The most recommended books about smuggling

Who picked these books? Meet our 13 experts.

13 authors created a book list connected to smuggling, and here are their favorite smuggling books.
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What type of smuggling book?


Signs Preceding the End of the World

By Yuri Herrera, Lisa Dillman (translator),

Book cover of Signs Preceding the End of the World

Steven Arntson Author Of The Wikkeling

From the list on short contemporary novels in translation.

Who am I?

My writing career has been in middle grade and YA, but as a reader I’m always trying to branch out. When I was a kid, literature opened the door to the whole world, and as an adult, I’m still exploring. When I read work in translation I can feel the literary connection to other writers and thinkers and simultaneously appreciate the differences that arise through geographic and cultural heritage. I hope my selections here might help readers like myself who enjoy reaching out to new voices and places.

Steven's book list on short contemporary novels in translation

Why did Steven love this book?

Translated from Spanish and 128 pages in length, Herrera’s short novel is a beautiful evocation of one woman's journey from Latin America to the US. Evoked with the brushstrokes of a fairy tale and suffused with a luminous surreality, the book has stuck with me. This is Herrera’s first novel to be published in English, and it has made quite a splash, giving me hope that more will soon follow.

By Yuri Herrera, Lisa Dillman (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Signs Preceding the End of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Signs Preceding the End of the World is one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there's no going back. Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world. Leaving behind her life in Mexico to…

The Black God's Drums

By P. Djèlí Clark,

Book cover of The Black God's Drums

Misty Massey Author Of Mad Kestrel

From the list on pirates who like a little magic in the mix.

Who am I?

I grew up on the coast of South Carolina, where many of the Golden Age pirates were welcomed as business associates and charming guests by some of the most influential people of the day. They are, to this day, considered local heroes. I read everything I could lay hands on about them, fiction and histories, and I knew my first book would have to be about the pirate I always pretended I could be, if I’d only been born two hundred years ago.

Misty's book list on pirates who like a little magic in the mix

Why did Misty love this book?

This one’s a little different – pirates sail the clouds instead of the ocean. In a world where Haiti won its freedom at a devastating cost, a young Black woman wants to earn a place on an airship, but can’t seem to find any way to prove her worth to the sky pirates she longs to join. Until she learns about a weapon called the Black God’s Drums, that someone plans to use to wipe New Orleans off the map. Add in the whispers of an orisha with its own agenda and a possible romantic attraction to the peg-legged Captain Ann-Marie, and you’ve got everything a pirate might want.

By P. Djèlí Clark,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air - in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie's trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God's Drums.

But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.

Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight…

Rise of the Red Hand

By Olivia Chadha,

Book cover of Rise of the Red Hand

Laura Rueckert Author Of A Dragonbird in the Fern

From the list on feminist young adult sci-fi and fantasy.

Who am I?

I grew up loving sci-fi and fantasy, but especially today, I recognize how a lot of older sci-fi is patriarchal or even misogynistic. When I started to write my own books, like A Dragonbird in the Fern, I vowed to create my fantastical settings as I’d like our world to be someday—with all genders considered equal. Whether it’s a queen wielding all of the power or a witch who can save the world, women and girls in my stories get things done, and no one bats an eye. 

Laura's book list on feminist young adult sci-fi and fantasy

Why did Laura love this book?

Oh wow, the world in this book was as amazing as it was scary and realistic. The country is ruined by climate change and ruled by a ruthless, technocratic government that sacrifices the poor to finance a utopia for the rich. So two poor, revolutionary girls from the streets work with a politician’s son (and secret hacker) to change that. I really enjoyed reading about these kick-ass heroines!

By Olivia Chadha,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rise of the Red Hand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A rare, searing portrayal of the future of climate change in South Asia. A streetrat turned revolutionary and the disillusioned hacker son of a politician try to take down a ruthlessly technocratic government that sacrifices its poorest citizens to build its utopia.

The South Asian Province is split in two. Uplanders lead luxurious lives inside a climate-controlled biodome, dependent on technology and gene therapy to keep them healthy and youthful forever. Outside, the poor and forgotten scrape by with discarded black-market robotics, a society of poverty-stricken cyborgs struggling to survive in slums threatened by rising sea levels, unbreathable air, and…


By John Meade Falkner,

Book cover of Moonfleet

Elliot Lord Author Of The Potter

From the list on engaging stories of historical adventures.

Who am I?

I have chosen this area of literature because I enjoy expanding my horizons. I love to find out about stories from different cultures and different times that will open my eyes to things I would never have thought about before. The depth of the writing is important to convey the emotions felt by the characters. This is what inspires me in my writing and my book that I have chosen to highlight here is also a story of historical fiction, influenced by my experience of living in Slovakia and finding out from residents about how incredibly different life had been in their country.

Elliot's book list on engaging stories of historical adventures

Why did Elliot love this book?

Moonfleet is a fictional tale of life on the high seas. Starting out as a boy, the main character takes on a life where he constantly grows and learns through his dangerous interactions with smugglers. The book is filled with stories of different adventures and challenges and it will keep you engrossed all the way through. This is one of the best books of its kind that I have read.

By John Meade Falkner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moonfleet 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.

The Sheriff of Yrnameer

By Michael Rubens,

Book cover of The Sheriff of Yrnameer

Tom Dell'aringa Author Of Blanchland Blues

From the list on sci-fi to get lost in that tickle your funny bone.

Who am I?

Comedy and science fiction have special places in my heart. I’m fascinated with the prospect of what AI and machine learning might bring us, and I believe to laugh and enjoy life is to be healthy and content. The best humor is revealed through character relationships. I grew up watching Doctor Who, a show that presented a serious story with lighthearted moments. Douglas Adams put that same formula in his books. For ten years I honed my writing skills producing graphic novels, where you had to tell a story and inject humor onto one page. Now novel writing is my means of bringing a little joy to the world.

Tom's book list on sci-fi to get lost in that tickle your funny bone

Why did Tom love this book?

I have so much love for this story and I can’t understand how it’s not a bestseller. This book helped me understand my own brand of humor could work in a novel. Michael Rubens has a unique razor wit like Douglas Adams, and what I cherish about this story is all the laugh-out-loud moments. When I read this book, I am smiling the whole time—it lifts my spirits! Cole, the main character, flees the galaxy’s most hideous and feared bounty hunter who wants to lay eggs in his brain. Things don't get any better when he smuggles a ship full of freeze-dried orphans. In the end, Cole has to make a tough choice, which always resonates with me. Do you want to be happy? Read this book!

By Michael Rubens,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the spirit of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, The Sheriff of Yrnameer is sci-fi comedy at its best—mordant, raucously funny, and a thrilling page-turner.
Meet Cole: hapless space rogue and part-time smuggler. His sidekick just stole his girlfriend. The galaxy’s most hideous and feared bounty hunter wants to lay eggs in his brain. And the luxury space yacht Cole just hijacked turns out to be filled with interstellar do-gooders, one especially loathsome stowaway, and a cargo of freeze-dried orphans. Cole gathers a misfit crew for a desperate journey to the far reaches of the galaxy: the mysterious world of…

The Medici Conspiracy

By Peter Watson, Cecilia Todeschini,

Book cover of The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities-- From Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museums

Roger Atwood Author Of Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World

From the list on the looting of the Ancient World.

Who am I?

I’m a journalist, critic, and poet who has spent a career engaging with the world. I love telling stories, and I strive to put beauty and tension into everything I write. I’ve had great editors – they’ve published my work in The Guardian, National Geographic, ARTnews, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, and Archaeology, where I am a contributing editor, and many other places – but it always comes down to me and my computer. And often a plane ticket and a suitcase. 

Roger's book list on the looting of the Ancient World

Why did Roger love this book?

No book exposes the tricks of the trade that smugglers and dealers use to launder looted artifacts like this one. Focusing on a wave of looting in southern Italy in the 1980s and ‘90s, the authors show how European and American millionaire collectors fueled the ransacking of ancient sites. It’s a substantive, entertaining read about crime and the contradictions of modern Italy by two brilliant writers.   

By Peter Watson, Cecilia Todeschini,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The story begins, as stories do in all good thrillers, with a botched robbery and a police chase. Eight Apuleian vases of the fourth century B.C. are discovered in the swimming pool of a German-based art smuggler. More valuable than the recovery of the vases, however, is the discovery of the smuggler's card index detailing his deals and dealers. It reveals the existence of a web of tombaroli ,tomb raiders, who steal classical artifacts, and a network of dealers and smugglers who spirit them out of Italy and into the hands of wealthy collectors and museums. Peter Watson, a former…

Black Water

By Barbara Henderson,

Book cover of Black Water

Victoria Williamson Author Of Hag Storm

From the list on Scottish historical fiction for middle graders.

Who am I?

I grew up in the heart of Scotland addicted to visiting museums and exploring local stories and legends. Now as an adult I’m either to be found with my nose in a history book or out on an archaeological dig. I love to weave the lives of Scottish heroes such as Roberts Burns into books filled with fantasy and adventure for children, and to write spine-chilling tales for adults where supernatural creatures from Scottish myths lurk between the pages. I recently co-created a series of educational writing videos for school children to help them explore the history of their local area, and hopefully inspire the historical authors of the future!

Victoria's book list on Scottish historical fiction for middle graders

Why did Victoria love this book?

Black Water is a thrilling tale of adventure by master storyteller Barbara Henderson. Thirteen-year-old Henry’s adventures trying to foil the smugglers, while facing the dangers of pistols, quicksand, and of course, the treacherous sea which could sweep him away at any moment, keep readers turning the pages to find out more!

This is a wonderful introduction to smuggling, the work of Excise men on the Scottish coast, to the job that Robert Burns did for a time, and even to some of his poetry. With an atmospheric setting and wonderful authentic narrative, this tale based on real historical events is a must-read for primary school children and a great choice for a class novel.

By Barbara Henderson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sink or swim to survive Solway's black water...

Down by the coast, black water swirls and hides its secrets.

Dumfries, 1792. Henry may only be twelve, but he has already begun his training in the Excise, combating smuggling like his father does. But when a large smuggling schooner is stranded nearby, the stakes are high - even with reinforcements, and the newly recruited officer, a poet called Robert Burns.

Musket fire, obstructive locals, quicksand and cannonballs-it is a mission of survival.

As it turns out: Henry has a crucial part to play.

A Scottish smuggling novella based on real events.


By Andy Weir,

Book cover of Artemis

Sarena Straus Author Of ReInception

From the list on science fiction with kick ass female characters.

Who am I?

I've always loved science fiction, but first developed my love for storytelling as a prosecutor in the Bronx where I would weave the tale of a crime into a coherent story for a jury’s consideration. After several years of prosecuting sex crimes and crimes against children, and publishing a book about that experience, I had enough of the real world and returned to my first love for novel writing. Science fiction is a male-dominated field and most sci-fi heroes are male. My greatest influences are male characters and authors, but I always wished for more diversity in the genre. I’m excited to share this passion and hope it will inspire authors and readers!  

Sarena's book list on science fiction with kick ass female characters

Why did Sarena love this book?

Jazz Bashara, Andy Weir’s bad-ass female MC in Artemis, is one of my favorite female sci-fi protagonists of all time. Jazz is a “moon-girl” who makes her living on the Moon’s first city by using her job as a porter to smuggle contraband onto rocket deliveries via a childhood pal on Earth. An apostate Muslim, Jazz is wicked smart, funny as hell, and has a morale code that defies logic yet, somehow, makes complete sense. Weir brings his signature sense of humor to this character without dumbing her down or sexing her up. He takes us on a great adventure as she blows things up, especially her relationships, and then tries to repair the damage without getting deported from the Moon or, worse yet, disappointing her father. 

By Andy Weir,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The bestselling author of The Martian returns with an irresistible new near-future thriller—a heist story set on the moon.

Jasmine Bashara never signed up to be a hero. She just wanted to get rich.
Not crazy, eccentric-billionaire rich, like many of the visitors to her hometown of Artemis, humanity’s first and only lunar colony. Just rich enough to move out of her coffin-sized apartment and eat something better than flavored algae. Rich enough to pay off a debt she’s owed for a long time.
So when a chance at a huge score finally comes her way, Jazz can’t say no.…

Creolization and Contraband

By Linda M. Rupert,

Book cover of Creolization and Contraband: Curaçao in the Early Modern Atlantic World

Carla Gardina Pestana Author Of English Conquest of Jamaica: Oliver Cromwell's Bid for Empire

From the list on the early modern global Caribbean.

Who am I?

I am a historian of the early English Atlantic who began studying New England but soon turned to the Atlantic more generally and the Caribbean in particular. All the aspects of 17th century Atlantic history that most intrigue me played out in the Caribbean. A fascinating and complicated place, the West Indies—although claimed by the Spanish as their exclusive purview—became diverse, witness to a variety of interactions. I’m particularly interested in works that allow us to see these changes in the period when the region was a global meeting place undergoing vast shifts. Much excellent scholarship explores the later era of sugar and slaves, of major imperial wars, of movements for independence and emancipation. What interests me most is the period before that, when the region was being transformed into a crucible of global transformation.

Carla's book list on the early modern global Caribbean

Why did Carla love this book?

The Dutch were a force to be reckoned with in the early modern Caribbean, trading with everyone and insinuating themselves everywhere. Rupert’s book shows how the small desert island of Curaçao became a trading entrepôt and in particular how Dutch suppliers, enslaved Africans, and Spanish consumers became entangled. One amazing aspect of this history that Rupert uncovered is the fact that the Protestant Dutch on Curaçao allowed the slaves there to be catechized by Spanish priests from the mainland (today’s Venezuela), working across not only imperial boundaries but also those of religion.

By Linda M. Rupert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Curacao came under Dutch control in 1634, the small island off South America's northern coast was isolated and sleepy. The introduction of increased trade (both legal and illegal) led to a dramatic transformation, and Curacao emerged as a major hub within Caribbean and wider Atlantic networks. It would also become the commercial and administrative seat of the Dutch West India Company in the Americas.

The island's main city, Willemstad, had a non-Dutch majority composed largely of free blacks, urban slaves, and Sephardic Jews, who communicated across ethnic divisions in a new creole language called Papiamentu. For Linda M. Rupert,…

The Bedlam Stacks

By Natasha Pulley,

Book cover of The Bedlam Stacks

Katherine Carté Author Of Religion and the American Revolution: An Imperial History

From the list on historical fiction about the nineteenth century.

Who am I?

I’m a historian of early American history and a professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. I came to my love of history through reading fiction as a child, and I’m still an avid reader of good stories of all kinds. Asking new questions about history requires imagination, and writers of good historical fiction provide brilliant ways to engage the past. They offer something real and human that transcends the need to footnote or fact check, so I turn off my historical accuracy meter when I read books like these. My list encapsulates some of my favorite novels for when I want to be a time traveler from my couch. 

Katherine's book list on historical fiction about the nineteenth century

Why did Katherine love this book?

Readers probably know Pulley best through her amazing best seller, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. That’s how I first encountered her work too, but she became my favorite writer with Bedlam Stacks.

It is the story of Merrick Tremayne, an experienced wilderness traveler whom British colonial authorities hope can help discover new troves of quinine, a material essential for the British colonization of India. Set in the mid-nineteenth century, the story follows Tremayne as he reluctantly journeys into Peru’s distant and remote forests. 

Once there, he enters a magical world that retains just enough realism to make the truths of European colonization vividly clear. Violence and self-interest create unexpected and far-reaching consequences. Peoples at the fringes of empire guard their borders at the peril of those who intrude.

At the same time, Pulley’s deft imagination counterbalances harsh historical realities with magical threads. She brings Tremayne into a place of humanity…

By Natasha Pulley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Bedlam Stacks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE'S ENCORE AWARD 2018 LONGLISTED FOR THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE 2018 'A sheer fantastical delight' The Times 'Epic' New York Times 'An immense treat' Observer Books of the Year 'A fast-paced adventure story' i 'Magical' Sunday Express In uncharted Peru, the holy town of Bedlam stands at the edge of a mysterious forest. Deep within are cinchona trees, whose bark yields the only known treatment for malaria. In 1859, across the Pacific, India is ravaged by the disease. In desperation, the India Office dispatches the injured expeditionary Merrick Tremayne to Bedlam, under orders to…

The Talisman Ring

By Georgette Heyer,

Book cover of The Talisman Ring

Susan Rowland Author Of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

From Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Part-time celt Modern alchemist Myth hunter Jungian

Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Susan love this book?

When Covid came for Christmas 2022, there was no better comfort and joy than Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances. The Talisman Ring kept me going when confined to bed because of the humor that never dates.

With two love stories, a murder mystery, and a treasure hunt, the reader has as much fun as the characters. Even the villain twirls his mustache charmingly.

Ingenue and romantic novel reader Eustace is determined to find a suitor to ride ventre a terre to her deathbed and so runs away from staid Sir Tristram. Eustace encounters a smuggler who is heir to the talisman ring and is wrongfully accused of murder. Fortunately, the adventurous pair are sheltered by redoubtable Sarah Thane, who fully sympathizes with Eustacie’s plans to die for love.

By Georgette Heyer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A story in the manner of Jane Austen, of domestic comedy and love affairs.” —Times Literary Supplement

An impetuous young lady and a fugitive nobleman…

When spirited Eustacie stumbles into a band of smugglers, she is delighted to be having an adventure at last. Their leader, young heir Ludovic Lavenham, is in hiding, falsely accused of murder. Pursued by the law, Eustacie and Ludovic find refuge at an unassuming country inn.

And the delightfully sensible couple who try to keep them out of trouble

The resourceful Miss Sarah Thane and the clear-thinking Sir Tristram Shield gamely endeavor to prevent Ludovic’s…

Dog Soldiers

By Robert Stone,

Book cover of Dog Soldiers

R.H. Emmers Author Of The Secret History

From R.H.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Investigator Shooter Guerilla Dog soldier

R.H.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did R.H. love this book?

Thugs. Hippies. Crazed drug agents. Random bits of philosophy: “In the end, if the serious man is still bound to illusion, he selects the worthiest illusion and takes a stand.” What more could you ask for?

Why do I love this book and re-read it at least once a year? Because it encapsulates a time when – the mid-70s, when the ideals of the Summer of Love were dead, and Nixon and paranoia reigned – I was trying to find my footing: continue to protest the War or enlist in the Marines?

I try to capture ambivalence and paranoia in my writing. And I try to infuse at least some of my characters with that notion of selecting the worthiest illusion and taking a stand.

By Robert Stone,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dog Soldiers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Saigon during the last stages of the Vietnam War, a small-time journalist named John Converse thinks he'll find action - and profit - by getting involved in a big-time drug deal. But back in the States, things go horribly wrong. His courier disappears, probably with his wife, and a corrupt Fed wants Converse to find him the drugs, or else.

Dog Soldiers is a frightening, powerful, intense novel that perfectly captures the underground mood of the United States in the 1970s, when amateur drug dealers and hippies encountered the violent world of cops on the make and professional killers.…