100 books like Vaka Moana, Voyages of the Ancestors

By Professor K. R. Howe,

Here are 100 books that Vaka Moana, Voyages of the Ancestors fans have personally recommended if you like Vaka Moana, Voyages of the Ancestors. 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 On the Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands Before European Contact

Christina Thompson Author Of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia

From my list on Polynesian history.

Why am I passionate about this?

A dual citizen of Australia and the US, Christina Thompson has traveled extensively in the Pacific, including through most of the archipelagoes in Polynesia. She is the author of two books about Polynesia: a memoir of her marriage to a Māori man called Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All and a history of the ancient voyagers of the Pacific called Sea People. She edits the literary journal Harvard Review and teaches in the writing program at Harvard University Extension. 

Christina's book list on Polynesian history

Christina Thompson Why did Christina love this book?

I like to think of Patrick Kirch as “Mr. Pacific Archaeology”—no one has written more, or more winningly, about Polynesian prehistory—and On the Road of the Winds is his introduction to the field. First published in 2002 and reissued in an updated edition in 2017, this elegant, eminently readable survey not only covers the history of archaeology in Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia but explains how the archaeological findings of the past half-century relate to discoveries in biology, linguistics, cultural anthropology, botany, and countless other fields.

By Patrick Vinton Kirch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Road of the Winds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of the earth's surface and encompasses many thousands of islands, which are home to numerous human societies and cultures. Among these indigenous Oceanic cultures are the intrepid Polynesian double-hulled canoe navigators, the atoll dwellers of Micronesia, the statue carvers of remote Easter Island, and the famed traders of Melanesia. Decades of archaeological excavations, combined with allied research in historical linguistics, biological anthropology, and comparative ethnography, have revealed much new information about the long-term history of these Pacific Island societies and cultures. On the Road of the Winds synthesizes the grand sweep of human history in…


Book cover of We, the Navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific

Dan E. Feltham Author Of Under the Southern Cross

From my list on stories of the sea.

Why am I passionate about this?

I learned to swim at age two; the oceans became my lifetime playpen, and sailboats my adult toys. I began to sail at age 14 and put away my soggy deck shoes at the age of 70. Now at age 88, I write about those adventures—stories of wartime Vietnam, aerial exploration in North Africa, the Persian Gulf, ports of Mexico, and racing or cruising sailboats to Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, New Zealand, Bermuda, Mexico, Panama, the Caribbean and stops along the way. Life-long friends, romance, islands, and every kind of ocean weather fill my memories. Climb aboard my pages at my website and sail through a portion of my life.

Dan's book list on stories of the sea

Dan E. Feltham Why did Dan love this book?

This is really a one-of-a-kind scientific textbook. Though technical, it reads like an adventure novel. Lewis was part scientist, part adventurer, part sailor, and an excellent author. The book is full of charts, sketches, and photographs that take you to the South Pacific atolls of Polynesia and Micronesia. This book is not for the day sailor. Written in 1972, Lewis learns and masters the art of ocean navigation from native-born seafarers, like Tevake, who in the middle of nothing knew exactly where he was. He and others learned the skills from their fathers, using only the stars, wind patterns, reflective waves, sea swells, currents, birds, and cloud formations. Lewis learned to sail from one island to another without the aid of modern navigation instruments. Lewis makes the skill of natural navigation into a true adventure.

On a personal note, in the 1970s, I paid many visits to Kwajalein Atoll in…

By Derek Oulton, David Lewis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked We, the Navigators as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This new edition includes a discussion of theories about traditional methods of navigation developed during recent decades, the story of the renaissance of star navigation throughout the Pacific, and material about navigation systems in Indonesia, Siberia, and the Indian Ocean.


Book cover of Islands and Beaches: Discourse on a Silent Land

Christina Thompson Author Of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia

From my list on Polynesian history.

Why am I passionate about this?

A dual citizen of Australia and the US, Christina Thompson has traveled extensively in the Pacific, including through most of the archipelagoes in Polynesia. She is the author of two books about Polynesia: a memoir of her marriage to a Māori man called Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All and a history of the ancient voyagers of the Pacific called Sea People. She edits the literary journal Harvard Review and teaches in the writing program at Harvard University Extension. 

Christina's book list on Polynesian history

Christina Thompson Why did Christina love this book?

The Australian historian Greg Dening was one of the great creative thinkers of the late twentieth century, and his influence is everywhere in the modern history and anthropology of the Pacific. Dening, who died in 2008, was especially fascinated by ambiguous interactions and encounters between people from different worlds. One of his earliest books, Islands and Beaches, focuses on the period in the Marquesas when Europeans first arrived, bringing God, guns, germs, and a whole host of other complications. At once sparklingly and scholarly, it tells the vivid story of this tragic and consequential period in Polynesian history.

By Greg Dening,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Two Worlds: First Meetings between Maori and Europeans, 1642-1772

Christina Thompson Author Of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia

From my list on Polynesian history.

Why am I passionate about this?

A dual citizen of Australia and the US, Christina Thompson has traveled extensively in the Pacific, including through most of the archipelagoes in Polynesia. She is the author of two books about Polynesia: a memoir of her marriage to a Māori man called Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All and a history of the ancient voyagers of the Pacific called Sea People. She edits the literary journal Harvard Review and teaches in the writing program at Harvard University Extension. 

Christina's book list on Polynesian history

Christina Thompson Why did Christina love this book?

Two Worlds, by Dame Anne Salmond, is another crossover work—part history and part anthropology. The author, an eminent New Zealand anthropologist, uses her knowledge of traditional Māori culture (what people believed, what they ate, how they lived) to flesh out the historical record left by early European visitors to Aotearoa/New Zealand. The result is a rich, authoritative account of encounters that for far too long have been described from only one point of view.

By Anne Salmond,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Anne Salmond's brilliant study of first contact between Maori and European explorers - a trail-blazing achievement in narrative New Zealand history.

'Professor Salmond has written a remarkable book. Remarkable for its meticulous research, for its ability to grip the reader's attention; but most of all, remarkable that no-one has done anything quite like it before in the exploration of New Zealand history.'
-Naylor Hillary, The Press

Two Worlds is Anne Salmond's award-winning account of the first points of contact between Maori and European explorers. It is a provocative, penetrating examination of those dramatic first meetings, casting them in a completely…


Book cover of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia

Ann Göth Author Of Volcanic Adventures in Tonga: Species Conservation on Tin Can Island

From my list on sweeping you to remote islands in the South Pacific.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an Australian writer with a passion for all books about the South Pacific. Thirty years ago, I embarked on a two-year mission to the Kingdom of Tonga, and soon after, my job as a naturalist on cruise ships took me to many beautiful, fascinating, and often very remote island nations in that region. Nowadays, my jobs as a writer, scientist, high school teacher, and mother leave little room to navigate to that beautiful part of the world, but I continue to read whatever seems even slightly related to the South Pacific Theme. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have!

Ann's book list on sweeping you to remote islands in the South Pacific

Ann Göth Why did Ann love this book?

Having lived with Polynesian people on remote islands for 17 months, I always wondered where they originally came from and how their fascinating culture evolved.

This book enlightened me as it beautifully describes how the earliest Polynesians reached these far-away islands with amazing seafarer skills but no written tradition or metal tools at hand. I came across this book when it won the 2020 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for nonfiction and can only agree that it is very well-researched and written in an easy-to-understand way. 

By Christina Thompson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A blend of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and Simon Winchester's Pacific, a thrilling intellectual detective story that looks deep into the past to uncover who first settled the islands of the remote Pacific, where they came from, how they got there, and how we know.

For more than a millennium, Polynesians have occupied the remotest islands in the Pacific Ocean, a vast triangle stretching from Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island. Until the arrival of European explorers they were the only people to have ever lived there. Both the most closely related and the most widely dispersed…


Book cover of The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies

Toby Lester Author Of The Fourth Part of the World: An Astonishing Epic of Global Discovery, Imperial Ambition, and the Birth of America

From my list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer and an editor with eclectic interests. I’ve published two books of popular history—Da Vinci's Ghost (2012), about Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and The Fourth Part of the World (2009), about the map that gave America its name. I’ve also written extensively for national publications on such topics as the sociology of new religious movements, privacy protection in the Internet age, the Voynich manuscript, the revisionist study of the Qur’an, the revival of ancient Greek music, and alphabet reform in Azerbaijan. I’m presently a senior editor at the Harvard Business Review and a contributing editor at The Atlantic. From 1988-1990, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Yemen.

Toby's book list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery

Toby Lester Why did Toby love this book?

When the story of Christopher Columbus gets told, it’s typically as a tale of his having sailed west to get quickly to the east. But in this gorgeously produced, exhaustively researched study, Nicolás Wey-Gómez argues that to understand Columbus and his story properly, you have to understand it as a story about voyages to the south. Columbus inherited a powerful set of assumptions about the nature and peoples found in southern latitudes, and it’s those assumptions, Wey-Gómez contends, that allowed Columbus and the many Europeans that followed him to the New World to justify their various colonial enterprises.

By Nicolás Wey Gómez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A radical revision of the geographical history of the discovery of the Americas that links Columbus's southbound route with colonialism, slavery, and today's divide between the industrialized North and the developing South.

Everyone knows that in 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed west across the Atlantic, seeking a new route to the East. Few note, however, that Columbus's intention was also to sail south, to the tropics. In The Tropics of Empire, Nicolás Wey Gómez rewrites the geographical history of the discovery of the Americas, casting it as part of Europe's reawakening to the natural and human resources of the South. Wey…


Book cover of South: A Memoir of the Endurance Voyage

David Barrie Author Of Supernavigators: Exploring the Wonders of How Animals Find Their Way

From my list on the sea and navigation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been a sailor all my life and fell in love with the art of navigation when I was crossing the Atlantic in a 35-foot yacht at the age of 19. Learning how to fix my position in the middle of a vast, featureless ocean by the light of the sun and stars was a life-changing experience. Since then I have sailed all over the world and made many long ocean passages. My book Sextant describes the crucial role that celestial navigation played in the exploration and charting of the world's oceans, and how the development of GPS is profoundly changing our relationship with the natural world.

David's book list on the sea and navigation

David Barrie Why did David love this book?

South is a truly epic account of endurance and survival in the Antarctic. It describes how Shackleton and his crew stayed alive after their ship was crushed in pack ice, and how he and a handful of men crossed the wild Southern Ocean in mid-winter in a 20-foot sailing boat to bring help to those left behind. Not only did they have to cope with hurricanes and mountainous seas in freezing temperatures, but they also had to make an accurate landfall on a small island more than 800 miles away.

Even then their troubles weren't over, as they had to climb a range of high, unexplored mountains to reach help on the other side. As a sailor myself I'm awe-struck by Shackleton's voyage, and the extraordinary navigational feats it involved. If I ever think I'm having a bad day, I remember the terrible hardships that he and his men faced…

By Ernest Shackleton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

His destination Antarctica, his expectations high, veteran explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton set out, on the eve of the First World War, in pursuit of his goal to lead the first expedition across the last unknown continent. Instead, his ship, the Endurance, became locked in sea ice, and for nine months Shackleton fought a losing battle with the elements before the drifting ship was crushed and his crew marooned. Shackleton's gripping account of his incredible voyage follows him and his men across 600 miles of unstable ice floes to a barren rock called Elephant Island. It records how, with a crew…


Book cover of The Natural Navigator: The Rediscovered Art of Letting Nature Be Your Guide

Jessica Carew Kraft Author Of Why We Need to Be Wild: One Woman's Quest for Ancient Human Answers to 21st Century Problems

From my list on surviving the collapse of civilization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer, an anthropologist, and a mother. I spent five years researching ancient human survival skills and learning from modern wilderness survival experts about how to live the original Homo sapiens lifestyle. I became deeply invested in the importance of these skills amidst climate change and digital transformation because they connect us to our evolutionary heritage and safeguard our species’ survival into the future if and when our civilization collapses (as all past civilizations have done!) I find hope in being prepared for the possible demise of our industrial system, embracing the opportunities that arise instead of trying to preserve it at all costs. 

Jessica's book list on surviving the collapse of civilization

Jessica Carew Kraft Why did Jessica love this book?

One thing I realized in my rewilding journey was that I was totally dependent upon GPS – even when I was on an extended wander in nature and trying to feel at home in the wild.

Yet there are so many directional clues available to use for natural navigation, and Gooley makes it easy to learn how to read trees, water, animal sign, and plant growth to find our way. While paper and online maps give us a two-dimensional understanding of where we are, navigating with nature puts us in the center of the living world, engaged with everything around us.  

By Tristan Gooley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the New York Times-bestselling author of How to Read a Tree and The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs, rediscover nature by noticing the hidden clues all around you

“A truly vital book for any outdoor adventurer.”—Cabin Life

Before GPS, before the compass, and even before cartography, humankind was navigating. A windswept tree, the depth of a puddle, or a trill of birdsong could point the way home, and they still do—if you know how to look.

With The Natural Navigator, his first book, Tristan Gooley invited us to notice the directional clues hidden all around: in the sun,…


Book cover of Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass

David Barrie Author Of Supernavigators: Exploring the Wonders of How Animals Find Their Way

From my list on the sea and navigation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been a sailor all my life and fell in love with the art of navigation when I was crossing the Atlantic in a 35-foot yacht at the age of 19. Learning how to fix my position in the middle of a vast, featureless ocean by the light of the sun and stars was a life-changing experience. Since then I have sailed all over the world and made many long ocean passages. My book Sextant describes the crucial role that celestial navigation played in the exploration and charting of the world's oceans, and how the development of GPS is profoundly changing our relationship with the natural world.

David's book list on the sea and navigation

David Barrie Why did David love this book?

Gatty was a remarkable, pioneering aviator from Tasmania and the first person to bring the art of natural navigation to a wide audience. During the Second World War, he taught navigation to US military airmen, and wrote a guide to survival at sea that was standard issue and probably saved quite a few lives: The Raft Book. Finding Your Way (which first came out in the 1950s under the title Nature Is Your Guide), builds on that earlier work and is a mine of fascinating information and anecdotes on which I drew extensively in writing Incredible Journeys.

Gatty was a real expert and discusses how all our senses can help us find our way, even in very difficult circumstances. For example, he tells of an Inuit hunter who, paddling his kayak in thick fog, was able to find the entrance of his home fjord by listening out for…

By Harold Gatty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


During his remarkable lifetime, Harold Gatty became one of the world's great navigators (in 1931, he and Wiley Post flew around the world in a record-breaking eight days) and, to the benefit of posterity, recorded in this book much of his accumulated knowledge about pathfinding both on land and at sea.
Applying methods used by primitive peoples and early explorers, the author shows how to determine location, study wind directions and reflections in the sky, even how to use the senses of smell and hearing to find your way in the wilderness, in a desert, in snow-covered areas, and on…


Book cover of Unwanted Neighbours: The Mughals, the Portuguese, and Their Frontier Zones

Mark Dizon Author Of Reciprocal Mobilities: Indigeneity and Imperialism in an Eighteenth-Century Philippine Borderland

From my list on borderland mobility.

Why am I passionate about this?

The past fascinates me because it is strange and different to the world we live in today. That is why I prefer looking at earlier centuries than contemporary times because the distant past requires an extra effort on our part to unlock how people back then made sense of their world. When I read an old chronicle on how Indigenous people spent days traveling to meet acquaintances and even strangers, it piqued my interest. Did they really need to meet face-to-face? What did traveling mean to them? The books on the list below are attempts by historians to understand the travelers of the past.

Mark's book list on borderland mobility

Mark Dizon Why did Mark love this book?

Unwanted Neighbours is a captivating look at the frontier interactions between the Mughals and the Portuguese.

I like how Flores breaks the typical division between maritime and overland empires. The Mughal Empire was as much maritime as it was territorial, and the Portuguese maritime empire had an overland side to it as well.

The stories of cross-cultural relations in the book give texture to the past and help readers imagine the complexities of the characters in Mughal India.

By Jorge Flores,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In December 1572 the Mughal emperor Akbar arrived in the port city of Khambayat. Having been raised in distant Kabul, Akbar, in his thirty years, had never been to the ocean. Presumably anxious with the news about the Mughal military campaign in Gujarat, several Portuguese merchants in Khambayat rushed to Akbar's presence. This encounter marked the beginning of a long, complex, and unequal relationship between a continental Muslim empire that was expanding into south
India, often looking back to Central Asia, and a European Christian maritime empire whose rulers considered themselves 'kings of the sea'.

By the middle of the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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