The best coral reef books 📚

Browse the best books on coral reefs as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of Coral Empire: Underwater Oceans, Colonial Tropics, Visual Modernity

Coral Empire: Underwater Oceans, Colonial Tropics, Visual Modernity

By Ann Elias

Why this book?

Ann Elias demonstrates how visual media – photography, film, art, and museum displays – re-cast coral reefs in the early 20th century from dangers to navigation into fantastical but familiar and inviting spectacles. Coral Empire reveals photographers, artists, and scientific explorers as they rendered the undersea modern yet colonial. Using technology, indigenous knowledge, and their own visions, they presented the oceans as wild, untouched spaces full of resources that invited exploitation, conquest, and tourism. Desire-fueled uses of the undersea obscured the destructive nature of human activities on coral reefs, now abundantly apparent, while the power of the visual for…

From the list:

The best books on human's relationships with the underwater world

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Book cover of The Fragile Edge: Diving and Other Adventures in the South Pacific

The Fragile Edge: Diving and Other Adventures in the South Pacific

By Julia Whitty

Why this book?

The relationship between ourselves and the sea is commonly constrained by beaches and tides. But Julia Whitty, deep-sea diver, and filmmaker opens the mind to the richness of deep waters through the scientific and soulful journeys she poetically shares in this book. Her time spent working in the South Pacific allows an expansion of our own experiences of the wild world. The delicate relationships of life’s many forms, from whales and sharks to rays and coral, contained within Earth’s liquid artistry, offers an opportunity to enrich our understanding of connections we seldom perceive but which, once acknowledged, expand the perception…
From the list:

The best books on fieldwork in wild places

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Book cover of Pearl

Pearl

By Molly Idle

Why this book?

This book has this soft slow kind of magic that would be wonderful for winding down right before bedtime. The images flow through the book and guide you down into the colorful glowing depths where a family of mermaids guard the secrets of the sea. The message is lovely as well. Little Pearl the mermaid discovers that even the smallest of responsibilities, when nurtured properly, can grow to be hugely impactful.

From the list:

The best underwater picture books for your little sea monster

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Book cover of A Life Underwater

A Life Underwater

By Charlie Veron

Why this book?

Dr. John E.N. Veron, called Charlie by everyone who knows him, is an Australian coral reef scientist. He is also the person who single-handedly sorted out the names of the corals in the 1980s by emphasizing the study of corals in their natural habitats on reefs. Prior taxonomy, based on dried, cleaned bits of skeletons, had resulted in much confusion given the considerable plasticity of the form of corals growing in different reef habitats. This book is Charlie’s account of his life as a marine scientist, from his earliest exploring of rocky shores near Sydney to his numerous expeditions to…

From the list:

The best books on being a coral reef scientist

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Book cover of Ocean Outbreak: Confronting the Rising Tide of Marine Disease

Ocean Outbreak: Confronting the Rising Tide of Marine Disease

By Drew Harvell

Why this book?

Dr. C. Drew Harvell is an American marine biologist who has worked extensively on the diseases of corals and other marine organisms. She starts this book with an urgent e-mail in December 2013 – sea stars were dying in Monterey, California, and Drew dropped everything to race off to find out what she could.  That is not an exaggeration. In recent years, her life has been like that. While the book deals with serious diseases having huge consequences for various marine organisms, it also reveals the way in which marine biologists can be immersed in their work yet love every…

From the list:

The best books on being a coral reef scientist

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Book cover of Words of the Lagoon: Fishing and Marine Lore in the Palau District of Micronesia

Words of the Lagoon: Fishing and Marine Lore in the Palau District of Micronesia

By R.E. Johannes

Why this book?

There has been growing recognition that our scientific understanding of environmental matters can be enhanced if we would only listen to the wisdom of indigenous peoples. This recognition only occasionally leads to a serious effort by environmental scientists to learn from indigenous peoples. Dr. Robert Johannes was a tropical fisheries biologist who, in the mid-1970s, was well ahead of his time when he took time out of a busy academic career to spend a couple of years on tiny, remote islands in Palau, Micronesia to learn from elders how to catch fish. This book is a non-technical account of what…

From the list:

The best books on being a coral reef scientist

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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