The best books on the Great Barrier Reef

1 authors have picked their favorite books about the Great Barrier Reef and why they recommend each book.

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The Great Barrier Reef

By Len Zell,

Book cover of The Great Barrier Reef: A Journey Through the World's Greatest Natural Wonder

The Great Barrier Reef is known as one of the world’s greatest natural wonders -and is a major drawcard for visitors to Australia. This book, written by renowned Australian marine biologist Len Zell is not a guide in the usual sense of the word but contains all you’ll ever need to know about what Australians call simply “the Reef” and more. Produced in partnership with the BBC’s The Great Barrier Reef television series, the book takes you on a journey along 2,300km of Australia’s north-eastern coastline. Not one to shy away from reality, Zell also looks at the environmental challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef and what the future may hold. There are practical hints and tips too – but if you just want to buy it for the fabulous photography throughout, that’s fine too!


Who am I?

As a full-time travel writer for 30 years, I’ve travelled all over Australia and am still constantly surprised and thrilled by new places. Ask me what my favourite place is, and it’s impossible to choose! From the grandeur of Western Australia’s Kimberley and the red ochre colours of the Outback to the deep blue of the oceans and lush rainforests...I love it all and I love sharing my discoveries – both in cities and on the long and winding roads – with readers. When I’m not travelling or writing about it, I’m usually planning the next trip!


I wrote...

Frommer's Australia

By Lee Mylne,

Book cover of Frommer's Australia

What is my book about?

Find the Australia of your dreams – scope out Sydney’s best surf beaches, find the top laneway cafes and street art scenes in arty Melbourne, discover the best places to come face-to-face with Australia’s unique wildlife, and the most colourful underwater playgrounds on the Great Barrier Reef. Learn why Indigenous experiences are the key to unlocking Australia’s reality. Then there are the hotels, restaurants and unmissable attractions…and I’ve visited them all.

Updated every year (until the pandemic temporarily interrupted travel plans), this guide distills the best of Australia’s capital cities and their surrounds. The Frommer’s format is tried and tested, honest and opinionated and designed to appeal to all budgets.

Loving Country

By Bruce Pascoe, Vicky Shukuroglou,

Book cover of Loving Country: A Guide to Sacred Australia

Far from an ordinary guidebook, Loving Country, A Guide to Sacred Australia gets to the heart of this ancient continent through the eyes and stories of Australia’s First Nations people. Beautifully designed and illustrated with photographs, the book opens up an Australia that many visitors never – sadly – see. Exploring Australia’s Indigenous culture is one of the best ways to understand this country, and there are many ways of doing that, if you seek them out. After consultation with Indigenous communities and elders, the authors have chosen just 18 places to feature, telling the stories of the Dreaming, explaining traditional cultural practices, and outlining tours that will open a new world to those who care to dive deep into the culture.


Who am I?

As a full-time travel writer for 30 years, I’ve travelled all over Australia and am still constantly surprised and thrilled by new places. Ask me what my favourite place is, and it’s impossible to choose! From the grandeur of Western Australia’s Kimberley and the red ochre colours of the Outback to the deep blue of the oceans and lush rainforests...I love it all and I love sharing my discoveries – both in cities and on the long and winding roads – with readers. When I’m not travelling or writing about it, I’m usually planning the next trip!


I wrote...

Frommer's Australia

By Lee Mylne,

Book cover of Frommer's Australia

What is my book about?

Find the Australia of your dreams – scope out Sydney’s best surf beaches, find the top laneway cafes and street art scenes in arty Melbourne, discover the best places to come face-to-face with Australia’s unique wildlife, and the most colourful underwater playgrounds on the Great Barrier Reef. Learn why Indigenous experiences are the key to unlocking Australia’s reality. Then there are the hotels, restaurants and unmissable attractions…and I’ve visited them all.

Updated every year (until the pandemic temporarily interrupted travel plans), this guide distills the best of Australia’s capital cities and their surrounds. The Frommer’s format is tried and tested, honest and opinionated and designed to appeal to all budgets.

The Weather Makers

By Tim Flannery,

Book cover of The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change

The story of climate change over millions of years up to the present when burning fossil fuels is heating our planet and threatening not just the survival of human society but the intricately linked ecologies of the natural world. Australia is already feeling the effects, with worse droughts, terrible fires, repeated coral bleachings on the Great Barrier Reef, and escalating species extinction. Flannery writes brilliantly about the impact of humans on nature, and also on what we can do, individually and collectively, to avert catastrophe.


Who am I?

I'm a political historian who writes for my fellow citizens and I have chosen books by writers who do the same. Books which are written with passion and purpose: to shift political understanding, to speak truth to power, to help people understand their country and the world, and to inspire a commitment to improving them.


I wrote...

From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting

By Judith Brett,

Book cover of From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting

What is my book about?

Australia is the only English-speaking democracy to make voting compulsory. Australians do not see this as a contradiction of democracy but its embodiment, that the government is selected not just by the majority of people who turn out but the majority eligible to vote, and turnouts are regularly above 90%. Compulsory voting is accompanied by compulsory voter registration, preferential voting, the non-partisan administration of elections and voting on Saturdays, with barbeques and cake stalls at polling stations, and election night parties that spill over into Sunday morning. The benefits are immense. Compulsory voting brings to the polls the poor and marginalised, young people and new citizens, and busy people with no axes to grind who dilute the impact of polarising zealots and moral crusaders.

Reef Life

By Callum Roberts,

Book cover of Reef Life: An Underwater Memoir

Dr. Callum Roberts is a British marine biologist who has worked primarily in marine conservation. Like many British coral reef scientists, he got his start in the Red Sea rather than the Caribbean or the Pacific. The cultures of the middle east can make reef research there just a little bit different than elsewhere. This book is his memoir of a wonderful life exploring coral reefs that began, surprisingly, in the wilds of Scotland and took shape once he began his undergraduate studies in 1980. By then our impacts on coral reefs were becoming quite stark and this book does not shrink from the bad news. But it also captures his sheer joy in exploring coral reefs, his good humor and creativity as he grows from young student to research leader, and his concern to do what he can to keep coral reefs with us.


Who am I?

Peter Sale has managed to spend an entire career exploring coral reefs, perhaps the most fascinating ecosystem on this planet.  From 1964 when he commenced a Ph.D. at the University of Hawaii, through faculty positions in Australia, the USA, and Canada, and with a final stint with the United Nations University, he has been able to explore the wonders of coral reef systems in many places around the world.  His life has been rewarding, because of the new science he did, the students and colleagues he worked with, and the sheer joy he experienced diving on reefs. His many technical writings include the 1991 book, The Ecology of Fishes on Coral Reefs, which became a classic among reef researchers, students, and some sport divers.


I wrote...

Coral Reefs: Majestic Realms Under the Sea

By Peter F. Sale,

Book cover of Coral Reefs: Majestic Realms Under the Sea

What is my book about?

Coral reefs are disappearing from this planet. After nearly two decades of speaking out and writing about how we were erasing coral reefs, it finally dawned on me. Telling people the bad news, again and again, and again, was not causing people to rise up to stop our mistreatment. Reefs were not important to most people, because most people do not know them! 

In Coral Reefs, I take the time to tell some of the amazing stories that make coral reefs the fascinating places they are -- miraculous, unexpected, transitory, very old yet quite young, and peopled by a rich cast of residents whose lives continually amaze, amuse, and seduce the person who understands. I then talk about why reefs matter, and about what we need to do to keep them with us. This book celebrates reefs and the scientists who have learned about them, while also exploring wider questions like our relationship to the rest of the biosphere and what we must do to combat climate change.

The End of Ice

By Dahr Jamail,

Book cover of The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption

Dahr Jamail’s End of Ice threads his life experiences as a prized reporter, mountaineer, and climate activist, sharing personal human stories and experiences that reveal the difficult, cold, and hard evidence showing us that our cryosphere is irreversibly changing before our eyes. His easy-to-read prose, supported by well-researched and irrefutable science, gives us a unique introspection into the Anthropocene, chronicling the profound changes we are witnessing to Mother Nature and the demise of our frozen resources. I was enthralled by Jamail’s reflections on the end of ice.


Who am I?

Jorge Daniel Taillant is a cryoactivist, a term he coined to describe someone that works to protect the cryosphere, ie. the Earth’s frozen environment. Founder of a globally prized non-profit protecting human rights and promoting environmental justice he helped get the world’s first glacier law passed in South America. He now devotes 100% of his time to tackling climate change in an emergency effort to slow global warming … and to protect glaciers.


I wrote...

Meltdown: The Earth Without Glaciers

By Jorge Daniel Taillant,

Book cover of Meltdown: The Earth Without Glaciers

What is my book about?

Meltdown: The Earth Without Glaciers is about our changing climate and about glacier vulnerability. It’s a dive into the cryosphere and how melting glaciers in remote areas of the planet will drastically change our lives. I connect the dots between climate change and the drastic impacts of glacier melt on our global ecosystems, including sea-level rise, intense heat from decreased reflectivity, glacier tsunamis from crumbling ice, ocean and atmospheric disruptions due to massive glacier freshwater infusions into our oceans, melting permafrost that can unleash an unlivable Hot House Earth environment, and invisible glaciers residing deep under the Earth that you have probably never heard of, but that will survive our visible surface glaciers once they’ve melted away.

My purpose of writing Meltdown was to draw attention to the predicament of glacier vulnerability and to awaken society to glacier demise if we do not stop climate change soon. 

The Sea Around Us

By Rachel Carson,

Book cover of The Sea Around Us

Carson’s 1955 book is worth revisiting in this age of sea-level rise. The second installment in her ocean trilogy, The Sea Around Us occupied the New York Times bestseller list for 86 weeks. It also won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and the Burroughs Medal in nature writing. Today, the book remains a model for turning science into prose. Carson’s work endures in part because she found writing difficult. For all her toil, readers are the beneficiaries. Whether describing a seashell or explaining the intricate composition of sediments, her words move across the page as nimbly as sanderlings across the shoreline. Much like her pivotal Silent Spring, published eight years later, The Sea Around Us gazes perceptively and presciently upon the past and the future. Following her gaze will change that of readers whenever they are seaside again. 


Who am I?

I'm a writer and professor of environmental history who divides his time between two “villes,” Gainesville, Florida, and Harrisville, New Hampshire. On April 16, 2018, while in my campus office excoriating a graduate student for his sloppy writing, I learned that my book The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in History. The chastened student subsequently revised his work and turned in a perfect paper, and I’ve been trying to live up to the distinction of the prize ever since. My first effort to do so will appear in the form of my latest book, The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird.


I wrote...

The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea

By Jack E. Davis,

Book cover of The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea

What is my book about?

Covering the period from geological formation to the present, The Gulf is a biography of a natural place and the peoples and cultures that have intersected with it for some 10,000 years. Dismayed that the Gulf remains largely absent from the pages of American history, I saw a need to write a book about it. An equal motivating factor were big events that had come to define the Gulf as a place. I wanted readers to know its true identity. The Gulf is among the richest estuarine environments in the world, one to which all Americans are connected historically and ecologically. 

Of the book's many fascinating characters, the ones that were most fun to write about, and to indeed treat as characters, were the wildlife and natural features of the Gulf.

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