The most recommended mermaid books

Who picked these books? Meet our 67 experts.

67 authors created a book list connected to mermaids, and here are their favorite mermaid books.
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Book cover of American Mermaid

Carolyn Purnell Author Of Blue Jeans

From Carolyn's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Color-lover Avid eater

Carolyn's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Carolyn Purnell Why did Carolyn love this book?

Julia Langbein is an art historian who specializes in nineteenth-century popular humor. Of course, just because someone studies comedy, it doesn’t mean that they’re funny. Luckily for us, Langbein is hilarious. American Mermaid is, in turns, smart, cheeky, cynical, beautiful, silly, ridiculous, and profound.

I couldn’t put it down, but I know that its quick-read quality was deceptive. American Mermaid, with its story-within-a-story structure, must have taken incredible skill to fine-tune and layer. With this caliber of debut, I can’t wait to see what else Langbein has in store for us. 

By Julia Langbein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF THE YEAR • "Sublime." —New York Times Book Review

"Brilliantly sharp, funny, and thought-provoking, the gripping story of a woman trying to find her way in our chaotic world." —Madeline Miller, bestselling author of Circe

Broke English teacher Penelope Schleeman is as surprised as anyone when her feminist, eco-warrior novel American Mermaid becomes a best-seller. But when Hollywood insists she convert her fierce, androgynous protagonist into to a teen sex object in a clamshell bra, strange things start to happen. Is Penelope losing her mind, or has her fictional mermaid come to life, enacting revenge…


Book cover of Oona

Emily Neilson Author Of Can I Give You a Squish?

From my list on underwater books for your little sea monster.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am writing this list because I am a sea monster. I’m the sort of sea monster who loves merpeople, pirates, sharks, dolphins, octopuses, shipwrecks, and…did I miss anything? Oh yes, piranhas. Some people have pointed out that I look like a regular adult human, but really it’s just a trick of the light. I like to make stories, draw pictures, and build miniature environments for stop motion animated films. My typical day is spent gluing miniature flowers to miniature rocks, or screwing miniature chairs to miniature floors. It’s the sort of job that makes you feel like magic is around every corner. Because it is, probably.

Emily's book list on underwater books for your little sea monster

Emily Neilson Why did Emily love this book?

It’s impossible not to fall head over heels in love with the little mermaid explorer Oona and her sea otter friend Otto. The adorable duo was created by illustrator Raissa Figueroa who has this amazing ability to make all her characters completely irresistible and her environments rich with atmospheric colors and magical details. I can’t wait to see what adventures Oona and Otto go on next!

By Kelly DiPucchio, Raissa Figueroa (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Oona as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

This comical and heartfelt picture book is a winning celebration of invention, creativity, and friendship. With gorgeous underwater scenes and a crowd-pleasing tale, this is one little mermaid who is here to make a splash!

New York Times bestselling author Kelly DiPucchio and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Raissa Figueroa would like to introduce Oona-the big wide sea's littlest mischief-maker.

Oona and her best friend Otto love to search for treasure...and often find trouble instead.

Messy trouble.

Tricky trouble.

Even shark-related trouble.

That's never stopped them before, though!

After all, no proper treasure hunt is without some adventure. But…


Book cover of The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

A.E. Ross Author Of Run in the Blood

From my list on queer swashbuckling.

Why am I passionate about this?

Two things I absolutely loved growing up: fantasy novels and history. Swashbuckling pirate stories are like a fantastic combination of both, and the way that the age of sail touched all corners of the world creates an opportunity for so many different kinds of stories to be told through this lens. As a queer writer, my passion is writing the kind of stories I loved as a child. As a trans adult, I find joy in making the next generations feel comfortable in their own skin. Living in Vancouver, B.C. I write novels and animated television, and I also co-host a podcast about advertising called Ad Creeps

A.E.'s book list on queer swashbuckling

A.E. Ross Why did A.E. love this book?

I can’t help it, I am an absolute sucker for a girl dressing up as a boy. It’s a classic trope in lesbian fiction, and while it’s reminiscent of trans masculine narratives, it’s also a fantastical reflection of butch/femme dynamics, and these two things can co-exist in the literary world. Flora/Florian is a really special protagonist, and her relationship with Evelyn is as exciting as the overall story. Tokuda-Hall has clearly had so much fun weaving in a variety of fantasy elements, throwing us mermaids, witches, pirates, and, of course, the Sea. 

By Maggie Tokuda-Hall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, a desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial lady find a connection on the high seas.
Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don't trust, don't stick out, and don't feel. But on this voyage, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is headed to an arranged marriage she dreads. Flora doesn't expect to be…


Book cover of Zennor in Darkness

Rachel Hore Author Of The Hidden Years

From my list on making you fall in love with Cornwall again.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a UK bestselling writer of historical fiction who has often used Cornwall as a setting. I wrote about a lost garden and a colony of Edwardian artists in The Memory Garden, about the Second World War in A Gathering Storm and The Hidden Years. My father was Cornish, which meant wonderful childhood holidays spent in the county. I fell in love with its breathtakingly beautiful landscapes - rugged cliffs, picturesque fishing villages, expansive sandy beaches where the sea thunders in. I’ve feasted on its history and legends, and on stories of danger, romance, and adventure set in the region. It’s fulfilled a dream to have written my own.    

Rachel's book list on making you fall in love with Cornwall again

Rachel Hore Why did Rachel love this book?

Zennor is a tiny village perched on the cliffs of Cornwall’s rugged north shore and battered by Atlantic storms. I’ve often visited it, have run my hand over the legendary mermaid chair in its little church and walked the cliff path, which Virginia Woolf reported doing once at night, a dangerous event that inspired Dunmore’s novel. 

Zennor in Darkness is based on a true story. D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda settled in a remote cottage on the cliffs during the First World War. They were regarded with suspicion because Frieda was German and the couple kept an irregular lifestyle – were they in fact enemy spies?  Their story is tenderly told through the eyes of a young local artist, Clare Coyne.

Dunmore writes beautifully, with lucidity and a suspenseful air.

By Helen Dunmore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

They stand by side on the rock, facing out to sea. They are hidden from land here. Even spies would see nothing of them.

It is spring 1917 in the Cornish coastal village of Zennor, and the young artist Clare Coyne is waking up to the world. Ignoring the whispers from her neighbours, she has struck a rare friendship with D.H. Lawrence and his German wife, who are hoping to escape the war-fever of London. In between painting and visits to her new friends she whiles away the warm days with her cousin John, who is on leave from the…


Book cover of This Is Sadie

Talitha Shipman Author Of Finding Beauty

From my list on inspiring childlike wonder for all ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an award-winning children's book author-illustrator. I’ve spent the last fifteen years dreaming up stories that I hope will inspire curiosity and wonder in kids of all ages. I’m also a life-long learner! I can’t get enough info about this amazing world we live in. The more I learn, the more I realize that being a noticer, someone who slows down to observe the tiny details around them, will inspire questions and the need to find some surprising and fascinating answers. When my daughter asks a question (and there are many), my mantra has become, “I don’t know, let’s find out!” I hope this list inspires your own adventurous inquiries.

Talitha's book list on inspiring childlike wonder for all ages

Talitha Shipman Why did Talitha love this book?

Of course, I’m going to have some picture books on this list, and This is Sadie is one of my all-time favorite books. It makes me feel like a kid again.

With spare yet thoughtful words from O’Leary and whimsical illustrations by Morstad, you are transported to a time and place where adult worries and preoccupations don’t exist. Sadie is a hero, a mermaid, an archer in a fairy tale, and was also raised by wolves.

Oh, and she has wings! It’s a magical and powerful portrayal of childhood imagination.

By Sara O’Leary, Julie Morstad (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked This Is Sadie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Now in board book, the beloved story about a little girl with a big imagination from the award-winning team of Sara O'Leary and Julie Morstad.

Sadie is a little girl with a big imagination. She has been a girl who lived under
the sea and a boy raised by wolves. She has had adventures in wonderland and
visited the world of fairytales. She whispers to the dresses in her closet and talks
to birds in the treetops. She has wings that take her anywhere she wants to go, but
that always bring her home again. She likes to make things…


Book cover of Cornish Folk Tales

Anna Chorlton Author Of Cornish Folk Tales of Place: Traditional Stories from North and East Cornwall

From my list on capturing the magic of Cornwall.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love to write about the places, folklore, nature, and above all the magic of Cornwall. I have lived in Cornwall most of my life, I learned to crawl along the rockpools of Cornish beaches and I went to school in a moorland village. Now, I live on the edge of Bodmin Moor and write in the Cornish wilds, I live close to both the moors and the sea. I began writing for Cornish folklore project Mazed in 2013 and I have been retelling Cornish Folk Tales and writing poetry and stories inspired by Cornish folklore ever since. 

Anna's book list on capturing the magic of Cornwall

Anna Chorlton Why did Anna love this book?

Cornish Folk Tales takes the reader on a journey into the heart of Cornish Storytelling.

I have listened to Mike O’Connor many times and he is a master storyteller. I love the Cornish Droll telling tradition; droll tellers went from place to place telling tales for a bed and a bite to eat. The narrators of Cornish Folk Tales, blind droll teller Anthony James and his guide young Jamie are a perfect combination.

Mike O’Connor, through Anthony tells the tales with anecdotes, music, history, and Cornish language. This book taught me how to approach folklore retelling in an accessible way.

Reading I felt myself beside the firesides of Cornwall, listening to tales of dragons, mermaids, giants, and saints; puzzling over riddles, and learning about Cornish traditions and music

By Mike O'Connor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The ancient land of Cornwall is steeped in mysterious tradition, proud heritage and age-old folklore. Before books were widely available, wandering 'droll tellers' used to spread Cornish insight and humour to all parts of the Duchy - exchanging their tales for food and shelter. Anthony James was one such droll teller, and this collection follows him as he makes his way around Cornwall one glorious summer. Richly illustrated with hand-drawn images and woodcuts, Cornish Folk Tales will appeal to anyone captivated by this beautiful land and its resident kindly giants, mischievous piskeys, seductive mermaids, bold knights and barnacle-encrusted sea captains.


Book cover of The Mermaid of Black Conch

Therese Down Author Of The Estate Agent

From my list on lighting up your imagination and your soul.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love stories grounded in realism - but which also explore that there may be more to life than meets the eye; reasons beyond reason, for the way we dream, love, and think, and which come from unexpected sources. I love books whose characters really 'live', and stay with me, long after I've finished reading. I aspire to create such characters. In my novels, I seek to explore important themes from perspectives that often pitch rationality against what it cannot explain, or dismiss. The fiction I most love does this – whether it exploits mythology, suggests life beyond life, or uses magical realism to add ‘other’ dimensions to the ordinary. "There are more things… Horatio…"

Therese's book list on lighting up your imagination and your soul

Therese Down Why did Therese love this book?

The Mermaid of Black Conch takes a mythological creature and gives her extraordinary life, as a very real, young woman, called Aycayia.

She is caught – hooked like a prize fish - by greedy anglers, and hauled from the sea, bringing with her an already fascinating and tragic history of injustice and misunderstanding. But, she is also an object of love.

Not all fishermen are commercial opportunists… Not all men are eager to exploit beautiful and unusual women, and so begins an extraordinary rescue, and a life-affirming relationship, with many unpredictable, literally magical, and truly remarkable twists.

This enchanting book, written with breath-taking originality, is likely to spell-bind you – permanently. You’ll never again think of mermaids in the same way.

By Monique Roffey,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Mermaid of Black Conch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Escape to the ocean with the entrancing, unforgettable winner of the Costa Book of the Year - as read on BBC Radio 4.

'Mesmerising' MAGGIE O'FARRELL
'A unique talent' BERNARDINE EVARISTO
'Wonderful' BRIDGET COLLINS
'Brilliant' CLARE CHAMBERS

Near the island of Black Conch, a fisherman sings to himself while waiting for a catch. But David attracts a sea-dweller that he never expected - Aycayia, an innocent young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid.

When American tourists capture Aycayia, David rescues her and vows to win her trust. Slowly, painfully, she transforms into a woman again. Yet…


Book cover of Oliver and the Seawigs

Carole McDonnell Author Of The Constant Tower

From my list on unplanned or obsessively-planned journeys.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a wife, mother, writer—and the mother of a disabled non-verbal thirty-three-year-old man. I'm also Black and a Christian, both of which can be problematic to many readers. I write fantasy and mainstream stories, Christian and non-Christian. Some fantasy readers have certain fears, stereotypes, and expectations of fantasy books written by minorities. Others have those same fears, stereotypes, and expectations of books written by Christian writers. I'm very good at accommodating my readers. For the most part, my readers never feel as if they’re being preached at or lectured. Some aren’t even aware that I'm Black or a Christian, even though my concernsimperialism, injustice, spirituality, ethnicity, disability, and feminismare throughout my stories.

Carole's book list on unplanned or obsessively-planned journeys

Carole McDonnell Why did Carole love this book?

This book had me cracking up. I would recommend this book for kids aged seven to ten but I also think adults would love reading it. Oliver is the child of adventurers who now want to settle down. Well, the itch to adventure is still pretty powerful. So, of course, off they go again. Oliver has to find them so he too goes off to search for them. On his journey, he meets some other creatures, including a mermaid, an albatross, a depressed island, and some very obnoxious weeds. I’m being super non-spoilery and vague here because I want you to happen upon the silly puns and wordplay by yourself. I will also resist the urge to tell you what sea wigs are. 

What I like about this story is that Oliver is a normal kid. His sense of adventure came about second-hand, and he had no great urge to go…

By Philip Reeve, Sarah McIntyre (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Oliver and the Seawigs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

A lively, gorgeously illustrated story from Dynamic Duo, Reeve and McIntyre! Along with his new friends, a grumpy old albatross, a short-sighted mermaid, and a friendly island called Cliff, Oliver goes off in search of his missing parents. But before he can put his rescue plan into action there's the evil Stacey de Lacey and an army of greasy, green sea monkeys to contend with . . .


Book cover of The Repository of Lost Souls: Twelve Tales from the Heart

Die Booth Author Of Spirit Houses

From my list on to warm your heart and freeze your soul.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I was a little kid, I've loved scary stories. But more than the thrill of being afraid, I was drawn to the notion of befriending the ghosts, of making the frightening familiar, of finding meaning and comfort in the horrific. Maybe that's why I'm now a queer old goth, and maybe it's why my favourite themes to both read and write are those of identity, belonging as an outsider, and the 'monstrous' elevated to the beautiful.

Die's book list on to warm your heart and freeze your soul

Die Booth Why did Die love this book?

I read this tiny collection of stories after chatting to the author on social media, and it's what got me reading again after two years of barely reading a thing.

Nostalgic, atmospheric, and vivid, these stories are sometimes stomach-churningly brutal. Even though a lot of them deal with the supernatural, it's the most mundane of situations that are the most anxiety-inducing. They took me right back to my own Northern childhood, with all the mystery, boredom, wonder, and terror it entailed. A very emotional collection with as much heart as heartbreak, wrapped up in chiming prose.

By Jane Roberts-Morpeth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Welcome to The Repository of Lost Souls. A place for tales – and the people who walk within them – to step inside and rest their weary heads. Meet the vengeful mermaid, the weary ghost. The sibling vampire and the curious child. The family damaged by war. Join the final journey of the Bone Queen.Follow the hare.The Repository of Lost Souls is the debut short story collection of Jane Roberts-Morpeth. Twelve short stories of birth, life, death and beyond, that draw on personal experience and the North East of England, where she lives. Some have a ghostly or paranormal element…


Book cover of Julian Is a Mermaid

Beth Cox Author Of All Bodies Are Wonderful: An Inclusive Guide to talking about you!

From my list on embracing who you are.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an inclusion consultant working with publishers to help ensure all children are included in books. It’s easy to forget how important embracing all types of bodies is when thinking about diversity and inclusion. But inclusion is essentially about welcoming and appreciating all different types of bodies. The best way to promote this is to build a sense of awe about how bodies are created, understand the science behind why differences occur, and see that bodies come in many shapes and forms, and are all beautiful. There are so many books that can help with this, but alongside my book, the books on this list are a great place to start.

Beth's book list on embracing who you are

Beth Cox Why did Beth love this book?

This book is a joyful celebration of being a child and exploring your interests, without feeling bound by the constraints of expectations, gendered or otherwise. Books like these help our children to see that it’s okay to explore who they are, and model to adults how you can positively accept that exploration (rather than fear it). 

By Jessica Love,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Julian Is a Mermaid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

A glimpse of three women dressed as mermaids leaves one boy filled with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.

"Every choice Jessica Love makes imbues the story with charm, tenderness and humor" New York TImes Book Review

While riding the subway home with his Nana one day, Julian notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train carriage. When Julian gets home, daydreaming of the magic he's seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies and making his own fabulous…