The most recommended books about the ocean

Who picked these books? Meet our 27 experts.

27 authors created a book list connected to the ocean, and here are their favorite ocean books.
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Book cover of Hotel Megalodon: A Deep Sea Thriller

Chris McInally Author Of Relict

From my list on creature feature books that aren't Jaws.

Who am I?

For as long as I can remember, I have shared an affinity with monsters. Or at least, what we humans define as monsters. I suppose you could say I have a bit of a Frankenstein complex (if there is such a thing). I see myself in them sometimes. A little sad perhaps, but true, nonetheless. So, who better to compile a "top-5" creature feature list for you to enjoy?

Chris' book list on creature feature books that aren't Jaws

Chris McInally Why did Chris love this book?

Man makes monster; monster kills people; man destroys monster, that’s how these stories usually go, right? Well, not for Chesler in my experience. At least with Hotel Megalodon, that is. I say this because of the story’s unique resolution. As always, I won’t ruin it for you.

What I will say, is that this book manages to steer clear of the archetypal motif. Instead, it gave me something new and refreshing to enjoy. This is why I think it’s a standout in the creature feature subgenre. Enjoy!

By Rick Chesler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An underwater luxury hotel on a gorgeous tropical island is set for an extravagant opening weekend with the world watching. The only thing standing in the way of a first-rate experience for the jet-setting VIPs is an unscrupulous businessman and sixty feet of prehistoric shark. As the underwater complex is besieged by a marauding behemoth, newly minted marine biologist Coco Keahi must face off against the ancient predator as it rises from the deep with a vengeance. Meanwhile, a human monster has decided he would be better off if Coco were one of the creature’s victims.


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

Peter F. Sale Author Of Coral Reefs: Majestic Realms Under the Sea

From my list on on being a coral reef scientist.

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.

Peter's book list on on being a coral reef scientist

Peter F. Sale Why did Peter love 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 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…

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…


Book cover of Last Song of the Whales

Judith Simon Prager Author Of What the Dolphin Said: On the Future of Humankind

From my list on consciousness, dolphins, and wise humans.

Who am I?

Years of teaching Verbal First Aid™, hypnotic language for healing, only whet my curiosity for Non-Verbal First Aid. I love mysticism and magic, and I love science and evidence. When the two work together to illuminate profound understandings, I am such a fan. Just imagine this if you can: Dolphins’ visual and aural nerves connect so that when they send out sound beams of echolocation, it comes back as an ultra-sound-looking picture, which they can send to other dolphins! Magic and science are used by them for healing, as well. How could one NOT investigate further and be passionate about this subject?

Judith's book list on consciousness, dolphins, and wise humans

Judith Simon Prager Why did Judith love this book?

It is a fiction based on facts about whales and about what Four Arrows believes they are trying to tell us regarding the pollution of the Oceans that threatens us all. A whale captures a marine biologist and his encounter, feeling almost biblical but very current, reveals their important message to humanity. In this very dramatic story, you’ll also find an ecological treatise, and a call to action so needed at this time.

By Four Arrows,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last Song of the Whales as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A humpback whale mysteriously takes a mixed-blood American Indian professor to sea. While struggling to survive, the man begins to reclaim his indigenous roots, and in the process discovers thousands of whales on a suicide mission in the North Pacific. When he theorizes the dire effects the whale's action could have for all of life on earth, he and a sympathetic woman marine biologist, influenced by a Hawaiian shaman's dream, against all odds, try to warn the world in time.


Book cover of Olympic & Titanic: Ocean Liners of the Past

John G. Sayers Author Of Secrets of the Great Ocean Liners

From my list on ocean liners and cruises.

Who am I?

I am a passionate, long-time collector of Ocean Liner material. I am recognized as a Member of the Board of The Ephemera Society of America, the Board of The Friends of Fort George, the Council of the British Ephemera Society and other historical and collector organizations. I was thrilled to be Recipient of the 2017 Award of Merit by The Ephemera Society of America, I was engaged by The Bodleian Library at Oxford University to author a book which captured some of the highlights of my extensive 60-year collection of Ocean Liner material which has been donated to the University. This book, sold globally, is the result of that work. 

John's book list on ocean liners and cruises

John G. Sayers Why did John love this book?

This book is a refreshing approach because it covers the period prior to Titanic’s disastrous Maiden Voyage, in material reprinted from an early edition of The Shipbuilder. Do not read another Titanic disaster book until you have read this insight and appreciated the foldout deck plans and longitudinal cutaways to see the actual cabin and deck arrangements. They really help to explain many aspects of the disaster story.

The contents lean heavily on engineering matters, but you don’t have to be an engineer to fully appreciate the design work that went into these more-or-less identical sister ships, and it’s worth noting that much of the Titanic controversy swirled around alleged design flaws.

Published in 1970, this is a reprint of the original 1912 book which is well beyond the average book buyer’s budget. A caveat—even this one isn’t cheap, and you will have to search online.

By Shipbuilder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Olympic & Titanic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Hungry as the Sea

Doug Oudin Author Of Five Weeks to Jamaica

From my list on ocean adventures and life at sea.

Who am I?

I'm a man of the sea. From my early days as a boy growing up on the coast of southern California, I became a fisherman at age 5, when my dad took me fishing at the pier in Redondo Beach. In my teens, I bought my first boat that I used in and around King Harbor for fishing. After owning other small boats, I moved to Catalina Island where I worked for 32 years as Harbormaster, earning my 100-ton Masters License and broadening my ocean experiences. Eventually I wanted to share my stories and experiences through writing. My first book, Between Two Harbors, Reflections of a Catalina Island Harbormaster, tells my Catalina story.

Doug's book list on ocean adventures and life at sea

Doug Oudin Why did Doug love this book?

Stepping away from his ‘normal’ genre of historical fiction, Wilbur Smith has created an ocean adventure novel that anyone with seafaring urges or experience would love to read. As a longtime seaman, with my own vast experience on the ocean, this book will take you to places and adventures far beyond any that most seamen have ever experienced. Based on the unique life of a marine engineer/adventurer, Hungry as the Sea takes the reader on an epic adventure into the treacherous realm of the Antarctic, aboard an ocean-going tugboat intent on trying to save a floundering cruise ship. I could feel nature’s elements and life’s dangers on every page.

As a 100-ton licensed United States Coast Guard Captain, I have seen and experienced many frightening and challenging moments at sea. This book, Hungry as the Sea, shares and captures the essence of what makes the oceans so frightful, and…

By Wilbur Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An action-packed, race-against-time thriller from global bestselling author, Wilbur Smith.

'A master storyteller' - Sunday Times

'Wilbur Smith is one of those benchmarks against whom others are compared' - The Times

'No one does adventure quite like Smith' - Daily Mirror

His toughest challenge. His final hope.

Once the envied and admired chairman of one of the world's most successful shipping consortiums, Nick Berg now finds himself completely alone. His long-time nemesis, Duncan Alexander, has schemed to take his job, alienated him from his wife and son, and stolen his fortune.

Nick's only hope now is the Warlock, a top-of-the-range…


Book cover of A Life Underwater

Peter F. Sale Author Of Coral Reefs: Majestic Realms Under the Sea

From my list on on being a coral reef scientist.

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.

Peter's book list on on being a coral reef scientist

Peter F. Sale Why did Peter love 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 reefs around the world over the course of his career. 

His love of the natural world, his curiosity and willingness to take risks, and his dogged determination in solving scientific puzzles stand out. So too do his humor, his down-to-earth Australian-ness, and his loving respect for corals, for reefs, and…

By Charlie Veron,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hailed by David Attenborough, proclaimed a second Charles Darwin, John 'Charlie' Veron almost didn't become a scientist. Disheartened at school, by chance he won a scholarship to a university where he could indulge his passion for the natural world. It was scuba diving that returned him to his childhood love of marine life, and led to a career as a self-taught coral specialist, a field he revolutionised. His discoveries include an original concept of what a species is, and the mechanism that dives their evolution - matters that lie at the heart of conservation. He has named more coral species…


Book cover of The Sea Around Us

Thomas Blake Earle Author Of The Liberty to Take Fish: Atlantic Fisheries and Federal Power in Nineteenth-Century America

From my list on why the history of the ocean matters.

Who am I?

I think about the ocean a lot. Teaching in Galveston, Texas, at a university less than a mile from the ocean means it's on my mind most of the time. And it's not just the fish! I’m fascinated by all things ocean and have spent my career trying to understand the place of the watery world in the history of the United States. From fishing in the North Atlantic, to the history of the U.S. Navy, and even surfing on the Gulf Coast my writing, not to mention reading, usually points to the coast and beyond.

Thomas' book list on why the history of the ocean matters

Thomas Blake Earle Why did Thomas love this book?

Although more than half a century old, Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us still reads as fresh and evocative as it did when first published.

Carson, the environmentalist writer more famous for Silent Spring, was perhaps the finest science communicator of the twentieth century. The Sea Around Us endures today through the forceful and convincing case it makes for the importance of the intimate relationship between human societies and the sea.

What is so striking about Caron’s work is her ability to offer such a highly textured account that shifts seamlessly from describing the awe-inspiring vastness of the sea to its most minute details, from its brutality to its beauty.    

By Rachel Carson,

Why should I read it?

3 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…


Book cover of To The Edge Of The World

Chris Vick Author Of Girl. Boy. Sea.

From my list on the power of the ocean.

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.

Chris' book list on the power of the ocean

Chris Vick Why did Chris love this book?

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.

By Julia Green,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To The Edge Of The World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A beautifully written tale of courage, friendship, and survival.
Imagine a tiny island far out in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Scotland. On some days, you can hardly see where the sea ends and the land begins, everything merged in a blue-grey mist of sea spray and wind-blown sand. There is nothing between here and America. I say nothing, but what I mean, of course, is nothing but ocean. And about sixty-five kilometres out to sea, one last remote outcrop of islands and sea stacks, with the highest sea cliffs anywhere in the UK-St Kilda. Distant,
desolate,…


Book cover of Leviathan: Or, The Whale

Jim Lynch Author Of The Highest Tide

From my list on cool facts about whales.

Who am I?

I began as a journalist and turned into a novelist who uses extensive research to build my imagined stories. So, I tend to end up writing novels about whatever is fascinating enough to send me down research rabbit holes. I’m finishing a novel now about the wonders and mysteries of whales and the researchers who commit their lives to try to understand them. During the last three years, I have interviewed whale researchers, gone on expeditions with them, and have read countless scientific papers and quite a few books on whales. These books I’m recommending here were some of my favorites.

Jim's book list on cool facts about whales

Jim Lynch Why did Jim love this book?

Leviathan is an incredibly well written book about Hoare’s own fascination with whales and Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s intense whale-driven masterpiece. Hoare captures whales in words as well as anybody. “The whale is a miracle of marine engineering,” he writes, and then explains both their biological wonders as well as their psychological impact on us. “There is a supernatural physicality to them… They look like we feel as we float in our dreams.”

By Philip Hoare,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The story of a man's obsession with whales, which takes him on a personal, historical and biographical journey - from his childhood to his fascination with Moby-Dick and his excursions whale-watching.

All his life, Philip Hoare has been obsessed by whales, from the gigantic skeletons in London's Natural History Museum to adult encounters with the wild animals themselves. Whales have a mythical quality - they seem to elide with dark fantasies of sea-serpents and antediluvian monsters that swim in our collective unconscious.

In 'Leviathan', Philip Hoare seeks to locate and identify this obsession. What impelled Melville to write 'Moby-Dick'? After…


Book cover of A Natural Passion

Mark Love Author Of Devious

From my list on contemporary cozy mysteries.

Who am I?

I’m a contemporary mystery junkie. Realistic tales always grab my attention. A touch of romance never hurts. In college, one professor suggested the old ‘write what you know’ approach. I don’t know everything, but I know what I like. Mysteries! I thrive on distinctive characters, those who are willing to put every effort into getting to the bottom of the situation. Sharp, tight dialogue and descriptions are essential. Give me that, and I’ll be back for more. This is my passion. Come along if you want a thrill and a surprise or two. 

Mark's book list on contemporary cozy mysteries

Mark Love Why did Mark love this book?

This book has all the ingredients for an engaging story. I loved the way Mannersly sets the stage, with Dylan, the slightly older supervisor, who’s obviously smitten with the lovely Kyra and the boss’s spoiled son, Max, who seems to have caught her eye as well. 

Using the marine science center in Australia as the setting works perfectly. Identifying and stopping poachers from stealing turtle eggs from their nests puts a nice twist on the usual crime-related stories. Mannersly does a wonderful job of creating realistic and believable characters. Great dialogue and descriptive passages tie this story together.

By Tammy Mannersly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Natural Passion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dylan O’Day has been an exemplary marine biologist for years, constantly devoted to the protection and preservation of the natural world. Yet lately, he has a new passion, one that’s distracting his once focused thoughts. Though a decade older than her and her trusted mentor, Dylan hasn’t been able to stop thinking about the new intern. He’s never met a person quite like Kyra before, someone so genuine and caring, and who understands his love of environmental conservation. It’s just too bad his age and situation put him in an ethical dilemma. Should he risk it all for a chance…