The most recommended books on shipwrecks

Who picked these books? Meet our 30 experts.

30 authors created a book list connected to shipwrecks, and here are their favorite shipwreck books.
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Book cover of Wrecker

Marc Renson Author Of How Will I Know

From my list on beach reads that I enjoyed this summer.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love being by the water. Most of my vacations are spent at tropical destinations. There’s something pretty amazing about reading a book at the water’s edge, near a palm tree, with the breeze and the salty smell of the wonderful warm air as pelicans swoop across the surface. 

Marc's book list on beach reads that I enjoyed this summer

Marc Renson Why did Marc love this book?

I love being in Key West with the main character. There are palm trees swaying and boats on the water as the character dives in, searching for treasure. I also liked the dark, seedy graveyard scenes and urban legends the island people tell.

A coming of age story with fun characters. 

By Carl Hiaasen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wrecker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Wrecker needs to deal with smugglers, grave robbers, and pooping iguanas—just as soon as he finishes Zoom school. Welcome to another wild adventure in Carl Hiaasen's Florida!

Valdez Jones VIII calls himself Wrecker because his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather salvaged shipwrecks for a living.

So is it destiny, irony, or just bad luck when Wrecker comes across a speedboat that has run hard aground on a sand flat? The men in the boat don't want Wrecker to call for help—in fact, they'll pay him to forget he ever saw them.

Wrecker would be happy to forget, but…


Book cover of In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680-1783

Sharika Crawford Author Of The Last Turtlemen of the Caribbean: Waterscapes of Labor, Conservation, and Boundary Making

From my list on the maritime Caribbean.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although my Midwestern roots in southwest Michigan situated me far away from the sea, I am now an expert on small islands and remote communities in the greater Caribbean. As a result, I grew to understand that much of the everyday lived experiences of island people must contend with the sea. As a result, I have spent the last two decades studying topics such as migration, fishing, and even conservation as related to small islands from the better-known Cayman Islands to the lesser-known San Andrés and Providencia Islands. I am a history professor at the US Naval Academy.

Sharika's book list on the maritime Caribbean

Sharika Crawford Why did Sharika love this book?

In the Eye of All Trade is a gigantic book. Do not let the book’s size scare you. It tells the history of Bermuda, and the greater Caribbean, from a maritime perspective. In six chapters, Jarvis traces how Bermuda transitioned from tobacco to maritime society. If you stick with it, you will uncover how Bermudian seafarers traveled as far as Belize to facilitate an inter-island trade in salt, mahogany, and even turtles. Bermudian success rested on adaptability to their isolated location.

By Michael J. Jarvis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Eye of All Trade as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In an exploration of the oceanic connections of the Atlantic world, Michael J. Jarvis recovers a mariner's view of early America as seen through the eyes of Bermuda's seafarers. The first social history of eighteenth-century Bermuda, this book profiles how one especially intensive maritime community capitalized on its position ""in the eye of all trade.""

Jarvis takes readers aboard small Bermudian sloops and follows white and enslaved sailors as they shuttled cargoes between ports, raked salt, harvested timber, salvaged shipwrecks, hunted whales, captured prizes, and smuggled contraband in an expansive maritime sphere spanning Great Britain's North American and Caribbean colonies.…


Book cover of The Lifeboat

Chris Turnbull Author Of The Planting of the Penny Hedge

From my list on fiction with an historical twist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Yorkshire writer with a passion for historical fiction. My love of history came as a surprise to me in my late teens, as I had originally thought history was not my thing. However, I soon discovered the incredible stories throughout history, and how many authors carve fictional stories around these time periods or historical events. I love researching for my own historical writing, whether it be to find out what kind of jobs people did, or what they ate for breakfast. I love reading and writing historical fiction in multiple eras, such as WW2, Victorian times, and further back to the Romans and ancient Egyptians. 

Chris' book list on fiction with an historical twist

Chris Turnbull Why did Chris love this book?

The Lifeboat is one of the first-period books I ever remember reading, and I was hooked by it from the first page. Told in the first person we follow Grace, as she retells the horrific incidents that have happened to her during the sinking of the Express Alexandra, becoming a widow, and spending three weeks trapped on a cramped lifeboat. I credit this book with being the first to inspire me in the world of historical fiction, both as a reader and writer.

By Charlotte Rogan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The sinking of an ocean liner leaves a newly married woman battling for survival in this powerful debut novel.

Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox…


Book cover of In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

Buddy Levy Author Of Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk

From my list on polar exploration, expeditions, and survival.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been passionate about Polar exploration since I was a boy. My father was a Nordic Olympic skier who introduced me to the exploits of Norwegian and Scandinavian explorers when I was very young. Later, I traveled to Greenland in 2003 and was blown away by the remoteness, the dramatic ice and mountains, and the incredible toughness of the people who have explored the regions and carved out life there.

Buddy's book list on polar exploration, expeditions, and survival

Buddy Levy Why did Buddy love this book?

I love EVERYTHING by Hampton Sides, and this book is no exception, ticking off all my required boxes.

A splendid historical thriller on the high Arctic seas, the nonfiction book reads like the best novels. It’s a heartbreaking page-turner, made especially poignant by weaving in the moving letters written by Captain De Long’s dutiful wife, Emma. 

By Hampton Sides,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked In the Kingdom of Ice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The age of exploration was drawing to a close, yet the mystery of the North Pole remained. Contemporaries described the pole as the 'unattainable object of our dreams', and the urge to fill in this last great blank space on the map grew irresistible.In 1879 the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds and amid a frenzy of publicity. The ship and its crew, captained by the heroic George De Long, were destined for the uncharted waters of the Arctic.

But it wasn't long before the Jeannette was trapped in crushing pack ice. Amid the rush of…


Book cover of Surviving Savannah

Laura Drake Author Of Amazing Gracie

From my list on women at the edge of change.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised in middle-class America by a strong woman and an alcoholic. I survived an abuser when I realized that I was the answer to my problems. I write about tough subjects but am an eternal optimist who believes a strong spirit will always ensure a happy ending.

Laura's book list on women at the edge of change

Laura Drake Why did Laura love this book?

A dual-timeline novel, about a family on the ‘Titanic of the South’, the Pulaski a paddlewheel steamer that sunk in 1838, and a historian today, who is creating a museum showing of the disaster.

She also has a huge decision to make—live in the past, in survivor’s guilt, or to grab an uncertain future she’s not sure she deserves.

By Patti Callahan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"An atmospheric, compelling story of survival, tragedy, the enduring power of myth and memory, and the moments that change one's life." 
--Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Four Winds
 
"[An] enthralling and emotional tale...A story about strength and fate."--Woman's World
 
“An epic novel that explores the metal of human spirit in crisis. It is an expertly told, fascinating story that runs fathoms deep on multiple levels.”—New York Journal of Books 

It was called "The Titanic of the South." The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah's elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten--until the…


Book cover of The Tempest

Nicola Rose O'Hara Author Of Girl With Two Fingers

From my list on taking you where you can’t go.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve chosen these books because they take me to times and places I can’t go (although I did serendipitously get to Kerala, and am hoping to go to the West Coast of America one day). Girl with Two Fingers takes you into the studio, hopefully as if you could have been there yourself. I want readers to be able to share something of the experience I was so lucky to have. And to be able to see perhaps more questioningly when they look at art.

Nicola's book list on taking you where you can’t go

Nicola Rose O'Hara Why did Nicola love this book?

I read this play first aged sixteen, and connected strongly with it, because of the young motherless shipwrecked heroine. 

I spent significant periods of time with my grandfathers when I was growing up, and I read Prospero more as a grandfather figure than a father one.

When Freud and I were in the studio for days and weeks and months together, I felt like Miranda on Prospero’s island. The same created world. The same isolation. 

With Lucian as the Prospero figure, summoning a few other characters that came and went to his studio.

No one can go to a fictional island of course, but yet Shakespeare takes us there.

By William Shakespeare,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Tempest 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?

Performed variously as escapist fantasy, celebratory fiction, and political allegory, The Tempest is one of the plays in which Shakespeare's genius as a poetic dramatist found its fullest expression. Significantly, it was placed first when published in the First Folio of 1623, and is now generally seen as the playwright's most penetrating statement about his art.

Stephen Orgel's wide-ranging introduction examines changing attitudes to The Tempest, and reassesses the evidence behind the various readings. He focuses on key characters and their roles and relationships, as well as on the dramatic, historical, and political context, finding the play to be both…


Book cover of Survive the Savage Sea

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

From my list on stories that read like police procedurals.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 DefenseThe Riddle of the Labyrinth, and Talking Hands, she lives in Manhattan.

Margalit's book list on stories that read like police procedurals

Margalit Fox Why did Margalit love this book?

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.

By Dougal Robertson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In June 1972, the 43-foor schooner Lucette was attacked by killer whales and sank in 60 seconds. What happened next is almost incredible. In an inflatable rubber raft, with a 9 foot fiberglass dinghy to tow it, Dougal Robertson and his family were miles from any shipping lanes. They had emergency rations for only three days and no maps, compass, or instruments of any kind. After their raft sank under them, they crammed themselves into their tiny dinghy.

For 37 days-using every technique of survival-they battled against 20-foot waves, marauding sharks, thirst, starvation, and exhaustion, adrift in the vast reaches…


Book cover of Titanic: True Stories of Her Passengers, Crew and Legacy

Carla Louise Robinson Author Of The Light In The Darkness Book One

From my list on the Titanic.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a bibliophile who loves dogs and prefers the country to the city. I’m the kid who yelled at my kindergarten teacher because she hadn’t taught me to read by the end of the year. That same tenacity followed me when, at seven years old, I learned that James Cameron was making a movie based on the Titanic. With righteous fury, I yelled at my befuddled parents, before asking why they had not told me about this ship. I pleaded with my parents to take me to see the movie for my upcoming eighth birthday, and they relented, with my mum buying my first fictional Titanic novel. That’s how my Titanic obsession began.

Carla's book list on the Titanic

Carla Louise Robinson Why did Carla love this book?

Nicola Pierce’s Titanic: True Stories of Her Passengers, Crew and Legacy details not only Titanic’s story, but her sister’s tragedies. It questions whether Bruce Ismay was really a villain and poses the idea that he might be a hero; it critically examines Captain Smith’s behaviour the night of the sinking. It follows the events of the Carpathia and Californian, lending insight into what happened on both ships that night, reminding us the Titanic didn’t just hit an iceberg: She was trapped in an iceberg field. It finishes on the Mackay-Bennett, the funeral ship sent to ferry back as many of Titanic’s dead as they could, reminding us that the tragedy didn’t end on the 15th of April, but would continue for months on end – and for many, years. 

Pierce’s novel was one of my biggest sources for my book. I’d heard of the Mackay-Bennett funeral…

By Nicola Pierce,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book commemorates the enduring legacy of the world's most famous ship - TITANIC.

Her story is one of all those bound together on that fateful voyage. On board were: writers, artists, honeymooners, sportsmen, priests, reverends, fashion designers, aristocrats, millionaires, children, crew and emigrants looking for a better life.

This book tells of their lives, and shines the spotlight on:

Some of the great ship's surprising treasures Her feted voyage from Belfast's
Harland & Wolff shipyard The fascinating museums devoted to her memory, including Titanic Belfast The iconic music and movies Her winged and four-legged passengers The sister ships of…


Book cover of Island

Dan Savery Raz Author Of The Qwerty Man

From my list on dystopian books that could actually happen.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer and drawn to books that look through a window into the "other world." These novels, often dubbed dystopian, are reflections or exaggerations of our own world, and this always appealed to me. Like the question, "What if?”. The premise of “What if we lived in a world where you had to pay for words?” inspired my first novel, The Qwerty Man. Although I love fiction, I’m more of a nonfiction reader these days and interested in Buddhism (as an education, not religion), geography, and history. I’ve also written travel guidebooks for Lonely Planet and a children’s travel poetry book called Rhyme Travels.

Dan's book list on dystopian books that could actually happen

Dan Savery Raz Why did Dan love this book?

I admit that Huxley’s final novel is a rather difficult one to read. It’s long, it goes on too long in some places, it’s kind of fiction and philosophy together, and it includes a book within a book. However, The Island is a work of genius.

There’s the utopian island of Pala (not dystopian), and all through the book, there’s the threat of the invading Rendang kingdom. It includes some Buddhist ideas with the birds on the island that say karuna (meaning compassion) and "attention" to remind islanders of the now, yet ultimately, in the end, the island is invaded, and the utopia becomes exposed as a fake.

By Aldous Huxley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For over a hundred years the Pacific island of Pala has been the scene of a unique experiment in civilisation. Its inhabitants live in a society where western science has been brought together with Eastern philosophy to create a paradise on earth. When cynical journalist, Will Farnaby, arrives to research potential oil reserves on Pala, he quickly falls in love with the way of life on the island. Soon the need to complete his mission becomes an intolerable burden and he must make a difficult choice.

In counterpoint to Brave New World and Ape and Essence, in Island Huxley gives…


Book cover of The Island of Doctor Moreau

Ben H. Winters Author Of The Bonus Room

From my list on malevolent beasts.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve written across genres, including mysteries like The Last Policeman and big works of alternate history like Underground Airlines. But Bedbugs—now republished as The Bonus Room—was one of my first books, and very dear to my heart. I’ve always loved books that pit a single, relatively helpless protagonist against some inexplicable force that he or she cannot begin to fathom. A force that can’t be reasoned with or bargained with. You just have to beat it. Perhaps that’s why I love these books about man vs. beast—the natural world is our friend, and animal are subservient to us…until suddenly, terrifyingly, they’re not.   

Ben's book list on malevolent beasts

Ben H. Winters Why did Ben love this book?

Wells is one of the great early masters of science fiction, creator of The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, but with Moreau he was also one of the masters of what David Cronenberg fans know as body horror—the gross, startling, and menacing intermingling of the human body with exterior elements.

In this case, pumas, pigs, you name it. With characters like Ape-Man and Sloth-Man, there is a definitely campiness here, but never enough to distract from the fact that it’s deeply, resonantly disturbing.  

By H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Island of Doctor Moreau as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Island of Doctor Moreau has inspired countless homages in literature, film and television.