The best books about the ocean and seas

Who am I?

Dr. Helen Scales a marine biologist, broadcaster and bestselling writer whose books include Spirals in Time and Eye of the Shoal. Her stories about the ocean appear in National Geographic Magazine, The Guardian, New Scientist, and others. Helen co-hosts the Catch Our Drift podcast, teaches at Cambridge University and is a scientific advisor to the marine conservation charity Sea Changers. She divides her time between Cambridge, England, and the wild French coast of Finistère.


I wrote...

The Brilliant Abyss: True Tales of Exploring the Deep Sea, Discovering Hidden Life and Selling the Seabed

By Helen Scales,

Book cover of The Brilliant Abyss: True Tales of Exploring the Deep Sea, Discovering Hidden Life and Selling the Seabed

What is my book about?

The oceans have always shaped human lives, but the surface and the very edges have so far mattered the most. However, one way or another, the future ocean is the deep ocean.

A golden era of deep-sea discovery is underway. Revolutionary studies in the deep are rewriting the very notion of life on Earth and the rules of what is possible. In the process, the abyss is being revealed as perhaps the most amazing part of our planet, with a topography even more varied and extreme than its Earthbound counterpart. Teeming with unsuspected life, an extraordinary interconnected ecosystem deep below the waves has a huge effect on our daily lives, influencing climate and weather systems, with the potential for much more--good or bad depending on how it is exploited. Currently, the fantastic creatures that live in the deep--many of them incandescent in a world without light--and its formations capture and trap vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise poison our atmosphere; and novel bacteria as yet undiscovered hold the promise of potent new medicines. Yet the deep also holds huge mineral riches lusted after by many nations and corporations; mining them could ultimately devastate the planet, compounded by the deepening impacts of ubiquitous pollutants and rampant overfishing.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier

Helen Scales Why did I love this book?

Urbina gives a shocking and vital account of the human and environmental troubles that are taking place across the ocean, out of sight beyond the horizon. From cases of modern-day slavery and murder aboard fishing vessels to the tricks played by whaling ships and cruise ships to avoid detection of their environmental crimes.

By Ian Urbina,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Just incredible' NAOMI KLEIN

**New York Times bestseller**

The Outlaw Ocean is a riveting, adrenalin-fuelled tour of a vast, lawless and rampantly criminal world that few have ever seen: the high seas.

There are few remaining frontiers on our planet. But perhaps the wildest, and least understood, are the world's oceans: too big to police, and under no clear international authority, these immense regions of treacherous water play host to the unbridled extremes of human behaviour and activity.

Traffickers and smugglers, pirates and mercenaries, wreck thieves and repo men, vigilante conservationists and elusive poachers, seabound abortion-providers, clandestine oil-dumpers, shackled slaves…


Book cover of Lady With a Spear: A Young Marine Scientist's Memoir

Helen Scales Why did I love this book?

Eugenie Clark wrote this book about the early days of her amazing career as a marine biologist and shark specialist (she was later nicknamed the ‘Shark Lady’). In the 1940s, not only was she unusual for being a female scientist, but she set off on intrepid journeys around the world, studying fish around tiny islands across the Pacific and in the Red Sea, long before it was developed as a tourist destination. This book gives a glorious view of a pioneering scientist and what ocean science used to be like. I was lucky enough to meet her a few years before she died in her nineties. She was incredibly warm and generous, and was clearly still driven by the same boundless curiosity and adventurous spirit that you will see written across the pages of her book.

By Eugenie Clark,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lady With a Spear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Eugenie Clark, who received her Ph.D. in 1951, was one of the first women to do independent field work in ichthyology. In this youthful memoir, she describes her childhood excursions to Manhattan's old Aquarium, and the development of her education and her career specialty - plectognaths, the family that includes the blowfish, puffer, triggerfish, and other (sometimes poisonous) varieties. "Delightful autobiography." - Christian Science Monitor.


Book cover of The Log from the Sea of Cortez

Helen Scales Why did I love this book?

In 1940, author John Steinbeck accompanied marine biologist, Ed Rickets (the inspiration for the character Doc in his book Cannery Row), on a six-week research expedition to the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, onboard the converted sardine fishing boat, The Western Flyer. This book is based on notes written by Rickets, edited by Steinbeck, and gives fascinating insights into the animals they were finding and collecting as well as the two men’s philosophical outlook on marine ecology. A quote I especially like is:

It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Log from the Sea of Cortez as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1940 Steinbeck sailed in a sardine boat with his great friend the marine biologist, Ed Ricketts, to collect marine invertebrates from the beaches of the Gulf of California. The expedition was described by the two men in SEA OF CORTEZ, published in 1941. The day-to-day story of the trip is told here in the Log, which combines science, philosophy and high-spirited adventure.


Book cover of Fathoms: The World in the Whale

Helen Scales Why did I love this book?

I used to think of whales as a great success story in the history of humans and our plundering of the ocean – after all, these fabulous beasts were swiftly transformed from a heavily hunted, industrial resource into protected, cherished wildlife. But as we are learning more all the time, things are more complicated than that in the ocean. As Giggs eloquently tells us, humanity has replaced whaling with many other modern troubles for the great whales. Her writing is vivid and fresh, at times a sweeping personal narrative, for instance as she contemplates a dying whale stranded on an Australian beach, and at times brilliantly intimate and zoomed in, as we examine with her the hitch-hiking creatures that ride around on whales, or consider what is going on behind those apparently knowing eyes of theirs.

By Rebecca Giggs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION
WINNER OF THE NIB LITERARY AWARD
FINALIST FOR THE KIRKUS PRIZE FOR NONFICTION
HIGHLY COMMENDED IN THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE FOR WRITING ON GLOBAL CONSERVATION

A SUNDAY INDEPENDENT BOOK OF THE YEAR

'There is a kind of hauntedness in wild animals today: a spectre related to environmental change ... Our fear is that the unseen spirits that move in them are ours. Once more, animals are a moral force.'

When Rebecca Giggs encountered a humpback whale stranded on her local beach in Australia, she began to wonder how the lives of…


Book cover of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Helen Scales Why did I love this book?

This is one of the books about the ocean I have read the most. It’s science fiction, but based on much of what was the cutting edge science at the time, giving a fascinating insight into the Victorian state of knowledge about the ocean. I’ve noticed how my empathy with the characters has changed over time. On first reading as a teenager, I liked the adventures of Professor Aronnax, the marine scientist held captive by the renegade Captain Nemo on his amazing submarine, the Nautilus, as they explore the undersea world together. Returning to the book later, after I myself had become a marine biologist and studied many parts of the ocean, I felt a much closer connection to Aronnax and shared his dilemma over whether to stay with Nemo, and keep on exploring the ocean in ways he never imagined possible, or try to escape the clutches of this mysterious and dangerous character. Do I chose freedom or science?

By Jules Verne,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

First serialized in a French magazine from 1869-1870, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is an incredible adventure story that popularized science fiction throughout the world.

Professor Aronnax, a marine biologist, joins harpoonist Ned Land in search of a mysterious sea creature in the open ocean, only to discover that the beast is actually a submarine piloted by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. They are taken captive, thus beginning a strange undersea voyage from Antarctic ice shelves to the subterranean city of Atlantis, hunting sharks along the way.

With its sprawling, exotic plot and vivid descriptions, Jules Verne's epic underwater adventure…


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Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

By Christina Weigand, Rhomda Chieduch (editor),

Book cover of Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

Christina Weigand Author Of Palace of the Twelve Pillars

New book alert!

Who am I?

My faith is a driving force in my life. Writing and dragons are my passions after my family. When not writing I mentor young people in their own writing. I’ve taken several writing courses and continue to study and work on honing my craft. Dragons serve as messengers of God in my books. I studied dragon lore and found the dragons an excellent vehicle for sharing God’s message. The dragons play a sentient, teaching, guiding role in the books they are featured in. That doesn’t mean there aren’t bad dragons to challenge the characters and the good dragons. 

Christina's book list on dragons with a Christian message

What is my book about?

When the head of an ancient Samaritan family is injured, it throws the family into turmoil. There isn’t enough money to pay the hefty Roman taxes.

The daughter, Chana, is taken as compensation and forced into slavery inside a cruel centurion’s home. As a slave, Chana witnesses the miracles of Yeshua. They give her hope as she stands up to the abuses of the centurion’s children and survives unspeakable atrocities.

When the centurion travels to Jerusalem, Chana is unaware of her family's presence in the city. But the holy city brings nothing but horror when Chana witnesses the crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. Naftili, Chana's brother, is taken as a slave in the same house as his sister, where he discovers that Chana isn’t the same girl he grew up with.

Their fate to live a life as slaves seems impossible to overcome until they are rescued by dragons sent from God. But all is not easy as their faith journey continues. They will encounter obstacles designed to prevent them from becoming Dragon Guardians, faithful followers who spread and protect the Word of God.

Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

By Christina Weigand, Rhomda Chieduch (editor),

What is this book about?

When the head of a Samaritan family is injured, it throws the family into turmoil. There isn't enough money for the hefty Roman taxes. The daughter, Chana, is taken as compensation and forced into slavery in a cruel centurion's home.

As a slave, Chana witnesses the miracles of Yeshua. They give her hope as she stands up to the abuses of the centurion's children and survives unspeakable atrocities.

Unaware of her family's presence in Jerusalem, the holy city brings nothing but horror when Chana witnesses the crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. While struggling to overcome her traumas, her…


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