The best nonfiction books that may make you never want to step foot on a boat again

Tyler LeBlanc Author Of Acadian Driftwood: One Family and the Great Expulsion
By Tyler LeBlanc

Who am I?

I grew up on the tip of a peninsula jutting out into the raging Atlantic ocean. Both of my grandfathers spent their lives at sea. The power, and fear, that the ocean inspires has been a constant in my life, and most recently while working on Acadian Driftwood. Spending years working on a story so closely tied to tragedy, and the sea, I’ve consumed a lot of nautical disaster stories. While not everything on the list is a disaster (Nansen got his ship stuck in the ice on purpose) each story will make you rethink whether you ever want to head out to sea.  


I wrote...

Book cover of Acadian Driftwood: One Family and the Great Expulsion

What is my book about?

Growing up on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Tyler LeBlanc wasn’t fully aware of his family’s Acadian roots—until a chance encounter with an Acadian historian prompted him to delve into his family history. LeBlanc’s discovery that he could trace his family all the way to the time of the Acadian Expulsion and beyond forms the basis of this compelling account of Le Grand Dérangement.

LeBlanc tells the story of Joseph LeBlanc (his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather), Joseph’s ten siblings, and their families. With descendants scattered across modern-day Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the LeBlancs provide a window into the diverse fates that awaited the Acadians when they were expelled from their homeland. Some escaped the deportation and were able to retreat into the wilderness. Others found their way back to Acadie. 

The books I picked & why

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In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

By Nathaniel Philbrick,

Book cover of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

Why this book?

A small lifeboat is spotted off the coast of Chile in 1821, below the gunnels skeletal men cling to a pile of human bones. Nathaniel Philbrick opens his National Book Award-winning story with an almost incomprehensibly brutal scene and rarely takes a breath for the remaining 300-odd pages. Considered to be the inspiration for Herman Melville's Moby Dick, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex is the true story of a ship stove in by a whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the harrowing survival of some of its crew. 

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

By Nathaniel Philbrick,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked In the Heart of the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The epic true-life story of one of the most notorious maritime disasters of the nineteenth century - and inspiration for `Moby-Dick' - reissued to accompany a major motion picture due for release in December 2015, directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker and Cillian Murphy.

When the whaleship Essex set sail from Nantucket in 1819, the unthinkable happened. A mere speck in the vast Pacific ocean - and powerless against the forces of nature - Essex was rammed and sunk by an enraged sperm whale, and her twenty crewmen were forced to take to the open sea…


Endurance

By Alfred Lansing,

Book cover of Endurance

Why this book?

It’s the name of the book, it’s the name of the ship, and there isn’t a more accurate descriptor imageable for this horrific, and amazing story of survival. Time after time after time, just when you think something is finally going to go right for the crew of the Endurance, everything gets worse. Yet they continue on, against all conceivable odds. Lansing’s masterpiece recounts Ernest Shackleton’s well-known and ill-fated journey to Antarctica, and the multi-year survival of him and his crew. A true nonfiction thriller, you really cannot imagine what is in store for these poor men. How they made it home is truly shocking. You’ll never feel cold again.

Endurance

By Alfred Lansing,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Endurance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and set sail for Antarctica, where he planned to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. In January 1915, after battling its way through a thousand miles of pack ice and only a day's sail short of its destination, the Endurance became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. For ten months the ice-moored Endurance drifted northwest before it was finally crushed between two ice floes. With no options left, Shackleton and a skeleton crew attempted a near-impossible…


Farthest North: The Epic Adventure of a Visionary Explorer

By Fridtjof Nansen,

Book cover of Farthest North: The Epic Adventure of a Visionary Explorer

Why this book?

Years before Shackleton and his crew became locked in the ice in Antarctica, Fridtjof Nansen his crew, and more than one hundred dogs got their ship stuck at the opposite end of the earth. But they did it on purpose. Before the modern understanding of oceanic currents, Nansen proposed that if he let his ship become locked in the polar ice, he and his crew would drift, very slowly, all the way to the North Pole. Three years later he and one other emerged shipless, frozen, and covered in walrus skin on a rocky island above the arctic circle. His ship? Safely on its way back to Norway. What happened in-between is almost unbelievable. 

Farthest North: The Epic Adventure of a Visionary Explorer

By Fridtjof Nansen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Farthest North as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"If Outside magazine had been around during the first turn of the century, Fridtjof Nansen would have been its No. 1 cover boy." The Chicago Sun-Times In September of 1893, Norwegian zoologist Fridtjof Nansen and crew manned the schooner Fram, intending to drift, frozen in the Arctic pack-ice, to the North Pole. When it became clear that they would miss the pole, Nansen and companion Hjalmar Johansen struck off by themselves. Racing the shrinking pack-ice, they attempted, by dog-sled, to go "farthest north." They survived a winter in a moss hut eating walruses and polar bears, and the public assumed…


Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea

By Steven Callahan,

Book cover of Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea

Why this book?

The waves were high, and the wind gusting, but it was nothing Steven Callahan’s little 21-foot sailboat hadn’t seen before. He had sailed her across the Atlantic once before and was aiming for the Caribbean when he bedded down for the night. He awoke to a cabin full of raging seawater and had only minutes to escape before the boat he had designed and built went to the bottom. He had an inflatable raft, a small amount of food and water, and a soaking-wet sleeping bag. Not much else. This raw first-person account of surviving alone in the middle of the ocean on a life raft reads like the transcript of the nightmare every sailor who heads out to sea has the night before leaving port. 

Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea

By Steven Callahan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Before The Perfect Storm, before In the Heart of the Sea, Steven Callahan’s dramatic tale of survival at sea was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than thirty-six weeks. In some ways the model for the new wave of adventure books, Adrift is an undeniable seafaring classic, a riveting firsthand account by the only man known to have survived more than a month alone at sea, fighting for his life in an inflatable raft after his small sloop capsized only six days out. “Utterly absorbing” (Newsweek), Adrift is a must-have for any adventure library.


The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea

By Sebastian Junger,

Book cover of The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea

Why this book?

There are passages in certain books that remain with you long after you’ve put them down. The Perfect Storm contains one such passage. Based on the experience of a man who drowned and was brought back to life, Junger paints the most soul-stiffening picture of what it is like to drown found in modern literature. Taking readers into the pubs of Gloucester, and the wheelhouse of the Andrea Gail, Junger tells a traditional story in a fresh and creative way, weaving novelistic devices into a well-researched narrative. 

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea

By Sebastian Junger,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Perfect Storm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was the storm of the century, boasting waves over one hundred feet high-a tempest created by so rare a combination of factors that meteorologists deemed it "the perfect storm." In a book that has become a classic, Sebastian Junger explores the history of the fishing industry, the science of storms, and the candid accounts of the people whose lives the storm touched. The Perfect Storm is a real-life thriller that makes us feel like we've been caught, helpless, in the grip of a force of nature beyond our understanding or control.

Winner of the American Library Association's 1998 Alex…


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