The best piracy books

24 authors have picked their favorite books about piracy and why they recommend each book.

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

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

Book cover of A General History of the Pirates

A General History of the Pirates

By Captain Charles Johnson,

Why this book?

If you want to know the “history” of ye olde pirates, this is the penultimate of pirate history books. A General History of the Pirates was first published in 1724 for a surprisingly eager audience of readers. Daniel Defoe was, (and is), known for his fiction, such as Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, so he was a popular author at the time. However, it could not have been predicted that readers were so interested in the details concerning the scourge of the high seas, our beloved “bloodthirsty” pirates. Yet, this book, despite it being a flamboyant and rather colorful…

From the list:

The best books on pirates, history, and legend

Book cover of Like Froth Floating on the Sea: The World of Pirates and Seafarers in Late Imperial South China

Like Froth Floating on the Sea: The World of Pirates and Seafarers in Late Imperial South China

By Robert J. Antony,

Why this book?

Formerly a professor of History at the University of Macau, Robert Antony has made it his life’s work to study piracy along the China coast. Among his several books on the topic, this one digs deepest into the development of piracy in the early 19th century, citing weather, economic, and political conditions, told in a highly readable narrative style. Among the entertaining details, he tracks the average annual going rates for ransom and stolen goods. He writes in an agreeable, relaxed manner, with a number of incidents told as edge-of-your-seat thrillers. The title itself was a common term of…

From the list:

The best books on Chinese pirates

Book cover of I Sailed with Chinese Pirates

I Sailed with Chinese Pirates

By Aleko E. Lilius,

Why this book?

Lilius, a Finnish-Russian journalist and adventurer, describes his first-hand account of sailing around the Pearl River Delta in the 1920s with the female pirate chieftain Lai Choi-san. It’s a swashbuckling page-turner, featuring cutthroats, cannons, and opium dens. It’s a wonder he survived unscathed. Yet even though he includes photos, there is reason to believe that he made up the whole thing, since there are no other records of Lai Choi-san. Worth reading anyway, for the details about ships, boat people culture, and coastal life in the late 1920s, were properly researched and all ring true. First published in 1930, it…

From the list:

The best books on Chinese pirates

Book cover of A Lady's Captivity Among Chinese Pirates: In the Chinese Seas

A Lady's Captivity Among Chinese Pirates: In the Chinese Seas

By Fanny Loviot, Alex Struik (illustrator), Amelia B. Edwards (translator)

Why this book?

In 1852 a young French woman set out on a round-the-world tour, stopping in Brazil and California before sailing to the young British colony of Hong Kong. Her return vessel to San Francisco was damaged in a typhoon, then hijacked by pirates. She chronicles in effervescent detail her treatment by the pirates, both callous and kind, offering a rare glimpse of Chinese pirate life. The original French edition was a big hit and soon translated into other languages. In the spirit of other 19th century travelogues, this book transports the reader in exquisite detail to many colorful and exotic far-off…
From the list:

The best books on Chinese pirates

Book cover of Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age

Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age

By Marcus Rediker,

Why this book?

One of the most stimulating and polemical books ever written on pirates, Villains shows their social energy. In his account of pirates in the early eighteenth century, Rediker reveals the importance of history from below, which is often marginalized by traditional historical writing to focus on the experiences of the higher social orders. In fact, a ‘rhetoric of demonization’ about ‘peoples’ history’ often runs through writings by the elite classes.

Villains addresses key questions about piracy: who pirates were and where they came from? Why did people become pirates and what were their beliefs? How were pirates organized? How did…

From the list:

The best books on pirates in the age of sail

Book cover of Women and English Piracy, 1540-1720: Partners and Victims of Crime

Women and English Piracy, 1540-1720: Partners and Victims of Crime

By John C. Appleby,

Why this book?

Studies of early modern piracy often either focus on one or two exceptional women – Elizabeth I, Gráinne Ní Mháille, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read – or neglect women altogether. This book challenges assumptions about early modern women’s contribution to and involvement with piracy, exploring how female lives intersected with it in numerous and nuanced ways. Female family members often acted as receivers and dealers of stolen goods: their involvement shows agency in relation to piracy, though female victimization was also common. In fact, partnerships with women were part of the wider patterns of support pirates received from seafaring communities;…

From the list:

The best books on pirates in the age of sail

Book cover of Henry & the Crazed Chicken Pirates

Henry & the Crazed Chicken Pirates

By Carolyn Crimi, John Manders (illustrator),

Why this book?

Who could resist a story about chicken pirates in a hot air balloon ship? This outrageous tale of adventure is sure to hold kids’ attention and make them laugh. Sensible, cautious Henry the bunny continues writing in his book despite the other pirates’ protests that writing is a pointless activity. In the end, he saves the day and changes their minds, thus delivering a message (in a fun way) about the importance of reading and writing.

From the list:

The best children’s books for "Talk Like a Pirate Day" or any day a salty yarn is needed

Book cover of Sea of Ruin

Sea of Ruin

By Pam Godwin,

Why this book?

This book took me on an incredible adventure on the high seas. This historical pirate romance has everything—action, suspense, love, betrayal, bloody battles, and scorching hot steamy scenes. Rich and deep world-building, the depth of characters and storylines, and the beautiful descriptions pulled me into this story and kept me there the same way a riptide drags you under. I was left speechless during some scenes and will never be able to forgot this book as long as I live. The battle of wills between Bennett and Lord Ashley Cutler left me breathless and the scenes with her lover, pirate…

From the list:

The best books to fulfill your pirate fantasies

Book cover of Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates

Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates

By Howard Pyle,

Why this book?

On a day trip to Cambridge UK I was in an old book store. I could not believe my good fortune when I spotted an old-worn book entitled Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates. I realised immediately that Pyle was the art teacher of N.C.Wyeth, the styles of the 2 are interchangeable. This book contains numerous Pirate stories, which Pyle wrote himself. Obviously the text is now very antiquated, but there are numerous illustrations illustrating Pirate battles and adventure. Pyle wrote and taught art in the late 19th Century. Any student of the Wyeth’s should check him out.

From the list:

The best books on art influences

Book cover of The Windflower

The Windflower

By Laura London,

Why this book?

Set during the War of 1812 this is a great pirate romance. It tells the story of innocent, sheltered Merry Wilding, an American living in Virginia with her maiden aunt. Merry has a talent for drawing faces from memory, a talent her brother, an American spy will use to his benefit, exposing her to pirates and worse. On her way to England with her aunt, she is kidnapped. Taken to a pirate ship, Merry meets the English pirate, Devon, who remembers her from a night long ago. 

The writing is superb, the characters courageous, heartwarming, and very special; the descriptions…

From the list:

The best pirate sea stories

Or, view all 92 books about piracy

New book lists related to piracy

All book lists related to piracy

Bookshelves related to piracy