The most recommended sea books

Who picked these books? Meet our 30 experts.

30 authors created a book list connected to seas, and here are their favorite sea books.
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What type of sea book?


Book cover of Middle Passage

Emily Mitchell Author Of The Last Summer of the World

From my list on reminding you how strange the past really was.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in history. I grew up in London, where there's a lot of it. But what made me want to write fiction about the past was experiences of imaginative affinity for certain other times and places. My first book is set during World War One. I've always felt connected to the change in sensibility that many people went through then, from an optimistic, moralistic, Victorian outlook, in which, to quote Paul Fussell from The Great War and Modern Memory, people “believed in Progress and Art and in no way doubted the benignity even of technology” to an understanding that human beings and our societies contained deeper, more persistent shadows. 

Emily's book list on reminding you how strange the past really was

Emily Mitchell Why did Emily love this book?

The question of how to portray a historical atrocity like slavery in a work of fiction is obviously monumental. Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, Colson Whitehead, and John Keene have approached this with consummate brilliance by writing the experience and subjectivity of enslaved and formerly-enslaved people. Johnson, however, focuses on the perpetrators: the men who engage in and profit from the capture and trafficking of other human beings. As in Mantel’s novel, the choice of the protagonist is key. Rutherford Calhoun is a ne’er-do-well free Black man from New Orleans who runs away on a ship to escape debts and engagement to a woman whose love he hasn’t done much to deserve. It turns out this ship is bound for Africa to collect a cargo of people, members of the Allmuseri tribe, an ethnicity Johnson invented for his fiction. But along with the people, they are also collecting something much more…

By Charles Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Celebrating Fifty Years of Picador Books

Winner of the National Book Award 1990

The Apocalypse would definitely put a crimp in my career plans.

Rutherford Calhoun, a puckish rogue and newly freed slave, spends his days loitering around the docks of New Orleans, dodging debt collectors, gangsters, and Isadora Bailey, a prim and frugal woman who seeks to marry him and curb his mischievous instincts. When the heat from these respective pursuers becomes too much to bear, he cons his way on to the next ship leaving the dock: the Republic. Upon boarding, to his horror he discovers that he…

Book cover of Dangerous Women

Julia Jarman Author Of The Widows' Wine Club

From my list on improbable friendships.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like the widows in The Widows’ Wine Club, I’m getting on. Unlike them, I’ve been a writer for forty years, often hunched over a keyboard, ignoring people. Amazingly, though, I managed to have a happy marriage and make some great friends. Phew! Because I’ve needed friends, especially since my husband died. Looking back, I’m interested to see that I didn’t instantly take to some of my closest buddies. Circumstances threw us together, and we got to know and like and love each other. I explore this in my book. 

Julia's book list on improbable friendships

Julia Jarman Why did Julia love this book?

This is another story bringing history to life, in this case, the famous Rajah Quilt, made by convict women in 1841 while being transported to Tasmania.

I’m not a patcher myself, but my mum was, and I know how patching brings disparate women together, though not as disparate as these "dangerous women" and their leader, the Quaker philanthropist Kezia Hayter.

Hope Adams takes a worthy story and turns it into a gripping whodunnit, beginning with a murder on page one. It is hard at times to keep track of all the characters, but well worth the effort because their unlikely friendships are fascinating and crucial to the solving of the mystery.  

By Hope Adams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The compelling, gorgeously atmospheric tale of female friendship, redemption and betrayal, inspired by the incredible true story of female convicts at sea

'Beautifully written, an epic sea voyage with an intriguing murder mystery . . . an unputdownable read' KATIE FFORDE

'I was thoroughly entranced by the story, and the great murder mystery kept me guessing throughout. A real joy to read' 5***** Reader Review

'A gorgeous and compelling story with vibrant characters . . . I was fascinated' RACHEL HORE

London, 1841.

The Rajah sails for Australia.

On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to…

Book cover of Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans

Maddalena Bearzi Author Of Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist

From my list on the ocean and its inhabitants.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Maddalena's book list on the ocean and its inhabitants

Maddalena Bearzi Why did Maddalena love this book?

“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.

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…

Book cover of Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter

T.A. Willberg Author Of Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose

From my list on historical mysteries with female protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

Books have always been an escape for me, historical mysteries in particular. Getting lost in another world, another time and someone else’s life is like therapy for me and something I will never tire of. Which is perhaps why I went on to write my own historical mystery trilogy. The Marion Lane series consists of The Midnight Murder, The Deadly Rose, and The Raven’s Revenge—all set in 1950’s London, in a mystical private detective agency concealed beneath the city streets. 

T.A.'s book list on historical mysteries with female protagonists

T.A. Willberg Why did T.A. love this book?

This historical mystery slash adventure novel is set in 1886 in Australia and follows the plucky, headstrong Eliza Brightwell as she attempts to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of her beloved father—a renowned pearler. I was so riveted by this heart-wrenching, atmospheric story and its unique setting. A great one for those who’d like to try something different in the historical mystery space.

By Lizzie Pook,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For readers of The Light Between Oceans and The Island of Sea Women, a feminist adventure story set against the backdrop of the dangerous pearl diving industry in 19th-century Western Australia, about a young English woman who sets off to uncover the truth about the disappearance of her eccentric father.

Western Australia, 1886. After months at sea, a slow boat makes its passage from London to the shores of Bannin Bay. From the deck, young Eliza Brightwell and her family eye their strange, new home. Here is an unforgiving land where fortune sits patiently at the bottom of the ocean,…

Book cover of The Boats of the 'Glen Carrig'

Tupenny Longfeather Author Of Bowels of Darkness

From my list on ominously atmospheric stories for a winter's night.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love forests. There's a particular atmosphere, a sense of being close to nature. Yet there's a mystery, you can never see too far ahead. What's around the corner? A truly atmospheric book has the quality of a forest, leading us on but never revealing too much at once. Perhaps beyond the next tree, or page, is something that may not be of our universe.

Tupenny's book list on ominously atmospheric stories for a winter's night

Tupenny Longfeather Why did Tupenny love this book?

Hodgson's sea-based stories, drawing on his experience as a sailor, have a plausibility that draws me in. The vast emptiness of the ocean is depicted vividly, creating a sense of isolation that adds to the terror of his work. Add to this some of the most bizarre creatures in literature and we have a bleak, enchanting atmosphere. I find the sense of brooding horror really puts me in the scene.

By William Hope Hodgson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Boats of the 'Glen Carrig' as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

Book cover of Wave

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick Author Of Owl Bat Bat Owl

From my list on silent or wordless books for kids.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a picture book creator, I am always seeking to use as few words as possible – for me, the best picture books are those where the images do most of the storytelling. Wordless books take things a step further and totally engage the child in interpreting the story - the child becomes the story's voice. Wordless books have a special place in my heart and I’m always on the lookout for new silent treasures as they emerge into the wonderful world of picture books. I want everyone to experience the special magic of ‘reading’ wordless books. 

Marie-Louise's book list on silent or wordless books for kids

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick Why did Marie-Louise love this book?

A gorgeous picture book that captures the joys and excitement of being a child at the sea, playing chicken with the incoming waves. The little girl and a gaggle of gulls get braver and braver, until… SPLASH!

Suzy Lee’s lines are so fluid and expressive, her use of a limited palette works brilliantly, and there’s a clever use of the gutter (middle of the book) to build tension. Dare you not to smile and feel joy.

By Suzy Lee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this evocative wordless book, internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee tells the story of a little girl's day at the beach. Stunning in their simplicity, Lee's illustrations, in just two shades of watercolour, create a vibrant story full of joy and laughter.New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book 2008

Book cover of The King's Coat

Brett Mumford Author Of The 7th Pre-Light

From my list on that draw you into a completely different world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first found fantasy literature about the same time as I got into tabletop gaming, for me this was AD&D. Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R. Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke, Fritz Lieber, and Roger Zelazny were just a few of the authors that showed me what was possible. Writing my first novel cemented my understanding that I wanted to create the kinds of worlds that readers would want to experience. The kinds of worlds that would let them get away from their lives, if only for a few hours, where they could live a life of adventure and discovery. Just like the novels I recommended here did for me. 

Brett's book list on that draw you into a completely different world

Brett Mumford Why did Brett love this book?

This is a novel of historical fiction set in the time of the French revolution. The series is named after the main character, Alan Lewrie. This novel introduces you to this rapscallion of a character, someone who is a spoiled, and indolent 16-year-old young man. Against his will he will find his place in the world and it will be in the very last place he would have imagined, commanding a ship of the Royal Navy. The novels follow his travels and adventures as he rises through the ranks, and it was incredibly fun to watch the young man evolve and grow into the man he becomes.

By Dewey Lambdin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

His exploits echo with the bustle of crowded ports and the crash of naval warfare...

It is 1780 and seventeen-year-old Alan Lewrie is a brash young libertine with a head full of dreams. When he is found in bed with the wrong woman, he is forced to leave his profligacy behind for a new life at sea.

Though sickness and hard labour await him aboard the tall-masted Ariadne, Lewrie finds himself gradually adapting to the world of a midshipman.

But as he heads for the war-torn Americas into a hail of cannonballs, will he ever catch wind of the plot…

Book cover of Saltwater in the Blood: Surfing, Natural Cycles and the Sea's Power to Heal

Tina LeCount Myers Author Of The Song of All

From my list on surfing (from a surfer).

Why am I passionate about this?

The moment I rode my first wave 25 years ago, I fell in love with the raw energy of that swell that traveled all the way across the ocean to share the last bit of its journey with me. My love of surfing became an all-consuming passion. I abandoned graduate school and reorganized my life to spend every possible minute in the water. Hours a day, I sit on my board, watching the horizon for the next wave, anticipating that sublime connection, when wind and water unite with my breath and blood. Out of the water, I seek a similar kind of transcendence in the stories I write. 

Tina's book list on surfing (from a surfer)

Tina LeCount Myers Why did Tina love this book?

To look at what is written about surfing, it would seem that it’s a “man’s world.” Surfing, like other pursuits and professions, is one where women are often characterized as either anecdotal or exceptional. The truth is so much richer and complex that, as a woman who surfs, I almost don’t want to share our secrets. But Easkey Britton shares some of hers from years of competitive surfing around the world and from the fierce and sustaining waters she calls home on the west coast of Ireland. Britton has surfed waves and conditions that few among us have the desire to tackle. But in discussing all these places and all these conditions, she speaks eloquently about what can be gained through immersion in the ocean that gave birth to our human form and continues to abide by our human trespasses. 

By Easkey Britton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is an incredibly inspiring exploration of the sea's role in the wellness of people and the planet, beautifully written by Easkey Britton - surfer, scientist and social activist. She offers a powerful female perspective on the sea and surfing, explaining what it's like to be a woman in a man's world and how she promoted the sport to women in Iran, surfing while wearing a hijab. She speaks of the undiscussed taboo around entering the water while menstruating - and of how she has come to celebrate her own bodily cycles. She has developed her own approach to surfing,…

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 Don't Date Rosa Santos

Sonora Reyes Author Of The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School

From my list on young adult about queer people of color.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Sonora Reyes, author of The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School. As a queer Mexican-American, I’ve only ever written (and probably only ever will) write stories about queer characters of color like myself. Growing up, I never had access to books that represented people like me, and it fills me with so much joy to see all the representation that exists today. I write for the queer kids of color who desperately need to see themselves in fiction. I write for my teenage self. For the kids who think they’re alone. For the kids who want to see joy in their own stories. And, most importantly, for myself, as I am today.

Sonora's book list on young adult about queer people of color

Sonora Reyes Why did Sonora love this book?

Don’t Date Rosa Santos is one of the only books I’ve ever been able to read more than once (I’ve read it three times!). It made me laugh and cry and hug the book to my chest. I still am not over this book, and may never be! It’s my all-time favorite comfort read. 

By Nina Moreno,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Don't Date Rosa Santos as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

For fans of Gilmore Girls and To All the Boys I've Loved Before, this effervescent love story from debut author Nina Moreno will sweep you away.

Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea—at least, that's what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you're a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call…