8/06/2010

Books About the Sea


What could be more appropriate to read at the seashore than books about the sea?  Here are some suggestions:
  1. Adventure at sea- fiction.  Of course the grandaddy of all ocean adventures is The Odyssey (Homer), though Moby Dick (Herman Melville) comes in a close second.  Other epic sea adventures include Sea Wolf (Jack London), Captains Courageous (Rudyard Kipling), To the Ends of the Earth (William Golding), The Bounty Trilogy (Charles Nordhoff/James Norman Hall), The Caine Mutiny (Herman Wouk), Lord Jim (Joseph Conrad), and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (Edgar Allan Poe).  In the mood for something more contemporary?  Try American Sea Writings: A Literary Anthology (Peter Neill, ed.) ... or you can't go wrong with anything by Clive Cussler, whose dashing hero, Dirk Pitt, is the Indiana Jones of Underwater archaeology.
  2. Adventure at sea- fact.  In this case, fact is often more riveting than fiction.  The following all tell tales of real-life ocean voyages, complete with storms, cannibals, despotic captains, pirates, and more: Kon-Tiki (Thor Heyerdahl), Two Years Before the Mast (Richard Henry Dana), The Journals of Captain Cook (James Cook), Percival Keene (Frederick Marryat), Sailing Alone Around the World (Joshua Slocum), Before the Wind: The Memoir of an American Sea Captain, 1808-1833 (Charles Tyng), Over the Edge of the World (Laurence Burgreen), and The Saga of the Cimba (Richard Maury). 
  3. Stories about people marooned on islands.  You might want to read these in case a big storm comes along, sucks you out to sea, and eventually deposits you on a deserted island.  Improbable, perhaps, but if this should happen to you, wouldn't you be glad you just finished reading Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe), Swiss Family Robinson (Johann Davis Wyss), The Coral Island (R.M Ballantyne), The Mysterious Island (Jules Verne), The Tempest (Shakespeare), The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) or Lord of the Flies (William Golding)? 
  4. Naval warfare - fiction.  No one writes naval fiction like Patrick O'Brian in his Aubrey-Maturin series, though C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series comes in a close second. Other fan favorites include Alexander Kent's Richard Bolitho series, Julian Stockwin's Thomas Kydd series, Dewey Lambdin's Alan Lewrie series, C. Northcote Parkinson's Richard Delancey series, James Nelson's Revolution at Sea series, Richard Woodman's Nathaniel Drinkwater series, Edwin Thomas's Martin Jerrold series, Peter Smalley's HMS Expedient series, and Dudley Pope's Lord Ramage series.  Or try Under Enemy Colors (Thomas Russell) - a great read without the necessity of investing in a series.
  5. Naval warfare - fact.  These books are the next best thing to shipping out with Nelson or John Paul Jones!  Try The Cruel Sea (Nicholas Monsarrat), The Safe Guard of the Sea or The Command of the Ocean (N. A. M. Rodger), The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783 (Alfred Thayer Mahan), or Delilah: A Novel about a U.S. Navy Destroyer and the Epic Struggles of Her Crew (Marcus Goodrich).
  6. Books about submarines.  Guess it's only fair to include books about adventures under the sea, especially since life in a submarine is inherently chilling, even before you throw in sea monsters, depth charges and nuclear reactor accidents.  I respectfully recommend: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne), Run Silent, Run Deep (Edward L. Beach), Das Boot (Lothar-G√ľnther Buchheim), or Hunt for Red October (Tom Clancy).
  7. Stories about doomed ocean voyages.  There's no better time to read about doomed ocean voyages than when you're safely ashore!  Try one of these tales of ferocity, heroism, and despair:  The Perfect Storm (Sebastian Junger), A Night to Remember (Walter Lord), In Hazard (Richard Hughes), Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea (Gary Kinder), In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (Nathaniel Philbrick), Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Alfred Lansing), Fastnet, Force 10:The Deadliest Storm in the History of Modern Sailing (John Rousmaniere), or The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway). 
  8. Stories about Being Adrift.  Speaking of chilling, imagine being adrift on the ocean for days, weeks, months.  Or don't imagine it - read about it in one of these tales of survival (some fiction, some fact) on the open sea: Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea (Stephen Callahan), Life of Pi (Yann Martel), The Open Boat (Stephen Crane), or Mutiny on the Bounty (William Bligh).
  9. Stories about pirates - fiction.  Your first choice has to be Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson).  Beyond that, you are sure to enjoy The Red Rover (James Fennimore Cooper), Captain Singleton, Colonel Jacques, The Pirate Gow or King of the Pirates (Daniel Defoe), Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk or The Black Swan (Rafael Sabatini), Adam Penfeather Buccaneer, Black Bartlemy's Treasure, Martin Conisby's Vengeance, or Winds of Fortune (Jeffrey Farnol), Tigers of Malaysia series, Black Corsairs series, or Pirates of Bermuda Series (Emilio Salgari), Frenchman's Creek (Daphne du Maurier), The Pirate (Sir Walter Scott), Tales of Pirates and Blue Water (Arthur Conan Doyle), Birds of Prey (Wilbur Smith), On Stranger Tides (Tim Powers), Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie), or Cup of Gold (John Steinbeck).
  10. Stories about pirates - fact.  Who needs fiction when you can enjoy the real thing?  Books about real pirates and their adventures include Under the Black Flag (David Cordingly), A General History of Pyrates (Daniel Defoe), A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates (Captain Charles Johnson), Sir Francis Drake: The Queen's Pirate (Harry Kelsey), History of the Buccaneers of America (James Burney), The Pirate Hunters (Richard Zachs), Pirates: Predators of the Sea (Angus Konstam), Real Pirates: The Untold Story of Whydah (National Geographic), Fast Ships, Black Sails (Naomi Novik), A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier (Diana Preston), Jolly Roger (Patrick Pringle), and The Pirates Own Book: Authentic Narratives (Charlles Elms).
  11. Stories about monsters of the sea - For those that prefer to encounter sea monsters in print rather than in life, you may enjoy the following tales of man vs. a variety of sea beasts: Jaws or Beast (Peter Benchley), Moby Dick (Herman Melville), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne), The Foghorn (Ray Bradbury), Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Creatures of the Deep (Michael J. Everhart), Chased By Sea Monsters (Nigel Marven), Monsters of the Sea (Richard Ellis), or the most recent addition to the canon, Sense & Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Jane Austen and Ben Winters).
  12. Funny stories about the sea.  In case you prefer your entertainment a little lighter and a lot funnier, these books deliver seafaring adventure with a dose of laughter: The Pyrates: A Swashbuckling Comic Novel (George MacDonald Fraser), Doctor Dogbody's Leg (James Norman Hall), Mr. Roberts (Thomas Heggen), The Adventures of Roderick Random (Tobias Smollet), The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (Christopher Moore), The Princess Bride (William Goldman), and Mr. Midshipman Easy or Peter Simple (Frederick Maryatt). 
  13. Fiction set on the sea.  There are probably thousands of books set in beach towns, the vast majority of them chick lit or romances, some more trashy than others.  I leave you to find those on your own.  Some more literary options include Ship of Fools (Katherine Anne Porter), The Emperor of Ocean Park (Stephen L. Carter),  South Beach: The Novel (Brian Antoni), On Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan), and Beach Music (Pat Conroy).
  14. Children's books about the sea.  Tons of books written for children/teens about the ocean, sea creatures, and the beach.  Here's a very short list of some of my favorites, generally organized by age (youngest to oldest):  Mr. Seahorse (Eric Carle), Rainbow Fish (Marcus Pfister Herbert), Little Mermaid (unknown), Call It Courage (Armstrong Sperry), The Sign of the Seahorse: A Tale of Greed and High Adventure in Two Acts (Graeme Base), Carry on Mr. Bodwitch (Jean Lee Latham), Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell), Nim's Island (Wendy Orr), The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi), and The Water Horse (Dick King-Smith).

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