The best books on the Atlantic Ocean

3 authors have picked their favorite books about the Atlantic Ocean and why they recommend each book.

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Young Men and the Sea

By Daniel Vickers, Vince Walsh,

Book cover of Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail

The sea figured prominently in early American life.  Westward expansion is a dominant theme in American history, but as historian Daniel Vickers demonstrates, the horizon extended in all directions. For those who lived along the Atlantic coast, it was the East — and the Atlantic Ocean — that beckoned. In Young Men and the Sea, seafaring is a normal part of life. Drawing on the records of thousands of mariners sailing from Salem, Massachusetts, Vickers offers a fascinating social history of early American seafaring.  In what sort of families were sailors raised? When did they go to sea?  What were their chances of death? Whom did they marry, and how did their wives operate households in their absence? This book is destined to become a classic of American social history.


Who am I?

Since the publication of my first book in 1988, my emphasis has always been on history as “story.” That is, the stories of men and women in past centuries with whom we share a common humanity but who faced challenges very different from our own. My goal is to bring their stories to as wide an audience as possible. Whether they describe Newfoundland fisherman in the 17th-century North Atlantic, expatriate Irish men and women in 18th-century Bordeaux, or colonial New Yorkers defying British authority on the eve of the American Revolution, the common theme is the impact of trade and the sea on the lives of ordinary people.


I wrote...

Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York

By Thomas M. Truxes,

Book cover of Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York

What is my book about?

Defying Empire reveals the story of the bold New York City merchants who engaged in forbidden trade with the French enemy during the Seven Years’ War — together with the fate of the lone informer who dared challenge them. Ignoring British prohibitions designed to end North America’s wartime trade with the French, New York’s merchant elite conducted a thriving business in the French West Indies, insisting that their behavior was protected by long practice and British commercial law. But the government in London viewed it as treachery, and its subsequent efforts to discipline North American commerce inflamed the colonists. Through fast-moving events and unforgettable characters, historian Thomas M. Truxes brings eighteenth-century New York and the Atlantic world to life.

To The Edge Of The World

By Julia Green,

Book cover of To The Edge Of The World

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.


Who am I?

I romantically believe that the sea runs in my blood. On the Norwegian side of my family, my grandfather was a boat builder, and my uncle a whaler. I’m a surfer, and I’ve worked in whale and dolphins conservation for many years. So I’m drawn to the ocean and – as work and family duties keep me inland more than I’d like – when unable to get in or on the water, I get my fix with salty tales; some of which I read and some of which I write. The books on this list are all classics, in my view; they all speak to the enigma of the ocean; an ever-changing scape, full of alien life. I hope you enjoy them, and also Girl. Boy. Sea.


I wrote...

Girl. Boy. Sea.

By Chris Vick,

Book cover of Girl. Boy. Sea.

What is my book about?

A British boy narrowly survives the sinking of his yacht in a huge storm off the coast of Morocco. After days alone at sea in a tiny rowing boat Bill rescues a girl clinging for her life to a barrel. Aya, from the nomadic Berber tribe, was escaping to Europe when her migrant ship was destroyed in the same storm. Aya tells Bill about The Arabian Nights, and Shahrazad, who told 1001 stories to save her life. As hope of rescue begins to fade, they find strength in these tales of magic, brave heroes, and courageous girls.

When they land on a desert island, they're surprised to be confronted by a stranger who is not what he seems... and back out on the waves once more in the dark deep, a shadow follows...

Last Voyage

By Ann Davison,

Book cover of Last Voyage

This book is out of print but available in a second-hand market and worth finding. My copy once belonged to my Grandma.  

I’ve learned preparation for a holiday or journey is key to success. This book tells the background which led to Ann and her husband acquiring Reliance, a 2-masted sailing ship. Making it sea-worthy was far from straightforward. Their journey to cross the Atlantic began in extremely difficult circumstances. The book recounts in agonising detail the journey’s progress and ending.   

I felt as I read this book I was with Ann and Frank, through the many ups and downs they experienced. I’m full of admiration for their resilience and determination.

The author, Ann, later became the first woman to single-handedly sail across the Atlantic Ocean in 1952.


Who am I?

Primarily I’m a wife and mother, who loves holidays and writing about our experiences: from the many family holidays in a static caravan 90 minutes’ drive from our hometown in Scotland to the wonderful opportunities we’ve had to travel the world since, including through my work as a lecturer (when the family came too for a holiday while I worked!) or with friends. I like reading other authors’ personal experiences especially when I’m drawn into feeling I’m with the author during the travels, experiencing what’s not always included in travel guidebooks: the not-so-good as well as the good, the challenging as well as the amazing.


I wrote...

From Sri Lanka with Love: A Tapestry of Travel Tales

By Margaret Moore,

Book cover of From Sri Lanka with Love: A Tapestry of Travel Tales

What is my book about?

This book centres around a wonderful holiday my husband Douglas and I had in Sri Lanka in 2017 exploring our immediate surroundings and travelling around this wonderful island. Each day brought new experiences ranging from relaxing to exhausting, amusing to thought-provoking, straightforward, and the very opposite! 

Our holidays have changed hugely over the years from simple caravan holidays with two sons in our Scottish homeland to jetting across the world adapting to different climates and cultures. Journey with me as we holiday in Sri Lanka and recount previous holiday tales from around the globe: Iceland, America, India, Hong Kong, Norway, Spain, Italy, London, Scotland, Madeira, South Africa, Canada, Austria, and Australia. My hope is you’ll feel you’re on holiday with me as you read.

Under the Sea-Wind

By Rachel Carson,

Book cover of Under the Sea-Wind

Rachel Carson will forever be known for Silent Spring, her courageous, farsighted warning of our pesticidal poisoning of the world. But it was her three ocean-oriented books preceding Silent Spring that best showcase her artistic melding of meticulous research with her wide-eyed sense of wonder. And none more so than Under The Sea Wind, her first and most intimate work, tracing the seasonal travails of fish and shorebirds—living, heroic creatures we come to know by name—through their inspiring, interlocking circles of life.


Who am I?

Will Stolzenburg writes about wild things, with particular focus on great predators and the vanishing places they inhabit. A wildlife biologist and magazine editor in former lives, he has since written three non-fiction books concerning those irreplaceable predators, plus a children’s story about a dog with a magically happy tail that's pretty close to true.


I wrote...

Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators

By William Stolzenburg,

Book cover of Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators

What is my book about?

For half a billion years, life on Earth had been policed by great predators, those big, meat-seeking animals at the top of the food chain. Over the past ten thousand years, those wolves and big cats, monstrous fish and flying raptors have been swept under by the human tide. And what of it? A cadre of concerned scientists asking that very question are finding landscapes of pest and plague, chaos and decay, and a world of reason to reconsider the meat-eating beasts we’ve so blithely banished from the web of life.

Ferry Pilot

By Kerry McCauley,

Book cover of Ferry Pilot: Nine Lives Over the North Atlantic

Most people associate pilot jobs with working for airlines and wearing a uniform. Many people think about flying as similar to driving busses while, in fact, it’s far from it. Working as a ferry pilot can be one of the most exciting jobs on the planet! Ferry pilots get to fly countless different types of airplanes worldwide and face adventures like no one else. This book may not introduce you to the best decision-making by pilots, but it indeed introduces you to a different type of flying.


Who am I?

I have been involved in aviation all my adult life as a pilot and a flight instructor. I am also an avid reader, and I like to read books written by my fellow aviators. I find books written by pilots exciting because of the similar experiences we all share in the industry. All the books that I recommend are very accessible for any reader without previous aviation knowledge; in fact, I think you will find these books even more fascinating as they will open your eyes to the wonderful world of aviation!


I wrote...

Learn to Fly and Become a Pilot!: The Ultimate Guide for Determining Your Capabilities of Becoming a Professional Pilot and Getting Started with Flight Training

By Vesa Turpeinen,

Book cover of Learn to Fly and Become a Pilot!: The Ultimate Guide for Determining Your Capabilities of Becoming a Professional Pilot and Getting Started with Flight Training

What is my book about?

Learn to Fly and Become a Pilot! introduces readers to a non-fiction aviation series, The Pilot Career Series, by Vesa Turpeinen, packed with information and guidance for readers with the dream of flying. The author, an experienced pilot and a pilot instructor for a reputable institution gives readers the guidance they need to discern and make choices when it comes to taking lessons in flying, choosing the right flight school, and becoming a professional pilot.

In this book, readers learn about the adventure of flying, from small piston airplanes to large passenger transport aircraft, and the wonderful benefits of being a pilot. Whether the reader wants this information for themselves, their child, or a loved one, this book has a lot to offer.

Titanic

By John P. Eaton, Charles A. Haas,

Book cover of Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy

If Walter Lord’s book is the definitive account of the sinking, this large-format encyclopaedic volume, almost large enough to sink a ship, is the definitive story of the Titanic, from the drawing board to the bottom of the ocean, with nothing omitted between the two events. It is an epic work of research so comprehensive that it deserves a wholly new category of publishing: more than a book, Titanic – Triumph and Tragedy, is a museum.

First published in 1986, it was updated in the 1990s to include new information and photographs following the discovery of the wreck, which Eaton and Haas, both acknowledged Titanic experts, had seen for themselves from a submersible. 

The book’s structure is that of a sequential archive illustrated by more than a thousand contemporary photographs, including Harland & Wolff’s original architectural plans and engineering drawings. It moves from the launch in Belfast to life…


Who am I?

I’m a former national newspaper editor and magazine publisher – and the grandson of Jock Hume, a violinist in the Titanic’s band. Jock, who was just 21 years old, had been playing on passenger ships since he was sixteen. His body was recovered ten days after the sinking, 40 miles from the scene the wreck. His family couldn’t afford to bring him home to Dumfries in Scotland, so he was buried alongside 121 other unclaimed Titanic bodies at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My book is the story of Jock’s life, his death…and the previously untold scandal of the aftermath of the sinking.


I wrote...

And the Band Played On...: The Enthralling Account of What Happened After the Titanic Sank

By Christopher Ward,

Book cover of And the Band Played On...: The Enthralling Account of What Happened After the Titanic Sank

What is my book about?

It’s the story about what happened after the Titanic sank.  As the band played on deck, 1,500 men, women, and children were swept into the ice-cold water of the North Atlantic. More than 1,200 were never seen again. What happened to them? Ward uncovers the scandal of how the cable-laying ship Mackay-Bennett, which sailed from Halifax to recover bodies, enforced a class system that mirrored the Titanic’s own class structure on board.  He finds uncomfortable parallels with contemporary corporate life: the cover-ups, the failure of anyone at the top to take responsibility. 

Ward’s book, which became a Sunday Times bestseller, inspired a Discovery Channel documentary, Titanic: The Aftermath, which tells the story of Jock’s short but daring life, not unlike that of Jack Dawson in the film, Titanic. Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, described Ward’s book as ‘a heart-breaking story, wonderfully told’.

England and the Discovery of America, 1481-1620

By David B. Quinn,

Book cover of England and the Discovery of America, 1481-1620

This remains so far, the best documented investigation of the earlier contacts between England and the North Atlantic world from the late fifteenth century to the early seventeenth century. Superbly researched and written, it permits to unveil the complexity and the mystery behind the “new world” with which England entered contact. 


Who am I?

This is and will remain the example of historical research made by one of the leading authorities in the field of Atlantic history. Elliott’s book set the agenda by investigating and assessing the complex array of causes and consequences which brought England and Spain to have an ever-lasting cultural, economic, political, and religious influence on the history of North America and Latin America.  


I wrote...

Making, Breaking and Remaking the Irish Missionary Network: Ireland, Rome and the West Indies in the Seventeenth Century

By Matteo Binasco,

Book cover of Making, Breaking and Remaking the Irish Missionary Network: Ireland, Rome and the West Indies in the Seventeenth Century

What is my book about?

This book is the first to document the links which were developed between the Irish clerical community in Rome, Ireland, and the Irish migrants in the West Indies. Binasco vividly reconstructs the key figures, the perils, the efforts, and the pitfalls to connect the epicenter of global Catholicism with the far and troubled Ireland and West Indies of the seventeenth century. 

The Watch That Ends the Night

By Allan Wolf,

Book cover of The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic

The Watch That Ends The Night tells the story of the Titanic through the voices of those who were there. I read this after I had written my own most recent book and was struck with how similarly Allan and I approached historical catastrophes. Both books are multi-voiced and contemplate the same issues of privilege and class distinctions. Like me, Allan chose to listen to nature and endow her with a voice of her own.


Who am I?

Technology advances, scenery changes, but the human heart remains the same. As a writer, I hope to honor lives unnoticed or forgotten and have found that writing in verse affords me the truest, most uncorrupted pathway into the human heart. Each of the verse novels I’ve written or recommended here is spun from the strongest threads of time, place, and character. My hope is that the spare words within each book will build bridges across time and culture, and that those of us willing to open our hearts and cross these bridges will help create a more tolerant and peaceful world. 


I wrote...

Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown

By Ann E. Burg,

Book cover of Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown

What is my book about?

My most recent book, Flooded, Requiem for Johnstown, tells the story of the Johnstown Flood of 1889. Johnstown Pennsylvania was a working-class factory city. Above the soot-soaked streets, an elite fishing and hunting club, built on a pristine man-made lake, drew America's wealthiest business barons. Though repeatedly urged to fix the deteriorating dam that held the lake, club members disregarded these warnings. When heavy rains came, the dam collapsed and plunged the city into chaos.

While set in a different century and told through the experiences of characters whose daily lives were much different than our own, the events which unfolded in Johnstown reflect the same attitudes and issues we face today. History has much to tell us if we are listening.

One Hundred Days

By Sandy Woodward,

Book cover of One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander

A brilliant and harrowing depiction of the kind of full-on, high-stress decisions made in the furious hours of combat in the deep south Atlantic Ocean as Great Britain sought to recapture the Falkland Islands from Argentina, which had seized them. There is no finer example of decision-making by a senior commander at sea in modern combat. As a strike group commander myself decades later in the Afghan and Iraqi wars, this book was invaluable to me in learning how to make hard decisions.


Who am I?

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. 


I wrote...

To Risk It All: Nine Conflicts and the Crucible of Decision

By James G. Stavridis,

Book cover of To Risk It All: Nine Conflicts and the Crucible of Decision

What is my book about?

The hardest decisions we make are those that occur under extreme pressure. At the heart of my training as a naval officer was the preparation to lead sailors in combat, to face the decisive moment in battle whenever it might arise. In To Risk it All, you will meet nine men and women who face conflict, crisis, and risk. The lessons you learn will help you make the hardest of decisions. Let’s get underway!

Albatross

By Deborah Scaling Kiley, Meg Noonan,

Book cover of Albatross: The True Story of a Woman's Survival at Sea

When sharks are circling your life raft, I do not recommend drinking seawater to quench your excruciating thirst. In Albatross, five people find themselves adrift at sea in a small life raft with no food or water. When one of the sailors drinks seawater we see how that can dehydrate the brain and cause hallucinations. Suddenly the sailor blurts out that he is going to get his car to get some beer, and he steps out of the life raft. The sharks are waiting.

Albatross is not only a story of mistakes made, but also of courageous decisions by two survivors, Deb Kiley and Brad Cavanaugh. It is hair-raising, insightful, and might just keep you off the water.


Who am I?

I've always been fascinated by the toughest survivors, the ones where I say to myself, “I could have never got through that.” Then I’m curious about how they endured: what mindsets and techniques did they use to fight on? When I became a writer I focused on this niche, with my first book Ten Hours Until Dawn which was followed by several other true survival and rescue tales. I became obsessed with researching where the survivors made the correct decisions and how they got trapped by bad ones. When my book The Finest Hours became a Disney movie I was deluged with people sharing their own survival stories. 


I wrote...

A Storm Too Soon: A Remarkable True Survival Story in 80-Foot Seas

By Michael J. Tougias,

Book cover of A Storm Too Soon: A Remarkable True Survival Story in 80-Foot Seas

What is my book about?

A Storm Too Soon, one of seven survival books by the author, is a fast-paced true story that took place on the ocean during one of the most explosive storms ever recorded. Seventy-foot waves batter a tattered life raft 250 miles out to sea in one of the world’s most dangerous places, the Gulf Stream. Hanging onto the raft are three men, a Canadian, a Brit, and their captain, JP DeLutz, a dual citizen of America and France. The waves repeatedly toss the men out of their tiny vessel, and JP, with 9 broken ribs, is hypothermic and on the verge of death. The captain, however, is a tough-minded character and now he’s got to rely on those same inner resources to outlast the storm.

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