock the ship and strange creatures begin haunting Liv’s dreams, she wonders: Is the Eos hiding a dark secret within its shadowy decks?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Our Wives Under the Sea

Amy Goldsmith Why did I love this book?

The ship in this book (a submarine, in this case) features in unsettling flashbacks.

Miri’s wife, Leah, is a marine biologist, and on a routine trip to the bottom of the ocean, a malfunction on the sub means she and the crew remain down there much longer than anticipated. When she returns, she’s not the same. Armfield’s writing is stunning, perfectly encapsulating the strangeness of life at the bottom of the ocean.

This is an eerie but incredibly moving book about relationships and grief.

By Julia Armfield,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Our Wives Under the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named as book to look out for in 2022 by Guardian, i-D, Autostraddle, Bustle, Good Housekeeping, Stylist and DAZED.

Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah may have come back wrong. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home.

To have the woman she loves back should mean a return…

Book cover of All the White Spaces

Amy Goldsmith Why did I love this book?

In All the White Spaces, WWI has just ended and we follow stowaway Jonathan Morgan to Antarctica, where he hopes to fulful his older brother’s dreams of adventure and exploration.

When the ship gets stuck in the frozen Weddell Sea, the crew is forced into the icy wilderness of the South Pole. As they prepare to spend the winter there, they find something terrible waiting for them in the frozen wasteland.

A chilling ghost story exploring themes of identity, If you loved Dan Simmon’s The Terror, you will love this. 

By Ally Wilkes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All the White Spaces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Bram Stoker Award nominee

“Some of the best survival horror we’ve read in years, with a uniquely menacing adversary at its heart.” —Vulture,The Best Horror Novels of 2022
“Epic.” —Esquire,The 22 Best Horror Books of 2022

Something deadly and mysterious stalks the members of an isolated polar expedition in this haunting and spellbinding historical horror novel, perfect for fans of Dan Simmons’s The Terror and Alma Katsu’s The Hunger.

In the wake of the First World War, Jonathan Morgan stows away on an Antarctic expedition, determined to find his rightful place in the world of men. Aboard the expeditionary…

Book cover of The Last Passenger

Amy Goldsmith Why did I love this book?

Caz is on a cruise with her new partner, Pete, but when she wakes after her first night on board, she finds, to her horror, she is completely alone on the ship. Believe me, when I say that what happens next is utterly unhinged, like Squid Game crossed with The Woman in Cabin 10.

While some of the plot twists can be frustratingly unbelievable at times, this book features some incredibly tense set pieces and a reveal in the ship’s ballroom that is utterly chilling. Once you’ve suspended your disbelief, you’ll absolutely race through this one. It’s an ideal holiday read – and as for that last chapter...

By Will Dean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Passenger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A luxury cruise liner, abandoned with no crew, steaming into the mid-Atlantic.
And you are the only passenger left on board.

'Astonishing' IAN RANKIN
'The premise is excellent... [a] mile-a-minute, bite-your-nails-to-the-quick ride of a novel, but I will tell you to trust this writer because I guarantee you'll enjoy where he takes you. Extra kudos for the final twist, which brought me great pleasure' OBSERVER
'Oh my goodness, what a rollercoaster of a read!' PRIMA

Caz Ripley, a cafe owner from a small, ordinary town, boards the RMS Atlantica with her boyfriend Pete and a thousand fellow passengers destined for…

Book cover of Dracula

Amy Goldsmith Why did I love this book?

Cheating slightly here since Dracula is clearly not set entirely aboard a ship, but the short sequence aboard the Demeter, the schooner that carries the count from his castle in Transylvania to Whitby, is memorable enough to count.

There’s something so terrifyingly ominous about the whole sequence, from the strange storm that blows up out of nowhere as the Demeter reaches the coast to the warnings in the ship’s log about there being something on board. As the ship gets closer to shore, the crew begins disappearing, and in England, Lucy suddenly begins sleepwalking.

By Bram Stoker,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked Dracula as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 17.

What is this book about?

'The very best story of diablerie which I have read for many years' Arthur Conan Doyle

A masterpiece of the horror genre, Dracula also probes identity, sanity and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire. It begins when Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, and makes horrifying discoveries in his client's castle. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents unfold in England - an unmanned ship is wrecked; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman's neck; a lunatic asylum inmate raves about the imminent arrival of his 'Master' - and a determined group of adversaries…

Book cover of Dead Silence

Amy Goldsmith Why did I love this book?

Here we have a haunted ship -- in space!

Claire is days away from losing her job on a salvage ship when she receives a distress call from long-missing space-liner, The Aurora – likened to the Titanic in space. Having nothing to lose, she convinces the crew to investigate, reasoning that they will make a fortune from the wreckage. Once they board the ship, things take a swiftly sinister turn.

This book is so much fun and incredibly cinematic. Space horror deserves to be a much more popular genre. If you like the movie Event Horizon, you will love this book. 

By S.A. Barnes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dead Silence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Claire Kovalik is days away from being unemployed - made obsolete - when her beacon repair crew picks up a strange distress signal. With nothing to lose and no desire to return to Earth, Claire and her team decide to investigate.

What they find is shocking: the Aurora, a famous luxury spaceliner that vanished on its maiden tour of the solar system more than twenty years ago. A salvage claim like this could set Claire and her crew up for life. But a quick search of the ship reveals something isn't right.

Whispers in the dark. Flickers of movement. Messages…

You might also like...

Split Decision

By David Perlmutter,

Book cover of Split Decision

David Perlmutter Author Of The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a freelance writer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, specializing in media history and speculative fiction. I have been enchanted by animation since childhood and followed many series avidly through adulthood. My viewing inspired my MA thesis on the history of animation, out of which grew two books on the history and theory of animation on television, America 'Toons In: A History of Television Animation (available from McFarland and Co.) and The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows (available from Rowman and Littlefield). Hopefully, others will follow.

David's book list on understanding the history of animation

What is my book about?

Jefferson Ball, the mightiest female dog in a universe of the same, is, despite her anti-heroic behavior, intent on keeping her legacy as an athlete and adventurer intact. So, when female teenage robot Jody Ryder inadvertently angers her by smashing her high school records, Jefferson is intent on proving her superiority by outmuscling the robot in a not-so-fair fight. Not wanting to seem like a coward, and eager to end her enemy's trash talking, Jody agrees.

However, they have been lured to fight each other by circumstances beyond their control. Which are intent on destroying them if they don't destroy each other in combat first...

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, Count Dracula, and spacecraft?

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