The best books on the power of the ocean

The Books I Picked & Why

Life of Pi

By Yann Martel

Book cover of Life of Pi

Why this book?

The terror and beauty of the ocean, and survival theme, made Life of Pi a huge influence, when I wrote my book.

It really focuses the question of who you really are and what you might do to survive – when you are alone, lost, and totally unsure of your future. The difference is that in my book, there are two human characters rather than one. As with Life of Pi, animals – and our relationship to them – feature heavily too.

Life of Pi is a wonderful, surreal, and unsetting book. It is in a grand tradition of oceanic survival tales and is one of the best.


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Lord of the Flies

By William Golding

Book cover of Lord of the Flies

Why this book?

Another big influence, but not the sea this time. Instead, we get survival and essential character questions in an island setting.

I love how this book uses the island, and the society the lost boys create, both as a microcosm of civilised society, and – paradoxically – as a study of what can happen when the order, rules that govern and protect basic human decency are removed. 

I like that LOTF does not tell us what to think. It does open up a lot of soul-searching questions.


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The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

By Susan Casey

Book cover of The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

Why this book?

A non-fiction deep dive into the power of the ocean and those obsessed with riding the largest waves.

This is a wide-ranging book; exploring a history of wave destruction, some detail on the science of waves; in particular why it is so difficult to predict when freak waves will occur, before giving us a more human story of the big wave riders who constantly push the boundaries of what we think a surfer can do.


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To The Edge Of The World

By Julia Green

Book cover of To The Edge Of The World

Why this book?

This is a beautiful story, simple yet profound. It’s about young, innocent, and a wee bit naïve Jamie, led to adventure by troubled but brave Mara.

The adventure takes us to St. Kilda’s, the remotest inhabited Scottish island. The island, the sea, and the quest to explore are used as metaphors for mystery and the pull of the unknown.


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Why the Whales Came

By Michael Morpurgo

Book cover of Why the Whales Came

Why this book?

There are only a few characters, and a very distinct, small setting (the Scilly Isles), but as always Morpurgo packs a great deal in.

 Family relations, small-minded community prejudice, the effect and impact of war, myth, the power of land and seascape, the meaning of nationhood, all wonderfully threaded into a simple tale that builds and builds to a perfect ending.

 And of course, being a Morpurgo tale, it is beautifully written.


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