10 Books Every Ocean Lover Should Read

From seaside thrillers to hard-hitting science, this list of books will hold any ocean lover captivated for hours.

12 March 2021

By Danel Wentzel

Since I was a kid, I've always been a fan of reading. The idea of finding a pause in your day-to-day hustle, where you can escape to a different reality. In this reality characters come to live, new worlds open up for exploration and dreams no longer seem so far out of reach.

However, over the past 10 years the amount of books I got around to reading became less and less as the amount of school work, home work, extracurricular activities and life just became more and more. It's only recently that I have rediscovered my passion for absorbing information from books and reading, why, because it's just fun!

I even got inspired to join the Oceanic Women's book club! But before I continue, here is a list of the top 10 books I reccomend to all mer-people out there.

  1. Deep, by James Nestor

I'm going to start off with my all time favourite, Deep. While on an assigment to cover the World Freediving Championship, Nester found himself captivated by the ability of these divers to ascent meters and meters down into the blue on merely a single breath.

An ode to the extreme sport of freediving, Deep is a memoir of both the dangers of deep diving and the strange science of the abyss. The chapters follow a downwards spiral, as if descending deeper and deeper into the big blue.

Need a reminder of human potential? Then I recommend diving into this book.

2. Blue mind, by Wallace J. Nichols

Why are we drawn to lakes, rivers, oceans and pools each summer? Why does being near water set our minds and bodies at ease? In another one of my favourite novels, Wallace Nichols revolutionizes how we think about these questions, revealing the remarkable truth about the benefits of being in, on, under, or simply near water.

Combining cutting-edge neuroscience with compelling personal stories from top athletes, leading scientists, military veterans, and gifted artists, he shows how proximity to water can improve performance, increase calm, diminish anxiety, and increase professional success.

Blue Mind not only illustrates the crucial importance of our connection to water, but also provides a paradigm shifting "blueprint" for a better life on this Blue Marble we call home.

3. The Soul of An Octopus, by Sy Montgomery

Spoiler, the octopus is WAY cooler than you think! This novel explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus—a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature.

After forming a friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus at the Boston Aquarium, Montgomery traveled from New England aquariums to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico to pursue these wildly entertaining and profound shapeshifters.

Montgomery describes in great detail the bond she shared with these intelligent and complex creatures, which made her curious about the mind of these animals. Do not expect hard-hitting science from this book, but rather a story into the insight of behavior exhibiting personality and intelligence, touching on the empathetic side of the reader by somehow humanizing these animals in her writing.

4. Spirals in Time, by Helen Scales

Can you recall family-trips to the beach as a child, spending countless hours along the shore fascinated with shells of different colours, shapes and sizes? Scales explains the history and lives of shells underneath all the novelty, from their use as ritual objects and jewelry compared to the present day, where they are involved in drugs and medicine.

From the formation to utilization, this book gives a rewarding glimpse of another world and a heavy introduction to the Phylum, Mollusca. Scales briefly describes the rising impact of ocean acidification on these sculpted homes but ultimately aims to uncover the unfamed history to reconnect this attachment to nature.

5. War of the Whales: A True Story, by Joshua Horwitz

One part detective thriller, one part ocean odyssey. This novel combines the real-life story of Joel Reynolds and Ken Balcomb with out of this world writing and incredible journalism.

Joshua Horwitz explores the legal and moral saga of a military secret that threatens the lives of whales, forcing you to ask the question: where do we draw the line between national security and protecting our ocean?

6. Blowfish's Oceanopedia: 291 Extraordinary Things You Didn't Know About the Sea, by Tom Hird

The seas of our planet cover more than seventy percent of the Earth, yet we know less about the ocean than the surface of the moon. From luminous squid to invisible plankton, from sandy shorelines to the bone-crushing pressure of the deep, marine conservationist Tom 'The Blowfish' Hird takes us on an incredible journey revealing what lurks beneath the waves.

Some of the weird and fascinating information in this treasure chest of ocean knowledge include:

- How the unassuming jellyfish can cause an ocean-wide apocalypse

- Why walruses turn bright pink after a sunbathe

- How a shoal of herring breaks wind to escape the jaws of predators

- Why an archer fish spits missiles at its prey

7. Spying on Whales, by Nick Peynson

Whales are surprising. They can grow to weigh 180 tons, live to 200 years, and communicate through song. But for most of human history, they were great mysteries. Spying on Whales is an ode to whales, and to the scientists who have furthered the study of these intelligent creatures.

On many levels this novel is an introduction to the science of whales, but also the odyssey of a scientist. Whether Peynson is tracing the fossil history of whales or describing the dissection of a giant whale heart, he tells his story with so much passion, warmth and wit.

8. Emperors of the Deep: Sharks - The Ocean's Most Mysterious, Most Misunderstood, and Most Important Guardians, by William McKeever

From the Jaws blockbusters to Shark Week, we are conditioned to see sharks as terrifying, cold-blooded killers. But as Ocean Guardian founder William McKeever reveals, sharks are evolutionary marvels essential to maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Our knowledge about sharks is ever-growing. This novel investigates in full the hidden lives of four species — Mako, Tiger, Hammerhead, and Great White —in great detail.

McKeever dives deep into the misunderstood world of sharks and gives an urgent call to protect them. Emperors of the Deep celebrates this wild species, that holds the key to unlocking the mysteries of the ocean.

9. The Reef, by Iain McCalman

Along the Australian coastline lies the incredible Great Barrier Reef, home to three thousand individual reefs and thousands of marine species. Capturing over two hundred years of encounters, historian Iain McCalman explores the relationship of man to this incredible natural formation.

Using the personal stories of twenty individuals, McCalman takes the reader on a journey through the labyrinth of reefs, islands, and shoals that make up the imperiled World Heritage Site of the reef.

10. The Secret Life of Lobsters, by Trevor Corson

The last novel is one I have yet to read, but has come very highly recommended to me.

Ever wonder about what lobsters do all day under the sea? Trevor Corson explores the biology and life cycles of lobster in the Gulf of Maine. Traveling from laboratory to fishing boat to the bottom of the ocean, Corson paints an intimate portrait of lobster and the people who fish for them.

There are thousands of other incredible books out there for you to read. This is just a list of my Top 10 favourites and those I would recommend to anyone in a heart beat!

Now as I was saying, I recently decided to join the Oceanic Women's Book club, a space for ladies who share the same passion for the ocean to connect and talk about books, films, research, internships and more. We recently started What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins, by Jonathan Balcombe, and will be having our first meet up soon.

Book clubs are a great way to motivate you to keep reading, as well as experience how others interpret the books you're reading. The club is open to anyone and you can join through their instagram.

Have any recommendations for me? I would love to hear them! You can send them to me via email or on my instagram.