The oceans, the seas, and lakes and rivers along with ships, boats, rafts and submarines have provided authors with inspiration since Jason’s Argo and Noah’s Ark. Non-fiction books feature stories of almost unbelievable hardships, bravery and endurance. The names of these famous ships alone need little introduction – the Bounty, the Titanic and the Mary Celeste have fascinated generations of readers.
When considering fiction, there is so much to choose from. Moby Dick is often classified as one of the great studies of obsession and humanity, Treasure Island is THE classic adventure story but Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea is also a thrill a minute. And then there’s Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny and William Brinkley’s post-apocalyptic novel, The Last Ship, the unique voyage in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, Arthur Ransome’s children’s classic Swallows and Amazons, and Erskine Childers’ genre-defining spy novel, The Riddle of the Sands. Haul in any of these wonderful books or dive into our list of 20 collectable nautical books.
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The Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters
One of the first books published after the unsinkable ship sank – illustrations and survivor stories.
I Was Graf Spee's Prisoner
Captain Patrick Dove
A vivid 1940 account of a British prisoner on board the feared German WWII battlecruiser.
Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft
Heyerdahl’s account of his historic 1947 voyage across the Pacific in a tiny wooden raft.
Sir Ernest Shackleton
With the Endurance locked in ice, Shackleton journeyed 800 miles in a 22-foot boat to find help.
PT 109: John F. Kennedy in World War II
JFK’s heroics after his torpedo boat was hit by a Japanese destroyer helped launch his political career.
The Life of Vice-Admiral Bligh
Published in 1931, this book describes the Bounty mutiny and the rest of Bligh’s amazing career.
C-Six Ten Years as the Doctor of the QE2
A memoir from 1988 – check out the copies with two dustjackets (English and Japanese).
The Mary Celeste and Other Strange Tales of the Sea
The disappearance of the Mary Celeste’s crew in 1872 remains one of the greatest seafaring mysteries.
The Log of the Cutty Sark
Still on show in London, the Cutty Sark was the world’s last tea clipper. Contains 59 illustrations.
The Perfect Storm
Junger’s 1997 interpretation of what happened to the Andrea Gail trawler in the ‘storm of the century.’
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Published in 1952, the third Narnia novel sees Prince Caspian embark on a nautical quest.
The Cruel Sea
From 1951, this story of the North Atlantic convoys and their escorts became a classic.
The thriller from 1974 that culminates with the Great White pitted against the crew of the Orca.
Master and Commander
1969 saw the first Jack Aubrey novel. It became a mega-selling series.
Won the Whitbread Prize in 2000, this story features a voyage to Tasmania.
A psychological thriller featuring a memorable captain – first printing of 40,000 sold out immediately.
Captains Courageous: A Story of the Grand Banks
Published in 1897, the spoiled son of a tycoon learns some hard lessons on a fishing boat.
The Happy Return
Forester’s first Horatio Hornblower novel from 1937. First editions are scarce.
The African Queen
A classic from 1935 and yes we know the African Queen plied her trade on a river and not the sea.
Run Silent, Run Deep
Edward L. Beach
The best submarine novel ever written. Published in 1955 and penned by a WWII commander.