100 books like The Wager

By David Grann,

Here are 100 books that The Wager fans have personally recommended if you like The Wager. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Voyage of the Beagle

Glynis Ridley Author Of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe

From my list on famous sea voyages we think we know, but don’t.

Why am I passionate about this?

I remember the first time I stepped onto a sailing ship and that was the full-size replica of the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, London. The younger me descended below decks and started to imagine the enormity of risking everything on an expedition into the unknown. Since that time, I’ve become an eighteenth-century scholar, able to channel my wonder at the age of sail into researching, teaching, writing, and broadcasting about many aspects of the period. I hope the books on this list help you journey all over the globe with a sense of what it was like to trust your life to a self-contained floating world heading into unchartered waters. 

Glynis' book list on famous sea voyages we think we know, but don’t

Glynis Ridley Why did Glynis love this book?

One of the things I love about this book is that it takes us back to 1831, when Darwin was just an obscure 22-year-old, following his passion for natural history by embarking on what would be a five-year circumnavigation of the globe. I get the impression he would be a fascinating, if exhausting, travelling companion since he is relentlessly curious about everything and everyone he sees.

My favorite chapter is on the Galápagos archipelago because Darwin is trying to do descriptive justice to the unearthly basaltic lava landscape, as well as unique flora and fauna. I find there’s an immediacy to his writing which gives me the sense of looking over his shoulder as he describes all the elements of unfamiliar ecosystems, trying to puzzle out what they can possibly mean. 

By Charles Darwin,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Voyage of the Beagle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an Introduction by David Amigoni.

Charles Darwin's travels around the world as an independent naturalist on HMS Beagle between 1831 and 1836 impressed upon him a sense of the natural world's beauty and sublimity which language could barely capture. Words, he said, were inadequate to convey to those who have not visited the inter-tropical regions, the sensation of delight which the mind experiences'.

Yet in a travel journal which takes the reader from the coasts and interiors of South America to South Sea Islands, Darwin's descriptive powers are constantly challenged, but never once overcome. In addition, The Voyage of…


Book cover of Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War

Glynis Ridley Author Of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe

From my list on famous sea voyages we think we know, but don’t.

Why am I passionate about this?

I remember the first time I stepped onto a sailing ship and that was the full-size replica of the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, London. The younger me descended below decks and started to imagine the enormity of risking everything on an expedition into the unknown. Since that time, I’ve become an eighteenth-century scholar, able to channel my wonder at the age of sail into researching, teaching, writing, and broadcasting about many aspects of the period. I hope the books on this list help you journey all over the globe with a sense of what it was like to trust your life to a self-contained floating world heading into unchartered waters. 

Glynis' book list on famous sea voyages we think we know, but don’t

Glynis Ridley Why did Glynis love this book?

Philbrick had me from his opening sentence: “We all want to know how it was in the beginning.” He makes a familiar history fresh, asking how fifty years of peace at Plymouth Rock between the Mayflower Pilgrims and local Wampanoags could end in war.

Within this overarching theme, it’s the small details I remember, such as how Philbrick interviewed Captain Alan Villiers who sailed a 1957 replica of the Mayflower. In a violent transatlantic storm, Villiers tested a Jacobean sailing technique that hadn’t been tried for centuries, furling the sails and securing the helm into the wind. Its boxy shape kept Mayflower II perfectly balanced, bobbing upright in the gale. With accounts like this, I felt Philbrick had done his research and gave real credibility to his description of the voyage and its aftermath.

By Nathaniel Philbrick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nathaniel Philbrick, bestselling author of 'In the Heart of the Sea', reveals the darker side of the Pilgrim fathers' settlement in the New World, which ultimately erupted in bloody battle some fifty years after they first landed on American soil.

Behind the quaint and pious version of the Mayflower story usually taught in American primary schools is a tumultuous and largely untold tale of violence, subterfuge and epic drama.

For amidst the friendships and co-operation that sprang up between the settlers and indigenous people, whose timely assistance on more than one occasion rescued the Pilgrims from otherwise certain death, a…


Book cover of The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty

Glynis Ridley Author Of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe

From my list on famous sea voyages we think we know, but don’t.

Why am I passionate about this?

I remember the first time I stepped onto a sailing ship and that was the full-size replica of the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, London. The younger me descended below decks and started to imagine the enormity of risking everything on an expedition into the unknown. Since that time, I’ve become an eighteenth-century scholar, able to channel my wonder at the age of sail into researching, teaching, writing, and broadcasting about many aspects of the period. I hope the books on this list help you journey all over the globe with a sense of what it was like to trust your life to a self-contained floating world heading into unchartered waters. 

Glynis' book list on famous sea voyages we think we know, but don’t

Glynis Ridley Why did Glynis love this book?

My first exposure to the 1789 mutiny on H.M.S. Bounty was watching the 1935 Best Picture Oscar winner, Mutiny on the Bounty, in which a sadistic Captain William Bligh had sailors keel-hauled at the drop of a naval hat. Later film versions make Bligh socially awkward, lacking first-mate Fletcher Christian’s easy rapport with officers and men. What if none of the dramatizations have it right?

I was interested in Caroline Alexander’s emphasis on how Bligh struggled against class prejudice. I hadn’t realized that so many men wanted to stay with Bligh that there wasn’t room for them all in the cutter in which he was cast adrift, nor that he navigated 3,618 miles of ocean on starvation rations to get them back to safety. Reading this book, I felt Bligh has been maligned by every dramatization of the mutiny.  

By Caroline Alexander,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

More than two centuries after Master's Mate Fletcher Christian led a mutiny against Lieutenant William Bligh on a small, armed transport vessel called Bounty, the true story of this enthralling adventure has become obscured by the legend. Combining vivid characterization and deft storytelling, Caroline Alexander shatters the centuries-old myths surrounding this story. She brilliantly shows how, in a desperate attempt to save one man from the gallows and another from ignominy, two powerful families came together and began to create the version of history we know today. The true story of the mutiny on the Bounty is an epic of…


Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

By Kathleen DuVal,

Book cover of Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

Kathleen DuVal Author Of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professional historian and life-long lover of early American history. My fascination with the American Revolution began during the bicentennial in 1976, when my family traveled across the country for celebrations in Williamsburg and Philadelphia. That history, though, seemed disconnected to the place I grew up—Arkansas—so when I went to graduate school in history, I researched in French and Spanish archives to learn about their eighteenth-century interactions with Arkansas’s Native nations, the Osages and Quapaws. Now I teach early American history and Native American history at UNC-Chapel Hill and have written several books on how Native American, European, and African people interacted across North America.

Kathleen's book list on the American Revolution beyond the Founding Fathers

What is my book about?

A magisterial history of Indigenous North America that places the power of Native nations at its center, telling their story from the rise of ancient cities more than a thousand years ago to fights for sovereignty that continue today

Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

By Kathleen DuVal,

What is this book about?

Long before the colonization of North America, Indigenous Americans built diverse civilizations and adapted to a changing world in ways that reverberated globally. And, as award-winning historian Kathleen DuVal vividly recounts, when Europeans did arrive, no civilization came to a halt because of a few wandering explorers, even when the strangers came well armed.

A millennium ago, North American cities rivaled urban centers around the world in size. Then, following a period of climate change and instability, numerous smaller nations emerged, moving away from rather than toward urbanization. From this urban past, egalitarian government structures, diplomacy, and complex economies spread…


Book cover of Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

Glynis Ridley Author Of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe

From my list on famous sea voyages we think we know, but don’t.

Why am I passionate about this?

I remember the first time I stepped onto a sailing ship and that was the full-size replica of the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, London. The younger me descended below decks and started to imagine the enormity of risking everything on an expedition into the unknown. Since that time, I’ve become an eighteenth-century scholar, able to channel my wonder at the age of sail into researching, teaching, writing, and broadcasting about many aspects of the period. I hope the books on this list help you journey all over the globe with a sense of what it was like to trust your life to a self-contained floating world heading into unchartered waters. 

Glynis' book list on famous sea voyages we think we know, but don’t

Glynis Ridley Why did Glynis love this book?

Before I read this book, all I knew of Magellan was that he led the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe by sea and that he did it by finding the strait at the tip of South America that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and that still bears his name.

I imagined the Strait of Magellan as a marine superhighway, easily found if sailing down the continent’s eastern seaboard. Bergreen made me realize how painstakingly slow was the process of finding and navigating the Strait, full of dead-end channels and submerged glacial moraine.

Before the book reaches the Strait, I was struck by Bergreen’s account of the mutinous tensions between the Portuguese Magellan and Spanish officers and crew. I finished the book, marveling that anyone made it back to tell the tale. 

By Laurence Bergreen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Over the Edge of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The astonishing tale of the first sea voyage to circumnavigate the entire globe. Magellan's dramatic maritime expedition in 1519 discovered the straits that enabled Europe to trade with the Eastern spice islands and changed the course of history.

In an era of intense commercial rivalry between Spain and Portugal, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator sailed to explore the undiscovered parts of the world and claim them for the Spanish crown in one of the largest and best-equipped expeditions ever mounted in the Age of Discovery. Yet of the fleet of five vessels under his command, only Victoria was to return…


Book cover of The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic

Jared Davidson Author Of Dead Letters: Censorship and Subversion in New Zealand 1914-1920

From my list on radical history that rocked my world.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a reader, I want to be thrown into the heady world of revolution, to learn how everyday people made history, to see what they saw and feel what they felt. And I want a book that challenges mainstream narratives of the past. Radical history does this through gripping storytelling and revealing hidden histories of power. As a writer that tries to shine a light on lesser-known aspects of New Zealand’s past, these five books are both my ‘how-to’ and inspiration. I love to share the stories of people who are often left out of history but nonetheless made it. And being an archivist means questions of power and memory are always lurking.

Jared's book list on radical history that rocked my world

Jared Davidson Why did Jared love this book?

Charting the revolutionary Atlantic through the stories of mutinous seamen, radical soldiers, unruly women, slaves, pirates, and common workers, this is a rip-roaring example of ‘history from below.’ By revealing the hidden history of resistance and how it weaves back and forth through time and across oceans, The Many-Headed Hydra showed me the power of history told through the lives of everyday people. It’s engaging. Sweeping. Political. A deserving sibling of EP Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class. And a great example of how pulling at threads can reveal surprising connections. A must-read and one I pull off the shelf whenever I’m in need of inspiration.

By Peter Linebaugh, Marcus Rediker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Many-Headed Hydra as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Long before the American Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, a motley crew of sailors, slaves, pirates, labourers, market women and indentured servants had ideas about freedom and equality that would forever change history. The Many-Headed Hydra recounts their stories in a sweeping history of the role of the dispossessed in the making of the modern world.


Book cover of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial

James G. Stavridis Author Of To Risk It All: Nine Conflicts and the Crucible of Decision

From my list on to help you make decisions under extreme pressure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a retired 4-star Admiral who spent over forty years at sea, rising from Midshipman at the Naval Academy to Supreme Allied Commander at NATO. Along the way, I served in and commanded destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers in combat, and I have faced many very difficult decisions under extreme pressure. In addition, I’ve been in the Pentagon for many assignments, including as Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense – which also created countless high-pressure decisions. What I learned in the Navy has helped me again and again in calculating risk and making the right decisions. 

James' book list on to help you make decisions under extreme pressure

James G. Stavridis Why did James love this book?

A novel about a rusty old destroyer minesweeper, a supremely difficult captain, a mixed bag officers in a dysfunctional wardroom, a horrific typhoon, and a nail-biting court-martial. The seagoing and combat portions of the novel are very realistic, reflecting Wouk’s time in uniform on a similar class of ship in the Pacific during WWII. In my hand as I write this is a battered 1951 first edition of the novel, with a slightly tattered cover, which I treasure above almost any book in the five thousand volumes in my personal library. Over the years of my career, I’ve returned again and again to The Caine Mutiny, and the fundamental lesson of this sea novel is what both leaders and followers owe each other, especially in the demanding crucible of the sea.

By Herman Wouk,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The novel that inspired the now-classic film The Caine Mutiny and the hit Broadway play The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.

Herman Wouk's boldly dramatic, brilliantly entertaining novel of life—and mutiny—on a Navy warship in the Pacific theater was immediately embraced, upon its original publication in 1951, as one of the first serious works of American fiction to grapple with the moral complexities and the human consequences of World War II. In the intervening half century, The Caine Mutiny has become a perennial favorite of readers young and old, has sold millions of copies throughout the world, and has achieved the status…


Book cover of The Bloody Flag: Mutiny in the Age of Atlantic Revolution

Wim Klooster Author Of Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History

From my list on the Age of Revolutions.

Why am I passionate about this?

To an Atlantic historian like me, the era of revolutions is one of the most dramatic historical periods, which erased many of the structures on which the Atlantic world had been built for centuries. It raised many hopes, which were often defeated, but lasting advances were made nonetheless.  

Wim's book list on the Age of Revolutions

Wim Klooster Why did Wim love this book?

Beautifully written, this book focuses on the many mutinies that took place in the 1790s in the Dutch, English, and French navies. Some of the mutinies were massive and lasted for weeks. They were a consequence of the ever-growing exploitation of sailors as international rivalry increased. English mutineers tried but failed to set up a radical maritime republic. 

By Niklas Frykman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The global legacy of mutiny and revolution on the high seas.

Mutiny tore like wildfire through the wooden warships of the age of revolution. While commoners across Europe laid siege to the nobility and enslaved workers put the torch to plantation islands, out on the oceans, naval seamen by the tens of thousands turned their guns on the quarterdeck and overthrew the absolute rule of captains. By the early 1800s, anywhere between one-third and one-half of all naval seamen serving in the North Atlantic had participated in at least one mutiny, many of them in several, and some even on…


Book cover of Naval Mutinies of the Twentieth Century: An International Perspective

Keith Grint Author Of Mutiny and Leadership

From my list on mutiny, and how to lead or avoid them.

Why am I passionate about this?

My academic writing is focused on leadership, and leading mutinies is probably the most dangerous thing any leader can do: the chances of success are slim and the likelihood of the leaders surviving even a successful mutiny are negligible. So why do it? The book suggests an answer through a typology of dissent that is rooted in the environment mutineers find themselves in, but that still doesn’t explain by very similar conditions generate very different outcomes. To explain that I turned to two ideas: the importance of the moral economy and the role of the puer robustus – the inveterate recalcitrant who takes it upon themselves to resolve the despotic situation.

Keith's book list on mutiny, and how to lead or avoid them

Keith Grint Why did Keith love this book?

This is the best collection for readers whose interests lie in the recent naval tradition of mutinies. It covers mutinies across the globe and includes some of the classic examples, such as the 1905 Battleship Potemkin, the 1931 Invergordon Royal Navy mutiny, and the 1944 Port Chicago mutiny. The first speaks to the importance of conditions on board ship, the second directly reflects the current wave of strikes in the UK, caused by the same phenomena: pay. The last is in a different category altogether and reminds us that mutinies are seldom isolated from their environment, indeed, the Port Chicago mutiny played a key role in the early post-war struggle for civil rights in the USA.

By Christopher Bell (editor), Bruce Elleman (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Naval Mutinies of the Twentieth Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume brings together a set of scholarly, readable and up-to-date essays covering the most significant naval mutinies of the 20th century, including Russia (1905), Brazil (1910), Austria (1918), Germany (1918), France (1918-19), Great Britain (1931), Chile (1931), the United States (1944), India (1946), China (1949), Australia, and Canada (1949).

Each chapter addresses the causes of the mutiny in question, its long- and short-term repercussions, and the course of the mutiny itself. More generally, authors consider the state of the literature on their mutiny and examine significant historiographical issues connected with it, taking advantage of new research and new methodologies…


Book cover of Paths of Glory

W.D. Wetherell Author Of A Century of November

From my list on unjustly forgotten books from World War One.

Why am I passionate about this?

Novelist, essayist, and short-story writer W. D. Wetherell is the author of over two dozen books. A visit to the World War One battlefields in Flanders led to his lasting interest in the human tragedies of l914-18, inspiring his novel A Century of November, and his critical study Where Wars Go to Die; The Forgotten Literature of World War One.

W.D.'s book list on unjustly forgotten books from World War One

W.D. Wetherell Why did W.D. love this book?

Film historians regard the movie version as one of Stanley Kubrick’s most powerful achievements, thanks in no small measure to Kirk Douglas, who, in the role of a French colonel desperate to preserve the life of his men in a suicidal attack, gives a performance for the ages. The l935 novel the film is based on stands on its own as one of the great anti-war books that followed in World War One’s wake.

By Humphrey Cobb,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Familiar to many as the Stanley Kubrick film starring Kirk Douglas, "Paths of Glory" explores the perilous complications involved in what nations demand of their soldiers in wartime. Humphrey Cobb's protagonists are Frenchmen during the First World War whose nightmare in the trenches takes a new and terrible turn when they are ordered to assault a German position deemed all but invulnerable. When the attack fails, an inquiry into allegations of cowardice indicts a small handful of lower-ranked scapegoats whose trial exposes the farce of ordering ordinary men to risk their lives in an impossible cause. A chilling portrait of…


Book cover of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Sally J. Pla Author Of The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn

From my list on children’s novels depicting real adversity—and hope.

Why am I passionate about this?

I went through some very tough times growing up. I was an undiagnosed autistic teen, terribly shy, with no real guidance, and I was often bullied and bewildered. But my heart was filled with only goodwill and good intentions, and a yearning to connect meaningfully with others. So, stories of adversity, of characters making it through very tough times, through trauma—these stories were like shining beacons that said, “survival is possible.” Now that I’m a grownup writer, it’s at the root of what I want to offer—hope—to today’s kids who may be going through similar tough stuff. Survival is possible.

Sally's book list on children’s novels depicting real adversity—and hope

Sally J. Pla Why did Sally love this book?

I absolutely marveled at the strength Charlotte showed in this excellent, rollicking high-seas adventure.

It was terrible, it was life or death for her every day. And she found her way through it. The beautiful survivor strength of the main character is what inspired me. 

By Avi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Avi's treasured Newbery Honor Book now with exclusive bonus content!

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. Includes exclusive bonus content!A Newbery Honor Book* "A thrilling tale, tautly plotted, vividly narrated." --Kirkus Reviews, starred reviewThirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle is excited to return home from her school in England to her family in Rhode Island in the summer of 1832. But when the two families she was supposed to travel with mysteriously cancel their trips, Charlotte finds herself the lone passenger on a long sea voyage with a cruel captain and a…


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