Favourite Books About the Sea

From personal memoirs, through travel, to sci-fi & thrillers… whatever your taste in books, there’ll be a sea-related book (or 10) to suit you.

Here are a few of my favourites – they all strengthen a good mood, and give a boost when a lift is needed.

globe & book, by http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lusi

By http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lusi

Personal Stories
Taking on the World – Ellen Macarthur’s autobiography: written soon after she won the round-the-world race that brought her to worldwide renown.

Neutral Buoyancy – Tim Ecott: a montage of diving history (more interesting than one would think), travel & personal memoir

Terra Incognita – Sara Wheeler: a mix of personal memories, Antarctic exploration, & travelogue.

Sea Room – Adam Nicholson: how would you react if you suddenly inherited a tiny, remote island off-off-off the coast of Scotland? Adam Nicholson shares what happened to him, and who he shared the island with – sea-life, legend & beyond.

Strands – Jean Sprackland: a year’s worth of beach-combing finds chronicled, plus meditations on the sea.


Water Light Time – David Doubilet: even if you don’t know the name you may well have seen some of his jaw-dropping images. He finds new ways to portray sea-life, islands & seascapes.

The Sea – Cube Book: different aspects of the sea, from coastal communities, through seascapes, to fisherfolk.


Blue Planet – Byatt, Fothergill & Holmes: companion to the BBC tv series, it’s a mix of coffee table book and accessible science book, looking at the deep oceans, the coast, the frozen oceans, and more.

Beside the Seaside – Jane Struthers: a compendium of all things sea-related, from a history of coastal tourism, through naval archives and snippets of info on sea-life.

Great British Marine Animals – Paul Naylor: for anyone who believes British seas have nothing interesting in them! And if you already know our seas are packed with cool stuff, you’ll enjoy this too.


Scuba diver, by http://www.sxc.hu/profile/hamletnc

By http://www.sxc.hu/profile/hamletnc

General Fiction
Sea Glass – Anita Shreeve: intertwines lives in New Hampshire of the 1920s, with the main contemporary character, collecting sea glass and musing on life

Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys: the pre-quel to Jane Eyre. Much of which takes place in the Caribbean.

The Life of Pi – Yann Martell: a strange tale of a shipwreck and existing in a lifeboat…  magical-realism rather than a survivors’ tale. Recently made into a film.

Master and Commander – Patrick O’Brian: the first of a series of books detailing life in the British navy in the era of Nelson. This has great characterisation and social history, as well as all the exciting sea-battle bits.

At Sea – Laurie Graham: comedic novel about a self-effacing wife who finds her way in life while on a sea-cruise.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne: an exciting early sci-fi story with evocative descriptions of the sea and sea-life, plus lessons for humanity that are as relevant today as the day they were written

The Hunt for Red October – Tom Clancy: pure adrenaline!

Ice Station Zebra – Alistair Maclean: suspenseful tale of espionage upon the high seas and the frozen Arctic sea. A classic.


Tall Ship, by http://www.sxc.hu/profile/BeverlyLR

By http://www.sxc.hu/profile/BeverlyLR

What sea-related books do you love?
Feel free to share your favourite sea pages in the Comments section.


  1. “1421 The Year China Discovered America” by Gavin Menzies. A fabulous read, a novel but factually accurate. Astonishing.

  2. So many, but I’ll pick my all-time favourite.

    The Sea Wolf by Jack London. A classic psychological adventure novel about a literary critic that survives an ocean collision, only to be rescued by a sealing vessel called The Ghost. On board, he comes under the dominance of Wolf Larsen, the powerful and tyrannical sea captain that rules his floating world with an iron fist.

  3. Great suggestion Stephen! Thank you. I heard it as a play on BBC radio, not read it, but thoroughly enjoyed it.

  4. Tina Kister

    Master and Commander
    Pirates of the Caribbean (not the sequels)

    The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldon (Not all of the series is set at sea, but some of it is, and it’s my all-time favorite series. It’s sort of a historical, fantasy, romance, with a strong female heroine and an epic story. And, best of all, it consists of several huge tomes, so you can read this great story for a long time!)

  5. Sounds brilliant! This kind of book is right up my husband’s street, so I’m forwarding the details to him now. Thank you so much for commenting.

  6. PS: Have you read the Master & Commander books? Gripping stuff!

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