The best books about the ocean

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

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Book cover of How to Date Your Brother's Best Friend

We’ve always had a soft spot for a broken bad boy and this book creates an amazing example of that in Dean. A former marine who grew up in a foster home, he’s completely unaware of the secret crush his best friend’s younger sister, Holly has harbored on him for years. When circumstances allow them to explore that crush, things go from secret to oh-so hot and we were so on board for it. We loved watching Dean finally start to feel like someone saw and understood him and even when tragedy strikes, Holly never gives up on him. The final scenes were freaking adorable…there’s nothing better than a bad boy who is all in with his girl!

How to Date Your Brother's Best Friend

By Julie Kriss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Date Your Brother's Best Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

I can’t date Dean Madden. He’s a bad boy and my older brother’s best friend. So what if I pretended he was my fake boyfriend in high school? That was a long time ago, and he never has to know. We’re both grown up now. It’s never going to happen.

Until one hot weekend when everything happens.

Now Dean has made a bet with me: four weeks of dating, and whoever gets dumped first loses. In order to win, I just have to date him. And the more dates we go on, the more I see the things Dean hides…


Who are we?

We have always loved to read about the bad boy with a secret soft side and when we started writing together, we decided to jump on this genre as well. Writing in dual POVs gives us an opportunity to explore how the bad boy is perceived by others as well as show exactly what the bad boy is thinking…and we love it! There's nothing better than a misunderstood alpha who hides his true feelings because he doesn’t feel worthy. And when he finds that amazing woman who just gets him…magic! We hope you enjoy our very own bad boy with a secret soft side in our book Complicate Me.


We wrote...

Complicate Me

By Claire Raye,

Book cover of Complicate Me

What is our book about?

Reid Bowen has been in love with his best friend’s sister, Sienna Parker, for as long as he can remember. Once friends, these two have drifted apart due to family circumstances and Reid’s incessant need to keep every guy away from Sienna. After all, if he can’t have her, then no one can.

After a family tragedy forces them back to their childhood home, Reid and Sienna embark on a reluctant cross-country road trip. While the first few days on the road are tense, over time, these two slowly find their way back to the friendship they enjoyed as teenagers, before eventually taking a chance on the feelings they’ve both been secretly harboring. As their love for each other is finally revealed, their arrival back home threatens to destroy everything.

Sea Change

By Sylvia Earle,

Book cover of Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans

“Her Deepness” Sylvia Earle is an authority on ocean explorations, so this is another must-read for all ocean lovers. Sea Change recounts Earle’s decades dedicated to the discovery of the sea. With contagious enthusiasm and vivid prose, this internationally renowned author and scientist narrates her many underwater adventures while urging readers to respect the oceans and their creatures.

Sea Change

By Sylvia Earle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1952, at age sixteen, Sylvia Earle - then a budding marine biologist - borrowed a friend's copper diving helmet, compressor, and pump and slipped below the waters of a Florida river. It was her first underwater dive. Since then, Earle has descended to more than 3,000 feet in a submersible and, despite beginning at a time when few women were taken seriously as marine scientists, has led or participated in expeditions totaling more than 7,000 hours underwater, and counting.

Equal parts memoir, adventure tale, and call to action, Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans has become a classic…


Who am I?

I'm a passionate scientist, conservationist, and published author. I'm the President of the nonprofit Ocean Conservation Society and I hold a Ph.D. in Biology and a Post-Doc from UCLA. My research on dolphins off California represents one of the longest studies worldwide. I'm the co-author of Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins and author of Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist. As a photo-journalist, I've written for many national and international media, including National Geographic; I currently write essays for Medium and other publications. I live in Los Angeles with my husband. When I’m not writing, I can be found with dolphins out on the ocean, traveling, or walking my mutt.


I wrote...

Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist

By Maddalena Bearzi,

Book cover of Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist

What is my book about?

“This is a delightful chronicle of a young ocean lover’s journey to turn her passion into a career in science, and that scientist’s coming-of-age as she observes an ocean changing around her and the creatures she has come to love and defend. I found it both relaxing and energizing, all at the same time.” Carl Safina, New York Times bestselling author

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.

Reef Life

By Callum Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How did one of the world's preeminent marine conservation scientists fall in love with coral reefs? We first meet Callum as a young student who had never been abroad, spending a summer helping to map the unknown reefs of Saudi Arabia. From that moment, when Callum first cleared his goggles, he never looked back. He went on to survey Sharm al-Sheikh, and from there he would dive into the deep in the name of research all over the world, from Australia's imperiled Great Barrier Reef to the hardier reefs of the Caribbean.

Reef Life is filled with astonishing stories of…


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.

Book cover of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

As a marine biologist that enjoys reading both, fiction and nonfiction, I own a copy of the classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, one of the best novels ever written about the ocean. Verne’s adventures of Captain Nemo and life inside his underwater ship, the Nautilus, can capture anyone’s imagination. 

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

By Jules Verne,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First serialized in a French magazine from 1869-1870, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is an incredible adventure story that popularized science fiction throughout the world.

Professor Aronnax, a marine biologist, joins harpoonist Ned Land in search of a mysterious sea creature in the open ocean, only to discover that the beast is actually a submarine piloted by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. They are taken captive, thus beginning a strange undersea voyage from Antarctic ice shelves to the subterranean city of Atlantis, hunting sharks along the way.

With its sprawling, exotic plot and vivid descriptions, Jules Verne's epic underwater adventure…


Who am I?

I'm a passionate scientist, conservationist, and published author. I'm the President of the nonprofit Ocean Conservation Society and I hold a Ph.D. in Biology and a Post-Doc from UCLA. My research on dolphins off California represents one of the longest studies worldwide. I'm the co-author of Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins and author of Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist. As a photo-journalist, I've written for many national and international media, including National Geographic; I currently write essays for Medium and other publications. I live in Los Angeles with my husband. When I’m not writing, I can be found with dolphins out on the ocean, traveling, or walking my mutt.


I wrote...

Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist

By Maddalena Bearzi,

Book cover of Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist

What is my book about?

“This is a delightful chronicle of a young ocean lover’s journey to turn her passion into a career in science, and that scientist’s coming-of-age as she observes an ocean changing around her and the creatures she has come to love and defend. I found it both relaxing and energizing, all at the same time.” Carl Safina, New York Times bestselling author

The Deep Range

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Book cover of The Deep Range

This sci-fi romp by an author more famous for space fiction takes an unusual dive into the ocean’s depths, where pole-to-pole zones of plankton cultivation and whale ranching provide food to feed the earth’s enlarged population. Using a typical trope of maritime fiction, Arthur C. Clarke introduces readers to this future world through a neophyte whale warden whose past as a spaceman colors his experiences and perceptions of his new ocean surroundings. Compared with outer space, Clarke’s ocean is fuller of resources, and also more mysterious, but emerges as a place that promises to foster peace and understanding.

The Deep Range

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A man discovers the planet’s destiny in the ocean’s depths in this near-future novel by one of the twentieth century’s greatest science fiction authors.
 
In the very near future, humanity has fully harnessed the sea’s immense potential, employing advanced sonar technology to control and harvest untold resources for human consumption. It is a world where gigantic whale herds are tended by submariners and vast plankton farms stave off the threat of hunger.
 
Former space engineer Walter Franklin has been assigned to a submarine patrol. Initially indifferent to his new station, if not bored by his daily routines, Walter soon becomes…


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated with the ocean starting when I was a kid growing up on the Great Lakes. While I sailed and swam in Lake Erie’s freshwater, I dreamed of and read about oceans. My career as a historian and writer has been dedicated to exploring the human relationship with the ocean, especially the underwater realm so often left out of maritime history and literature. My greatest joy is that other historians have joined my quest. The books I’ve selected include some I used as sources in writing ocean history and others by historians who are themselves plumbing the ocean’s depths. 


I wrote...

Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans

By Helen M. Rozwadowski,

Book cover of Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans

What is my book about?

Much of human experience can be distilled to saltwater: tears, sweat, and an enduring connection to the sea. Vast Expanses weaves a cultural, environmental, and geopolitical history of that relationship, a journey of tides and titanic forces reaching around the globe and across geological and evolutionary time.

Our deepening knowledge of the ocean has animated and strengthened connections between people and the world’s seas. To understand this history we must address questions of how, by whom, and why knowledge of the ocean was created and used—and how we create and use this knowledge today. Only then can we can forge a healthier relationship with our future sea.

Neptune's Laboratory

By Antony Adler,

Book cover of Neptune's Laboratory: Fantasy, Fear, and Science at Sea

The title Neptune’s Laboratory invokes knowledge of the oceans through science alongside the equally central role imagination has played in the human relationship with the sea. Antony Adler astutely observes how its mirror-like qualities encouraged scientists, politicians, and the public since the early 19th century to use the ocean to spin utopian fantasies and explore dystopian fears. Most importantly, he reminds readers that our propensity to fathom oceans to project the fate of the human species and our planet offers an important key: imagination could chart a course toward a better future.

Neptune's Laboratory

By Antony Adler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Neptune's Laboratory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An eyewitness to profound change affecting marine environments on the Newfoundland coast, Antony Adler argues that the history of our relationship with the ocean lies as much in what we imagine as in what we discover.

We have long been fascinated with the oceans, seeking "to pierce the profundity" of their depths. In studying the history of marine science, we also learn about ourselves. Neptune's Laboratory explores the ways in which scientists, politicians, and the public have invoked ocean environments in imagining the fate of humanity and of the planet-conjuring ideal-world fantasies alongside fears of our species' weakness and ultimate…


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated with the ocean starting when I was a kid growing up on the Great Lakes. While I sailed and swam in Lake Erie’s freshwater, I dreamed of and read about oceans. My career as a historian and writer has been dedicated to exploring the human relationship with the ocean, especially the underwater realm so often left out of maritime history and literature. My greatest joy is that other historians have joined my quest. The books I’ve selected include some I used as sources in writing ocean history and others by historians who are themselves plumbing the ocean’s depths. 


I wrote...

Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans

By Helen M. Rozwadowski,

Book cover of Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans

What is my book about?

Much of human experience can be distilled to saltwater: tears, sweat, and an enduring connection to the sea. Vast Expanses weaves a cultural, environmental, and geopolitical history of that relationship, a journey of tides and titanic forces reaching around the globe and across geological and evolutionary time.

Our deepening knowledge of the ocean has animated and strengthened connections between people and the world’s seas. To understand this history we must address questions of how, by whom, and why knowledge of the ocean was created and used—and how we create and use this knowledge today. Only then can we can forge a healthier relationship with our future sea.

Ocean Outbreak

By Drew Harvell,

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

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 minute and find ways to marvel at the mystery that is life on this planet. 

An outstanding teacher as well as researcher, Drew’s ability to captivate, then skillfully mentor students, comes through loud and clear. She captivates us too, making the subject of marine diseases (of organisms most of us…

Ocean Outbreak

By Drew Harvell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Sustainability Science Award 2020, Ecological Society of America
Winner of the PROSE Award (Biological Sciences category) 2020, Association of American Publishers

There is a growing crisis in our oceans: mysterious outbreaks of infectious disease are on the rise. Marine epidemics can cause mass die-offs of wildlife from the bottom to the top of food chains, impacting the health of ocean ecosystems as well as lives on land. Portending global environmental disaster, ocean outbreaks are fueled by warming seas, sewage dumping, unregulated aquaculture, and drifting plastic.

Ocean Outbreak follows renowned scientist Drew Harvell and her colleagues into the…


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 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. 

The Sea Around Us

By Rachel Carson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1951, The Sea Around Us is one of the most influential books ever written about the natural world. Rachel Carson's ability to combine scientific insight with poetic prose catapulted her book to the top of The New York Times best-seller list, where it remained for more than a year and a half. Ultimately it sold well over a million copies, was translated into 28 languages, inspired an Academy Award-winning documentary, and won
both the National Book Award and the John Burroughs Medal. The Sea Around Us remains as fresh today as when it first appeared over six…


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.

Ship Fever

By Andrea Barrett,

Book cover of Ship Fever: Stories

I’m the daughter of two scientists, and this book was deeply important to me when I first read it. It helped me understand my parents’ passion for and pursuit of botanical knowledge. Many of the characters in this collection (a novella and stories) are fictional botanists, but historical figures appear in several stories. For instance, “The English Pupil” features an elderly Carl Linnaeus and explores themes of botany and regret.

Ship Fever

By Andrea Barrett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The elegant short fictions gathered hereabout the love of science and the science of love are often set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century. Interweaving historical and fictional characters, they encompass both past and present as they negotiate the complex territory of ambition, failure, achievement, and shattered dreams. In "Ship Fever," the title novella, a young Canadian doctor finds himself at the center of one of history's most tragic epidemics. In "The English Pupil," Linnaeus, in old age, watches as the world he organized within his head slowly drifts beyond his reach. And in "The Littoral Zone," two marine…


Who am I?

Three of my five novels have largely tragic historical settings—the siege of Leningrad, the Great Flood of 1927, and Hurricane Katrina—and I’ve always been fascinated and awed by how people survive the things they do. The origin of “May you live in interesting times” is disputed, but undoubtedly it's more curse than blessing. I’m also just fascinated by the way writers bring real people and events to life in new ways. As the daughter of scientists, I’m often drawn to works of fiction that feature scientists, real or invented. 


I wrote...

Hunger

By Elise Blackwell,

Book cover of Hunger

What is my book about?

Scouring the world, a scientist has spent his life collecting rare seeds for his country’s premier botanical institute. Even at home with the wife he loves, he remembers the beautiful women and strange foods he has tasted from Afghanistan to Abyssinia. When German troops surround Leningrad in 1941, food supplies dwindle and residents eat bark, barter pianos for flour, and trade sex for food. In the darkest hours of the siege, the institute’s scientists make a pact to leave untouched the storehouse of seeds they believe is the country’s future. But such a promise becomes difficult to keep as the siege continues. Based on true events, Hunger is the story of a man wrestling with his own morality and learning what it means to survive.

Wave Rider

By Michelle Diener,

Book cover of Wave Rider

What drew me into this story was the leviathans, a local species on a watery moon. I'm a sucker for whales and these beasts reminded me of orcas. The heroine, a marine biologist, is in danger for reasons unknown. A ranger with a connection to the leviathans helps her to escape and that's just the start of a fascinating adventure in a very different environment. Once again, the romance evolves in a natural way and does not overshadow the rest of the plot.

Wave Rider

By Michelle Diener,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

About WAVE RIDER: Book 5 in the Verdant String Series


Isolated . . . Verdant String scientist, Anja Farucci, is frightened. Her calls for help from her remote coastal research station have been going unanswered and strange things are happening with the leviathan pod she's studying. She's only been on Fynian for four months, but she knows the three day trip to Fynian's only city, Rinc, is her best option for finding out what is going on.


Stranded . . . Cal is a wave rider, and if anyone understands leviathans, it's him, but when Kada, a young leviathan, grabs…


Who am I?

For me, writing space opera was obvious because it's what I like to read. There's so much scope for human and non-human societies out there, complete with the history of how they were created, and the inevitable cut-and-thrust of politics. If the book also has a love story– where do I pay my money? I do like the science in my science fiction to be convincing, though. My background as a computer programmer helps with that and I'm often grateful for my history degree when coming up with convincing empires and events. 


I wrote...

The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy

By Greta van der Rol,

Book cover of The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy

What is my book about?

Brilliant systems engineer Allysha Marten takes a job on the mysterious planet Tisyphor, where a security guard wins her trust and her affection. Together, they uncover a plot that threatens to plunge the Galaxy into inter-species war. As they scramble to prevent the coming holocaust, Allysha is horrified to learn that her new lover is ex-Admiral Chaka Saahren, the man responsible for the death of her father, along with millions of other innocent civilians.

In a race against time, Saahren must convince Allysha to set aside her conflicted emotions about him to help him prevent the coming conflagration. And perhaps while he’s doing that, he’ll win back the only woman he’s ever loved.

Or, view all 19 books about the ocean

New book lists related to the ocean

All book lists related to the ocean

Bookshelves related to the ocean