The most recommended oceanography books

Who picked these books? Meet our 17 experts.

17 authors created a book list connected to oceanography, and here are their favorite oceanography books.
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Book cover of Divers Down!

Russ Colson Author Of The Arasmith Certainty Principle

From my list on sci-fi with adventure, proper romance, or friendship.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a planetary scientist and college professor, I love the adventure of finding something new, the wonder of strange worlds, and the magic of mysterious discoveries that behave logically in a way that I can figure out. Unsurprisingly, that is what I like in my fiction too. I also love a story that explores the nature of the interaction between people, particularly in friendship or romance (all proper of course—I’m an old-fashioned guy). The books on this list are all touchstones in my own journey into science and life, and I hope that you can find in them the delight, wonder, insight, and motivation that I have found.

Russ' book list on sci-fi with adventure, proper romance, or friendship

Russ Colson Why did Russ love this book?

High school student Kip Morgan wins an internship at an oceanographic institute in Hawaii where he, with help of new friend Julie Scott, overcomes multiple personal and engineering challenges to solve an archaeological mystery and raise a sunken ship from the sea floor. This story from the 1970s was key in guiding me toward a life of science, and the portrayal of a realistic, mentored research experience gave me a vision for what I might do in my own journey through college and into science.

I loved the exotic location, scuba diving, and seafloor exploration, mystery, adventure, and romance!

By Hal Gordon, James Temple (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hawaiian Diver fiction - juvenile


Book cover of Lethal Tides: Mary Sears and the Marine Scientists Who Helped Win World War II

M. Girard Dorsey Author Of Holding Their Breath: How the Allies Confronted the Threat of Chemical Warfare in World War II

From my list on World War II that make you wonder.

Why am I passionate about this?

Imagine World War II—with frequent chemical warfare attacks on cities and battlefields. Before and during World War II, laypeople and leaders held the widespread conviction that poison gas would be used in the next big war more destructively than in World War I. Churchill considered using gas if Germany invaded Britain. Roosevelt promised retaliation if the Axis used gas. Canada tested gas in Alberta’s fields. Fear and preparation for gas attacks permeated multiple countries, from laypeople to the top, from civilians to the military, but few talk about it. This is a hidden story of World War II, but one worth knowing. Just the threat of gas influenced the conflict.

M.'s book list on World War II that make you wonder

M. Girard Dorsey Why did M. love this book?

What an eye-opening biography! Mary Sears never left the United States, but she was a key reason the World War II Pacific invasions were successful. This book does not take away from the sacrifices of the fighters or the hard strategic decisions and leadership of the commanders. It does show what science, combined with traditional fieldwork and creative library research, can do to design maps and provide information about tides, ocean depths, and coral reefs, thus enabling men, ships, and equipment to attack Japanese-held islands effectively.

This book is also an homage to teamwork by people, especially women and academics in the 1940s, who didn’t always receive a lot of respect from the military at the start of the war yet found themselves relied upon repeatedly for their top-secret work.  

By Catherine Musemeche,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lethal Tides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Magnificently researched, brilliantly written, Lethal Tides is immensely entertaining and reads like an action novel. Catherine Musemeche has brought to life the incredible work of the scientists and researchers who made such a remarkable contribution to America's war effort in the Pacific theater during WWII." -Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy, Ret.), #1 New York Times bestselling author of Make Your Bed and The Hero Code

Lethal Tides tells the story of the virtually unknown Mary Sears, "the first oceanographer of the Navy," whose groundbreaking oceanographic research led the U.S. to victory in the Pacific theater during World War II.…


Book cover of High Tide On Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis

Gary Griggs Author Of Coasts in Crisis: A Global Challenge

From my list on the crisis at the shoreline.

Why am I passionate about this?

Virtually my entire life has been spent within a few minutes or perhaps an hour from the shoreline and whether surfing, lifeguarding, beach combing, or traveling coasts around the planet, this narrow zone is one of constant change and energy that continues to inspire and intrigue me. My career as a professor has focused on coastal change and the challenges that shoreline processes pose to our coastally-focused civilization. Fifty-five years of teaching at the University of California Santa Cruz on the shoreline of Monterey Bay has led to 14 books and over 400 newspaper columns on Our Ocean Backyard focused on the coast and its changes, and there is always more to observe, study, and enjoy.

Gary's book list on the crisis at the shoreline

Gary Griggs Why did Gary love this book?

I like the way John Englander took a timely and relevant topic—rising sea levels—that could have been technical and dry and presented it in an engaging way with his writing and clear and simple graphics so that virtually anyone can pick this book up and understand why the oceans are rising and what this means for our collective future.

By John Englander,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked High Tide On Main Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 2012, High Tide on Main Street blazed a new trail in understanding the driving forces behind climate change and its most profound, unstoppable, and least-understood effect, Sea Level Rise (SLR).

In easy-to-understand language, oceanographer and explorer John Englander explains how SLR will become the most permanent effect of climate change. By focusing on sea level, he also provides excellent insights into greenhouse gas emissions - the forces that drive climate change.

One reviewer said: “the most understandable book on climate change I have read to date…”

While we are already feeling the effects of disastrous climate change…


Book cover of The Sea Trilogy

B.W. Powe Author Of Ladders Made of Water

From B.W.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer-Reader Author Poet (aspiring) Storyteller Teacher

B.W.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

B.W. Powe Why did B.W. love this book?

When I was fourteen, dismayed by high school (longing to drop out), I managed to get Mononucleosis, or the kissing disease, it’s sometimes called (for some reason). It gave me the chance to withdraw into my bedroom and read and make notes. Didn’t venture out of my small room too much.

Two books sparked a dream of writing for a lifetime. Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, and Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us. One, a novel about breathing the brisk air of an Alpine rest-sanitorium, experiencing life and ideas (I thought I was Hans Castorp); the other, a book-length essay—immersing my spirit in waves, watery mysteries, the fecund life of seas and currents, tides and sea-creatures. Looking back, I see one book about aspiring and learning: the other, about contemplating the mothering seas and their changeling depths.

This new edition of Carson’s trilogy unites her non-fiction studies of…

By Rachel Carson, Sandra Steingraber (editor),

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of The Sea Knows

Charlotte Gunnufson Author Of Dream Submarine

From my list on exploring the ocean for children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a children’s book author who is awed by the ocean and the creatures that dwell in its depths. I love writing for kids because they’re unabashedly eager, enthusiastic, and curious! To write this book, I dove deep into researching information about the ocean. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I kept thinking, kids will love these fascinating facts and they’ll want to learn more. The wonderful books on this list tell amazing tales, take kids on adventures, and turn dry facts into a deluge of fun. These nonfiction stories offer kids opportunities to become immersed in our awesome ocean!

Charlotte's book list on exploring the ocean for children

Charlotte Gunnufson Why did Charlotte love this book?

I was delighted to discover this short, sweet, sciency book about the ocean.

Written in rhyme and framed by the reassuring phrase “the sea knows,” this book is ideal for the youngest readers. Many of the concepts and creatures presented are opposites. For example, “the sea knows huge,” one blue whale, is paired with “the sea knows small,” a multitude of tiny krill.

The watery world comes to life in bright, colorful illustrations that are cleverly composed to help kiddos understand the concepts introduced in the text. The back of the book is filled with facts about the plants and animals featured in the story.

By Alice B. McGinty, Alan B. Havis, Stephanie Laberis (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sea Knows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Dive in and explore the wonders of the ocean and its inhabitants in this lyrical, fact-filled ode to the sea! This beautifully illustrated picture book features extensive nonfiction backmatter for further exploration.

We are young. The sea is old. The sea has secrets to unfold. The sea knows.

In this playful, rhyming celebration of the marine world, readers can explore all of the wondrous things the sea knows. It knows huge whales and small krill; it knows short crabs and tall giant kelp; it knows brightly colored starfish in shallow pools; and in the inky depths it knows the alluring…


Book cover of The Underworld: Journeys to the Depths of the Ocean

Mary M. Cerullo Author Of Volcano: Where Fire and Water Meet

From my list on the wonder of volcanoes above below ocean.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I turned 13, I decided to become an oceanographer. To prepare for my future career, I majored in geology and biology in college. I mapped ancient volcanic outcrops around Boston, explored a deep mine and dug for minerals on a geology tour of the southeastern United States, and sampled sand from a tropical beach on a tiny island in the Bahamas. I discovered that geologists have fun! A geology field trip to Kilauea in Hawaii inspired me to examine how volcanoes, on land and beneath the sea, impact our oceans. After that, a week in Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice, further cemented my love of rocks and volcanoes.  

Mary's book list on the wonder of volcanoes above below ocean

Mary M. Cerullo Why did Mary love this book?

As soon as I opened the pages of this book, I thought, “I want to be her!” …if only I were braver and not claustrophobic. At least I could accompany writer Susan Casey vicariously on her lifelong quest to go as deep in the ocean as humanly possible.   

When I graduated college, I volunteered on an oceanographic cruise to study the Gulf Stream. Even in my most adventure-seeking days, I am pretty certain that I would not have lobbied to dive to the deepest ocean trenches or to an erupting undersea volcano that will one day be the sixth island in the Hawaiian Islands chain. Tourists won’t be able to view Lo’ihi until it breaks the ocean surface in 10,000 to 100,000 years.

By Susan Casey,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Underworld as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From bestselling author Susan Casey, an awe-inspiring portrait of the mysterious world beneath the waves, and the men and women who seek to uncover its secrets

“An irresistible mix of splendid scholarship, heart-stopping adventure writing, and vivid, visceral prose." —Sy Montgomery, New York Times best-selling author of The Soul of an Octopus

For all of human history, the deep ocean has been a source of wonder and terror, an unknown realm that evoked a singular, compelling question: What’s down there? Unable to answer this for centuries, people believed the deep was a sinister realm of…


Book cover of Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean

Dawn Wynne Author Of Midnight Mission: An Eco Avengers Series

From my list on educate and inspire kids about the environment.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been an educator for over 20 years teaching elementary-aged children. The environment is a passion of mine. After reading the book Plastic Ocean and meeting the author Charles Moore, I realized that the issues facing our environment are going to be best solved by the upcoming generation of children. They understand how important it is to preserve our planet. Combining my love of writing with my education background, I started writing books to teach children about the environment and inspire them to make lasting changes. I love recommending books that have the same mission. Small actions equal great changes! 

Dawn's book list on educate and inspire kids about the environment

Dawn Wynne Why did Dawn love this book?

I love this book as a supplement for the classroom or household library. It is filled with lovely photographs and depicts what is happening to our oceans. There is a nice ratio of text to pictures so as not to be overwhelming. It includes maps, vocabulary words, and a glossary to bring in the educational component without feeling like a textbook. 

By Patricia Newman, Annie Crawley (photographer),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Books like this one help lead the way to a better climate future for all inhabitants of Mother Earth. We are all in this together!" ― Jeff Bridges, Academy Award winner and environmentalist

A little more than 70 percent of Planet Earth is ocean. So wouldn’t a better name for our global home be Planet Ocean?

You may be surprised at just how closely YOU are connected to the ocean. Regardless of where you live, every breath you take and every drop of water you drink links you to the ocean. And because of this connection, the ocean’s health affects…


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

Helen M. Rozwadowski Author Of Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans

From my list on human's relationships with the underwater world.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

Helen's book list on human's relationships with the underwater world

Helen M. Rozwadowski Why did Helen love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of The Brilliant Abyss: True Tales of Exploring the Deep Sea, Discovering Hidden Life and Selling the Seabed

Anne Louise Burdett Author Of Dirt Gems: Plant Oracle Deck and Guidebook

From my list on nerdy science books that break your heart and put it back together again.

Why am I passionate about this?

Working with the natural world has long been my life’s compass. I have been dedicated to conservation, education, and management of terrestrial and marine ecosystems for my entire career. I strongly believe we must approach the crisis that we now live in with humor, joy, and devotion, and we must be able to fall in love with this world over and over again, even if it breaks our hearts. This is why I write, and this is how I live. I love reading science books that allow this connection, that lead me into the complexities of why we must never stop feeling wonder at this magnificent world.

Anne's book list on nerdy science books that break your heart and put it back together again

Anne Louise Burdett Why did Anne love this book?

This book is absolutely fascinating. This author makes me wish that I could take her classes. She provides the sweet release of wonder, the gloriousness of the deep sea, the alien, and the mysterious and the magical.

She walks us through the world of the unknown, the struggle of the scientist to try to understand something we can never truly know. She also shatters us with the many ways that we must watch this world disappear, even when we never really knew it existed in the first place. We get a tiny glimpse as humans into the Wild West that is the deep, and yet our impact reaches far beyond our knowledge. We are destroying something so rich and vast it’s akin to outer space.

Break my heart, but keep putting it back together. 

By Helen Scales,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The deep sea is the last, vast wilderness on the planet. For centuries, myth-makers and storytellers have concocted imaginary monsters of the deep, and now scientists are looking there to find bizarre, unknown species, chemicals to make new medicines, and to gain a greater understanding of how this world of ours works. With an average depth of 12,000 feet and chasms that plunge much deeper, it forms a frontier for new discoveries. The Brilliant Abyss tells the story of our relationship with the deep sea - how we imagine, explore and exploit it. It captures the golden age of discovery…


Book cover of The Sea Around Us

Judith Weis Author Of Salt Marshes: A Natural and Unnatural History

From my list on the marine environment.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a marine biologist who studies salt marshes, fishes, crabs, and marine pollution. I fell in love with the ocean as a child and am interested in sharing my love and knowledge with other people. So, in addition to my scientific research, I write books for the general public. This was the first one, and I wanted a second author to help me write in a "user-friendly" way, different from technical writing. 

Judith's book list on the marine environment

Judith Weis Why did Judith love this book?

A book about the marine world that is written for the general public which is scientifically accurate. The author’s writing style is poetic and entrancing while being scientifically correct.

She explains the basics of waves and tides and other aspects of physical oceanography, as well as focusing most of her attention on the fascinating life that inhabits the oceans. Her discussions of life forms from the tiny plankton near the surface down to the bizarre creatures that live in the deep sea, are fascinating. 

By Rachel Carson,

Why should I read it?

4 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…