The best Titanic books you need to read

Carla Louise Robinson Author Of The Light In The Darkness: A Titanic Novel (Book One)
By Carla Louise Robinson

The Books I Picked & Why

Titanic: Minute By Minute

By Jonathan Mayo

Book cover of Titanic: Minute By Minute

Why this book?

I can’t tell you how many times I consulted Jonathan Mayo’s Titanic: Minute By Minute book, checking that the Titanic’s timeline fit in with what my characters were doing at any given time. It’s non-fiction, and it’s nail-bitingly intense. The book is written in present tense, giving you a sense of urgency as Mayo tells you where everyone is, and what is happening at varying parts of the ship at that exact moment. It helps ground you in reality: The truth was, many of Titanic’s crew and passengers didn’t know the ship was sinking. And many of those who did genuinely believed another ship would arrive long before anything serious could actually happen. Mayo uses both accounts from passengers who survived the sinking, as well as the crew member’s testimony from the British and American Titanic inquiries. 

If you’ve ever wanted to know exactly what happened the night Titanic sank, don’t look any further. Just read Titanic: Minute by Minute.

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Titanic: The Long Night: A Novel

By Diane Hoh

Book cover of Titanic: The Long Night: A Novel

Why this book?

The Titanic novel my mum bought me for my eighth birthday, it was this one, which is why it can’t not be included (though mine is tattered and the back cover long lost. I can’t yet bring myself to buy a new one). Titanic: The Long Night is like a hot cup of chocolate on a cold winter’s night. It’s sinking into a bath and thinking, This is exactly what I need. It tells two stories: That of first-class passenger, Elizabeth Farr, who falls in love with handsome first-class passenger and artist, Max Whittaker, and third-class passenger Kathleen Hanrahan, who is travelling from Ireland to America to pursue her dreams. Kathleen falls for the youngest Keller brother, “Paddy” (I cannot tell you how many years I yearned for my very own “Paddy”, that was how much I loved his character). 

There’s something so joyful about this novel. It’s full of hope and possibility, despite the looming tragedy you know is going to tear them apart.

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Titanic Love Stories: The True Stories of 13 Honeymoon Couples Who Sailed on the Titanic

By Gill Paul

Book cover of Titanic Love Stories: The True Stories of 13 Honeymoon Couples Who Sailed on the Titanic

Why this book?

Gill Paul’s Titanic Love Stories tells the fate of the thirteen honeymoon couples that boarded the doomed ship. It tells stories from society’s elite to third-class passengers from a small country Irish town. Beginning with JJ Astor, Paul tells the story of a man who risked everything for a woman he loved more than anything, showering her with flowers and books to win her favour. In Madeleine, Astor found a future that promised happiness – something he had not had in his previous marriage. Madeleine would love him in a way Astor had never been loved before, who had suffered through a contentious divorce brought by his ex-wife’s extramarital affair. The book finishes with Neal and Eileen McNamee, a newlywed couple that fell in love the moment they met, with Eileen teasing Neal about his moustache and “funny” accent. Eileen converted to Catholicism in order to marry the man she loved, and she was overjoyed at the idea of honeymooning on the Titanic while travelling to America where Neal would be starting a new job at Lipton’s store in New York. 

Each newlywed couple’s story is marred with love, hope, and pain. Paul feeds life into Titanic by exploring the ship through the eyes of people who loved each other fiercely. After all, Isidor and Ida Straus were not the only couple who chose to die together. 

I was reading Titanic Love Stories when inspiration struck for my protagonists, Georgiana and William. I had a vision of where they’d end up, how their story would develop, and it would represent all the love Titanic’s passengers had felt for each other. If you’re a romantic at heart, you’ll love this non-fiction novel, however, you should be aware: You’ll need tissues. 

And lots of them.

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Voyage on the Great Titanic (Dear America): The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady, R.M.S. Titanic, 1912

By Ellen Emerson White

Book cover of Voyage on the Great Titanic (Dear America): The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady, R.M.S. Titanic, 1912

Why this book?

Written in diary format, presented as something for kids and teens, this was another novel my mum would be for me as a birthday present. Written by Ellen Emerson White, thirteen-year-old Margaret Ann Brady’s innocence immediately captures your heart. When she and her brother are orphaned at a young age, her older brother leaves her on an orphanage’s doorstep while he finds work. Eventually, he makes it to America, where he saves for his sister’s passage. Margaret, in a turn of fate, is offered passage on the Titanic when Mrs. Carstairs requires a companion to travel with her to America. The novel is peppered with real-life facts, with Margaret interacting with JJ Astor and Thomas Andrews (fun fact: when I read this novel as a child, I loved that JJ Astor’s dog was named “Kitty.” I thought it was the perfect name for a dog, and as a result, I have a German Shepherd named Kitty. The name is surprisingly fitting). 

This novel always makes me cry. From Margaret’s beginning – poverty-stricken, growing up on the cold streets starving after her parents had died – to the story’s conclusion, there was always something different about this Titanic story. White’s development of Margaret’s core character allows the reader to view the Titanic through the eyes of the crew, a lens the audience seldom gets to experience. 

If you’re trying to encourage your child to “read more”, look no further. Your kids will be hooked from the first page, desperate to know about Margaret’s story.  

Be warned: It may seem like a children’s book, but it’ll be sure to trample your heart the same way Mufasa’s death still lingers in your blood.

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Titanic: True Stories of Her Passengers, Crew and Legacy

By Nicola Pierce

Book cover of Titanic: True Stories of Her Passengers, Crew and Legacy

Why this book?

Nicola Pierce’s Titanic: True Stories of Her Passengers, Crew and Legacy details not only Titanic’s story, but her sister’s tragedies. It questions whether Bruce Ismay was really a villain and poses the idea that he might be a hero; it critically examines Captain Smith’s behaviour the night of the sinking. It follows the events of the Carpathia and Californian, lending insight into what happened on both ships that night, reminding us the Titanic didn’t just hit an iceberg: She was trapped in an iceberg field. It finishes on the Mackay-Bennett, the funeral ship sent to ferry back as many of Titanic’s dead as they could, reminding us that the tragedy didn’t end on the 15th of April, but would continue for months on end – and for many, years. 

Pierce’s novel was one of my biggest sources for my book. I’d heard of the Mackay-Bennett funeral ship, partly due to my extensive reading on the Titanic to this text, and partly because of my love for Ask A Mortician (in 2016, she created the YouTube video: What Happened To Titanic’s Dead?). I found myself fascinated with the idea that a lot of our modern identification systems for unknown bodies were created by John Snow, the chief embalmer at Nova Scotia’s largest funeral home. Not only did this novel change how I viewed the tragedy, but it also inspired me to write my book by splitting the novel between the past (the days leading up to the disaster; the weeks following it) and present, contrasting Howard’s story on the Mackay-Bennett with those on the Titanic.   

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