The best books about the Pacific Ocean

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

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In the Heart of the Sea

By Nathaniel Philbrick,

Book cover of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

Like many with an interest in the Age of Sail, I already knew the story of the whaling ship Essex, partly through the novel it inspired—Moby-Dick, one of the foundation works of modern American literature. In the Heart of the Sea offers so much more. It has a fascinating insight into the economic importance of whaling, as well as the process of hunting such enormous animals in tiny rowing boats. I also learnt a great deal about Nantucket Island and the unique community that grew up there in the 19th century. The story of the Essex itself is very well told, steadily building up the tension even for a reader like me who knew the outcome. A great read that delivers knowledge in a highly-entertaining package.  

Who am I?

I have a passion for ships and the sea which I try and bring to my writing. I was first drawn to the Age of Sail by earlier novelists in the genre who opened my eyes to a fascinating world. I went on to study the 18th-century navy at university, I sail myself whenever I can, and have always loved the sea. When I decided to give up a well-paid job in industry to try my hand as an author, there was only one genre for me.

I wrote...

The Captain's Nephew

By Philip K. Allan,

Book cover of The Captain's Nephew

What is my book about?

1795 - In a world torn apart by revolution and war, Alexander Clay, a young naval officer, dreams of promotion. Self-made, clever, and talented, he is a man ready for this new age. But Clay will need all his wits to bring his ship and crew through a series of adventures stretching from the bleak coast of Flanders to the warm waters of the Caribbean. Ill-conceived expeditions ashore, hunts for privateers in treacherous fog and a desperate chase across the Atlantic are only some of the challenges he faces. How can he win the hand of the beautiful Lydia Browning and what dark secrets have the crew brought with them into the wooden world of his ship?

The Wild North Land

By William Francis Butler,

Book cover of The Wild North Land: Being the Story of a Winter Journey, with Dogs, Across Northern North America

A book that falls between Lummis and Steinbeck chronologically is William Francis Butler’s The Wild North Land: Being the Story of a Winter Journey, with Dogs, Across Northern North America, an account of his retracing of the route of the 18th-century Scottish explorer Alexander McKenzie who traversed much of Canada from Lake Chipewyan in Alberta to the Pacific Ocean. Butler had a dog team whose leader was Cerf-Vola, who distinguished himself for his sagacity and strength. Ultimately, Butler retired him from sled duty to dog companion. That relationship did not prevent Butler from giving the dog to an acquaintance when he returned to England, saying that it broke his heart when he had to lay aside his emotions for “the sterner stuff of civilization.”

Who am I?

Mark Derr is an independent scholar and author of three books on dogs, a biography of Davy Crockett, and a social and environmental history of Florida, as well as a co-author with photographer Cameron Davidson of Over Florida. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Scientific American, Audubon, Smithsonian, Natural History, The New York Times, and other publications. His poems have appeared in Kansas Quarterly, Partisan Review, and other journals. He has had a lifelong relationship with dogs.  Having known and mourned a number of outstanding dogs, he has told friends, "They are always with me in my thoughts, and I miss them very much." He and his wife currently share their domicile with a Jack Russell Terrier and a Miami Beach street cat.

I wrote...

Dog's Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship

By Mark Derr,

Book cover of Dog's Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship

What is my book about?

A comprehensive, humane, and bemused tour of the dog-human relationship, Dog's Best Friend combines anecdote, research, and reportage to illuminate our complex rapport with our cherished canine companions. Tracking our national obsession with an animal that now outnumbers children in American households, Mark Derr chronicles the evolution of "the culture of the dog" from the prehistoric domestication of tamed wolves to the modern horrors of overbreeding and inbreeding.

The Deep

By Nick Cutter,

Book cover of The Deep

As if a plague of memory loss that eventually makes you forget how to breathe isn’t scary enough, Cutter takes us deep under the ocean, to a lab where something has gone terribly wrong with our potential saviors. This is the most claustrophobic book I’ve ever read. You can feel the crushing weight of the water and the dark just outside the lab’s walls. There’s a wonderful sort of madness to the whole thing, and one scene, in particular, continues to haunt me.

Who am I?

I live in sight of an extremely busy highway. On the rare days when I wake up to an empty house, I go look at the cars to confirm that I’m not the last person on Earth. There’s always been this part of me that assumes an unprecedented disaster is coming. The best way to soothe that fear, is to read (and write) books about it. Understanding how people survive, or not, feels like a great way to prepare for the unknown. Plagues are particularly bad, especially those of the biblical sense. Water turning to blood, swarms of insects, prolonged darkness, all of these are lethal under the right circumstances.

I wrote...

Survival Instinct: A Zombie Novel

By Kristal Stittle,

Book cover of Survival Instinct: A Zombie Novel

What is my book about?

On the surface, the city of Leighton is just like any other city: tall buildings, busy streets, and populated by a wide variety of people. It also has rats. These vermin are unlike the average pest, because they are carrying a deadly contagion. Havoc ensues as the devastating virus seeps into the unsuspecting populace, turning friends and family against each other. Atrocities of savage behavior are spreading faster than people can outrun, and the citizens get recklessly desperate. Whether by joining forces, or by standing alone, survival is on everyone’s mind. Unfortunately, not everyone will escape with their life.

Survive the Savage Sea

By Dougal Robertson,

Book cover of Survive the Savage Sea

In January 1971, the Scotsman Dougal Robertson embarked with his wife and children on what was to be the dream of a lifetime: an extended sea voyage aboard their 43-foot wooden schooner, the Lucette. Eighteen months later, as she plied the Pacific some 200 miles west of the Galapagos, the Lucette was rammed by a pod of killer whales; the Robertsons had barely enough time to flee the ship before it sank. They spent the next 37 days adrift, first in the ship’s inflatable raft and later, after the raft gave out, in its tiny dinghy. They braved storms, sharks, and the perpetual lack of food and fresh water before they were rescued by a passing ship. First published in 1973, Robertson’s gripping, day-by-day account of their ingenious survival tactics is a classic of the castaway-narrative genre.

Who am I?

Considered one of the foremost explanatory writers and literary stylists in American journalism, Margalit Fox retired in June 2018 from a 24-year-career at the New York Times, where she was most recently a senior writer. As a member of the newspaper’s celebrated Obituary News Department, she wrote the front-page sendoffs of some of the leading public figures of our age. The author of three previous books, Conan Doyle for the Defense, The Riddle of the Labyrinth, and Talking Hands, she lives in Manhattan.

I wrote...

The Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Escape in History

By Margalit Fox,

Book cover of The Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Escape in History

What is my book about?

The astonishing true story of two WW1 prisoners who pulled off one of the most ingenious escapes of all time. Two British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, are imprisoned in a remote Turkish POW camp after having survived a two-month forced march and a terrifying shootout in the desert. To stave off despair and boredom, Jones takes a handmade Ouija board and fakes elaborate séances for his fellow prisoners. Word gets around camp, and one day an Ottoman official approaches Jones with a query: Could Jones contact the spirit world to find a vast treasure rumored to be buried nearby? Jones, a trained lawyer, and Hill, a brilliant magician, use the Ouija board—and their keen understanding of the psychology of deception—to build a trap for their captors that will ultimately lead them to freedom. 

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called The Confidence Men a "marvelous history," adding: "Readers will be mesmerized by this rich and rewarding tale." 

Helmet for My Pillow

By Ross Leckie,

Book cover of Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific

Leckie enlisted in the Marine Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor. His story is one of the best accounts of life on the ground in combat, from induction to his time on now famous islands, Guadalcanal, New Britain, and finally Peleliu. Leckie lets the reader in on the grinding, miserable combat of New Britain, the joyous affair of Peleliu, and the pet-names he has for the men around him. At the end of it all, Leckie finds himself in the hospital for the tenth time since he entered the Marine Corps, left wondering what it was all for.

Who am I?

I am Daniel Hammel and my father Eric Hammel was a prolific author and military historian. He specialized in the Marine Corps and specifically World War II. Though he has passed, several of these books, especially Day of Infamy, inspired him to become an author, where he wrote over 40 books. This list is an ode to my father, Eric, and to his many accomplishments.

I wrote...

Two Flags Over Iwo Jima: Solving the Mystery of the U.S. Marine Corps' Proudest Moment

By Eric Hammel,

Book cover of Two Flags Over Iwo Jima: Solving the Mystery of the U.S. Marine Corps' Proudest Moment

What is my book about?

The saga of the flags on Iwo Jima has fascinated America for decades. Hammel himself grew up in the company of WWII veterans and has always been intrigued by ‘The Photo’ of the flag, which became a powerful symbol of patriotism and national pride. But the story of how the flag got there, and even the identity of the soldiers in the photo, has been muddied by history. Eric Hammel here sets the record straight, viewing complex events through the lens of the story of the infantry company in which all the flag raisers served.

East of the Sun

By Benson Bobrick,

Book cover of East of the Sun: The Epic Conquest and Tragic History of Siberia

For readers venturing into the history of Siberia for the first time, East of the Sun is an excellent introduction to this Asian side of Russia, stretching 5,000 miles between the Ural Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The book's narrative covers four centuries, from the conquest of Siberia by Russians in the late 16th century through the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 20th century—including early expeditions into the uncharted lands east of the Urals and the Russians' push toward the Pacific Ocean; native people in Siberia; Russian expansion into North America, from Alaska to California; Siberia as a place of prison and exile, but also a land of opportunity for millions of voluntary settlers; the impact of the Trans-Siberian Railroad; and the effects of modernization under the Soviets in the 20th century. If you're an armchair traveler interested in history, or planning a trip to Siberia yourself,…

Who am I?

Sharon Hudgins is the award-winning author of five books on history, travel, and food; a journalist with more than 1,000 articles published worldwide; and a former professor with the University of Maryland's Global Campus. She has spent two years in Russia, teaching at universities in Siberia and the Russian Far East, and lecturing on tours for National Geographic, Smithsonian, Viking, and other expedition companies. Endowed with an insatiable wanderlust, she has lived in 10 countries on 3 continents, traveled through 55 countries across the globe, and logged more than 45,000 miles on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

I wrote...

T-Bone Whacks and Caviar Snacks: Cooking with Two Texans in Siberia and the Russian Far East

By Sharon Hudgins,

Book cover of T-Bone Whacks and Caviar Snacks: Cooking with Two Texans in Siberia and the Russian Far East

What is my book about?

Filled with fascinating food history, cultural insights, and personal stories, T-Bone Whacks and Caviar Snacks is first cookbook in America about the foods of the Asian side of Russia. It chronicles the culinary adventures of two intrepid Texans who lived, worked, and ate their way around Siberia and the Russian Far East—from modern cities to log-cabin villages, from grassy steppes to snow-capped mountains. Featuring 140 traditional and modern recipes, with 75 photos, this unique memoir-cookbook includes dozens of regional recipes from local cooks in Asian Russiafresh seafood dishes from Russia's Far East, venison-blueberry dumplings from Siberia, potato salad with crab and caviar, pine-nut meringues, traditional Russian holiday treats and Easter desserts, along with enticing appetizers from the dining car of a luxury Trans-Siberian train. You'll also find recipes for the European and Tex-Mex dishes the author cooked on the "Stoves from Hell' in her own Russian apartments there. 

"Sharon Hudgins' charming food memoir about living in Russia is both a fun read and an excellent cookbook….the moving story of life in a foreign land and a comprehensive collection of Russian recipes you will find nowhere else." — James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief, World Food, and judge on Top Chef Masters

In Search of York

By Robert B. Betts,

Book cover of In Search of York: The Slave Who Went to the Pacific with Lewis and Clark

While the early death of Meriwether Lewis is one of the tragic events related to the Expedition, no story is more poignant than that of York, William Clark’s slave, who was one of the twenty-eight men who made the complete journey from St. Louis to the Pacific coast and back. In many ways, this touching book tells the story of slavery itself, covering such topics as York’s fine service on the Expedition, his youth as a slave to the Clark family, his marriage, his falling out with Clark, his demotion from body servant to hired-out slave, his forced separation from his wife, his eventual freedom, and his understandable failure in the freight business—in a world where freed slaves were viewed with considerable suspicion. The sad heritage of slavery thus left its mark on the Expedition, just as it did the entire history of the United States.

Who am I?

I was browsing a bookstore around 1996 when I spotted a book about Lewis and Clark. I took a look, saw a list of the members of the expedition, and realized I hardly knew anything about those individuals. I wondered who they were and what happened to them during and after their trek across the country. I started reading books and articles and making trips to conventions or archives in places like St. Louis and Philadelphia. It has been a great twenty-five years, and my passion for Lewis and Clark has never ebbed. I hope you enjoy the books discussed here as much as I have.

I wrote...

The Fate of the Corps: What Became of the Lewis and Clark Explorers After the Expedition

By Larry E. Morris,

Book cover of The Fate of the Corps: What Became of the Lewis and Clark Explorers After the Expedition

What is my book about?

The Lewis and Clark Expedition ended in 1806, and the last surviving member died in 1870. In the intervening decades, expedition veterans witnessed the momentous events of the nation they helped form—from the War of 1812 to the California Gold Rush to the Civil War. Some of them went on to hold public office; two were charged with murder. Many could not resist the call of the wild and continued to adventure forth into the frontier.

Engagingly written and based on exhaustive research, The Fate of the Corps chronicles the lives of the fascinating men—and one woman and one child—who opened the American West.

The Mysterious Island

By Jules Verne,

Book cover of The Mysterious Island

Verne has written many books about survival, exploration, and technical innovation. In many aspects, he was far ahead of his time, a nineteen century Sci-Fi wonder boy. He was a masterful storyteller, providing an expert rhythm of action scenes followed by contemplative paragraphs. The Mysterious Island deals with a group of people that has landed in an impossible situation: they are castaways on a deserted island. In most books of this genre, the subjects will succumb or barely manage to survive, but not so for Verne’s engineer and his companions. Through the combination of scientific knowledge, the sheer power of man’s muscles, and unwavering optimism, they quickly turn nature to their benefit and remodel the island to their liking. A thrilling adventure story!

Who am I?

Clemens P. Suter is an author of adventure novels. His books deal with people that overcome impossible, life-changing situations. These are entertaining adventure books, with dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and Scifi elements.

I wrote...


By Clemens P. Suter,

Book cover of Rebound

What is my book about?

Together with his three dogs, Alan, the adventurer travels the lonely roads of Armageddon. A deadly pandemic has caused a societal collapse after billions have died. He is soon joined by Imani, a young woman, and a victim of gang violence. Together they set out to discover the truth about the cause of the catastrophe. During their travels from San Francisco to the European Alps, they soon discover a danger that could wipe out the final remnants of humanity. In a world ruled by anarchy, with the last humans fighting for control, Alan’s and Imani’s chances of success or even survival look bleak. Can they save humankind from ultimate disaster?

Cascadia Field Guide

By Elizabeth Bradfield (editor), CMarie Fuhrman (editor), Derek Sheffield (editor)

Book cover of Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry

Ever since I heard about how the editors are organizing this book around “kinship clusters” and Indigenous classification rather than Western taxonomies, I’ve been so looking forward to this book being published! If you have a connection to the Cascadia region and an interest in the environment, keep an eye out for this one.

Who am I?

I love field guides. I can vividly picture my first copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds, tattered and weather-beaten. I also love poetry and literature, so it seemed natural to me to bring the two together in my work. I’m from New England, but I've lived in the U.S. Southwest for over twenty years. Place is important to me: I think a lot about how we get to know and care for the places we live and call home and how we can work to be good neighbors. I worked for about a decade as a hiking guide and have also taught environmental education. I now teach geography at New Mexico State University. 

I wrote...

The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

By Eric Magrane (editor), Christopher Cokinos (editor), Paul Mirocha (illustrator)

Book cover of The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

What is my book about?

Both literary anthology and hands-on field guide, The Sonoran Desert is a groundbreaking book that melds art and science. It captures the stunning biodiversity of the world’s most verdant desert through words and images. More than fifty poets and writers—including Christopher Cokinos, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Ken Lamberton, Eric Magrane, Jane Miller, Gary Paul Nabhan, Alberto Ríos, Ofelia Zepeda, and many others—have composed responses to key species of this striking desert. Each creative contribution is joined by an illustration by award-winning artist Paul Mirocha and scientific information about the creature or plant authored by the book’s editors.

From the saguaro to the mountain lion, from the black-tailed jackrabbit to the mesquite, the species represented here have evoked compelling and creative responses from each contributor. 

Island Encounters

By Lamont Lindstrom, Geoffrey M. White,

Book cover of Island Encounters: Black and White Memories of the Pacific War

Anyone interested in the War in the Pacific will find this collection of 175 photographs showing the variety of interactions of Islanders and foreign servicemen interesting. It goes beyond official military photos (though there are plenty of those) to include photos from Japanese sources and veterans’ personal photographs. The text gives insight into the conditions of war and how Islanders and foreign fighters perceived and dealt with each other. A beautifully produced book.

Who are we?

We are three anthropologists who have focused decades of research on the cultures and histories of the beautiful part of the world known as Micronesia. We wrote this book when we realized that the many volumes of history on War in the Pacific focused on the combatants, and told us little of the experiences of the Islanders across whose lands, seas, and airspace the war was fought. Kwajalein, Enewetak, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Peleliu, Saipan, Guam, Tinian—these were not just battlegrounds, but also precious homelands. Our goal was to combine documentary history with interviews of more than 300 elders to tell the story of the war in Micronesia as it was experienced by Islanders who lived through it.

We wrote...

The Typhoon of War: Micronesian Experiences of the Pacific War

By Suzanne Falgout, Laurence Marshall Carucci, Lin Poyer

Book cover of The Typhoon of War: Micronesian Experiences of the Pacific War

What is our book about?

World War II was a watershed event for the people of the former Japanese colonies of Micronesia. The Japanese military build-up, the conflict itself, and the American occupation and control of the conquered islands brought rapid and dramatic changes to Micronesian life. Whether they spent the war in caves and bomb shelters, in sweet potato fields under armed Japanese guard, or in their own homes, Micronesians who survived those years recognize that their peoples underwent a major historical transformation. Like a typhoon, the war swept away a former life.

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