World Book Day 2024 (Thursday 7th March) is a celebration of books and reading that promotes the joy of literature and encourages people of all ages to discover the pleasures of reading. Here is a list of great nautical books for all you crew to dive your nose into!

Nautical Reads

1. Death On The Nile

by Agatha Christie (1937)

What it’s about:

In Agatha Christie’s classic mystery “Death on the Nile,” renowned detective Hercule Poirot finds himself aboard a luxurious river steamer cruising the Nile River. However, what begins as an idyllic journey quickly turns deadly when a glamorous heiress is found murdered on board. With a ship full of suspects and motives aplenty, Poirot must unravel a web of lies and deceit to uncover the truth behind this sinister crime.

Why it’s a good read:

“Death on the Nile” is a captivating whodunit that showcases Agatha Christie’s mastery of the mystery genre. With its richly drawn characters, intricate plot twists, and exotic setting, the novel keeps readers guessing until the very end. Christie’s keen eye for detail and clever storytelling make for a thrilling and immersive reading experience. Moral dilemmas and human complexities explored in the story add depth to the narrative, making it more than just a mere puzzle to solve. Overall, “Death on the Nile” is a timeless classic that continues to entertain and intrigue readers with its suspenseful plot and unforgettable characters.

2. Captain Blood 

by Rafael Sabatini (1922)

What it’s about:

“Captain Blood” transports readers to the tumultuous world of the 17th century Caribbean, where piracy reigns supreme. The story follows Dr. Peter Blood, a former physician turned pirate captain, whose life takes a dramatic turn when he is unjustly convicted of treason and sold into slavery in Barbados. Through daring escapes, thrilling sea battles, and acts of heroism, Blood rises from captivity to become one of the most feared and legendary pirates of the Caribbean. Blood’s quest for justice and redemption propels him on a high-seas adventure filled with intrigue, romance, and swashbuckling action.

Why it’s a good read:

“Captain Blood” is a rollicking tale of high adventure that combines historical realism with timeless storytelling flair. Rafael Sabatini’s dynamic prose and vibrant characters bring the golden age of piracy to life, captivating readers with its fast-paced plot and exhilarating escapades. From the colourful ports of the Caribbean to the decks of mighty galleons, the novel immerses readers in a world of daring exploits and larger-than-life personalities. At its heart, “Captain Blood” is a story of courage and resilience. With its blend of action, romance, and intrigue, this classic adventure novel continues to delight readers of all ages.

3. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

by Jules Verne (1870)

What it’s about:

Jules Verne’s timeless masterpiece, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” plunges readers into the depths of the ocean aboard the remarkable submarine, the Nautilus. When renowned marine scientist Professor Pierre Aronnax, his loyal servant Conseil, and the harpooner Ned Land join an expedition to hunt down a mysterious sea monster, they are swept into a whirlwind adventure beyond their wildest imagination. Captured by the enigmatic Captain Nemo, they embark on a journey of discovery,  exploring the wonders of the underwater world. As they delve deeper into the mysteries of the sea, they grapple with their own beliefs and values, ultimately confronting the enigma of Captain Nemo’s past and his quest for freedom.

Why it’s a good read:

“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” is a pioneering work of science fiction that captivates readers with its visionary scope and imaginative storytelling. From the awe-inspiring marvels of the deep sea to the moral complications of human ambition and hubris, the novel explores many intriguing themes. With its thrilling plot and complex characters, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” remains a timeless classic.

4. Treasure Island

by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

What it’s about:

Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure tale, “Treasure Island,” transports readers to a world of pirates, buried treasure, and high-seas intrigue. When young Jim Hawkins discovers a mysterious treasure map in the possessions of the deceased buccaneer Billy Bones, he embarks on a thrilling quest to find the fabled riches hidden on the remote island. Joined by the enigmatic Long John Silver and a crew of cutthroat pirates, Jim sets sail aboard the Hispaniola. Soon, Jim must summon all his courage and resourcefulness to survive and outwit his adversaries. With swashbuckling action, unforgettable characters, and timeless themes of loyalty, greed, and adventure, “Treasure Island” continues to captivate readers of all ages.

Why it’s a good read:

“Treasure Island” is a timeless classic that epitomises the spirit of adventure and discovery. From the dastardly deeds of Long John Silver to the bravery of young Jim Hawkins, the novel’s iconic characters leap off the page and into the imagination! Dreaming of adventure? This timeless tale proves that the lure of buried treasure never fades.

5. Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror

by Steve Alten (1997)

What it’s about:

If you’ve seen the film, you know. An expedition to the Mariana Trench unleashes a massive megalodon, a fearsome ancestor of the great white shark. Marine biologist Jonas Taylor finds himself in a race against time to stop the deadly creature before it wreaks havoc on the surface. As the monstrous shark terrorises the seas, Jonas must confront his own fears and demons, while navigating treacherous waters filled with danger and deception.

Why it’s a good read:

“Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror” is a pulse-pounding thriller. Steve Alten’s gripping narrative takes readers to a world where the ancient terror of the megalodon looms large. From the chilling depths of the ocean to the race against time, this novel is sure to satisfy your appetite for excitement and keep you hooked until the very last page.

6. Life Of Pi

by Yann Martel (2001)

What it’s about:

“Life of Pi,” invites readers on a remarkable journey of survival, faith, and the power of storytelling. The story follows Pi Patel, a young Indian boy who finds himself stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean after a shipwreck, accompanied only by a Bengal tiger. As Pi grapples with the harsh realities of his predicament and the nervous balance between man and beast, he must summon all his courage to endure the trials that lie ahead.

Why it’s a good read:

“Life of Pi” is a breathtaking literary achievement that captivates readers with its imaginative storytelling and profound philosophical insights. From the dazzling spectacle of Pi’s adventures at sea to the poignant exploration of faith, identity, and the nature of truth, the novel brims with depth, nuance, and emotional resonance. Martel’s masterful use of symbolism and allegory invites readers to ponder the deeper meanings and mysteries that lie beneath the surface of the story. “Life of Pi” is a literary masterpiece that leaves an indelible impression on the heart and mind. This novel continues to inspire and provoke thought long after the final page is turned.

7. Jaws

by Peter Benchley (1974)

What it’s about:

How could you not know what it’s about?! Anyway, to refresh, “Jaws” is a gripping thriller that takes place in a coastal New England town. When a series of brutal shark attacks strikes the idyllic resort town of Amity Island, Police Chief Martin Brody finds himself thrust into a desperate race against time to hunt down the deadly predator lurking beneath the waves. As the body count rises and the summer tourist season hangs in the balance, Brody must confront political and personal pressures that threaten to undermine his investigation. With the help of a grizzled shark hunter and a colourful cast of local characters, Brody sets out to track down the elusive killer shark before it strikes again.

Why it’s a good read:

“Jaws” is a timeless classic that combines pulse-pounding suspense with richly drawn characters and a vividly realized setting. Peter Benchley’s evocative prose and masterful storytelling transport readers to the sun-drenched beaches and murky depths of Amity Island. “Jaws” is a thought-provoking exploration of human nature, hubris, and the fragile balance between civilisation and the natural world. And a page-turner to sink your teeth into.

8. Rolling In The Deep

by Seanan McGuire (2015)

What it’s about:

“Rolling in the Deep” by Seanan McGuire is a chilling and suspenseful novella that plunges readers into the depths of the Mariana Trench, where a documentary film crew embarks on a perilous expedition to uncover the truth behind the legendary existence of mermaids. As the crew sets sail aboard the Atargatis, tensions run high and expectations soar. But what begins as an ambitious quest for discovery soon descends into a nightmare of terror and bloodshed. The survivors are forced to confront a horrifying truth: something sinister lurks in the depths, and will stop at nothing to protect its secrets. With its blend of gripping suspense, supernatural horror, and atmospheric tension, “Rolling in the Deep” will keep readers holding their breath until the very last page.

Why it’s a good read:

“Rolling in the Deep” is a riveting and atmospheric tale that masterfully blends elements of horror, suspense, and dark fantasy. Seanan McGuire’s evocative prose and vivid descriptions bring the eerie depths of the ocean to life, immersing readers in a world of mystery and menace. Through its compelling characters and spine-chilling plot twists, the novella explores themes of obsession, survival, and the unknown. Whether you’re a fan of horror fiction, speculative fiction, or just looking for a thrilling read that will keep you up, “Rolling in the Deep” is sure to leave a lasting impression.

9. The Odyssey

by Homer (800 B.C.E.)

What it’s about:

“The Odyssey” by Homer is an epic poem chronicling the arduous journey of Odysseus as he strives to return home after the Trojan War. Facing divine wrath, seductive sirens, and monstrous adversaries, Odysseus continues his quest to reunite with his family. Along the way, he encounters legendary figures such as Athena and Polyphemus. With its timeless themes of heroism and perseverance, “The Odyssey” stands as a masterpiece of ancient literature.

Why it’s a good read:

“The Odyssey” is a timeless classic with rich characters, vivid imagery, and epic scope. Homer’s masterful storytelling and poetic language transport readers to a world of gods and mortals, heroes and villains, where larger-than-life figures clash in a titanic struggle for glory and survival. Through Odysseus’s epic odyssey, the poem explores themes of identity, fate, and the search for meaning in a world fraught with danger and uncertainty. If you’re a fan of ancient literature or epic poetry “The Odyssey” is sure to enchant and inspire. Be warned, though – it’s a tough read!

10. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists

by Gideon Defoe (2004)

What it’s about:

Gideon Defoe’s riotously entertaining novel, “The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists,” takes readers on a hilariously absurd voyage with a band of hapless pirates as they embark on a quest for treasure and adventure. Led by the affable but clueless Pirate Captain, the crew of “The Black Pig” sets sail in search of riches and glory, only to find themselves embroiled in a series of madcap misadventures. From encounters with Charles Darwin and a dodo named Polly to a perilous journey to London’s Royal Society, the pirates stumble from one absurd situation to the next. With its irreverent humor, zany characters, and witty dialogue, “The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists” celebrates the joy of storytelling and the power of imagination.

Why it’s a good read:

“The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists” combines swashbuckling adventure with laugh-out-loud comedy. Gideon Defoe’s irreverent humor and playful wit infuse every page with infectious energy and irrepressible charm. Defoe’s clever parody of classic adventure tales and historical figures adds an extra layer of enjoyment for readers familiar with the genre. Whether you’re a fan of pirates, scientists, or just good old-fashioned silliness, “The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists” is sure to entertain and delight with its whimsical humor and boundless imagination.

11. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

by Herman Melville (1851)

What it’s about:

Captain Ahab embarks on an obsessive quest for vengeance against a sperm whale. Narrated by Ishmael, a young sailor, the story unfolds as Ahab leads his men on a perilous voyage in pursuit of the elusive leviathan. As tensions rise and the crew faces harrowing challenges, Ishmael grapples with themes of fate, morality, and the enigmatic power of the sea.

Why it’s a good read:

“Moby-Dick” is a literary masterpiece that transcends its status as a mere adventure tale. Herman Melville’s rich prose and vivid imagery immerse readers in the tumultuous world of 19th-century whaling, offering a profound exploration of the human condition and the mysteries of existence. The novel captivates with its depth of character, philosophical insights, and timeless themes. Whether delving into Ahab’s relentless obsession, pondering the symbolism of the white whale, or marveling at the awe-inspiring descriptions of the sea, readers are drawn into a classic of American literature.

12. The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway (1952)

What it’s about:

Ernest Hemingway’s novella, “The Old Man and the Sea,” transports readers to the sun-drenched waters of the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba. An aging fisherman named Santiago embarks on a fateful journey of courage and perseverance. Alone in his small skiff, Santiago sets out to sea in search of the catch of a lifetime, determined to prove his worth as a fisherman and regain his lost pride. As he battles against the elements and struggles with the immense marlin he has hooked, Santiago confronts his own mortality. With its spare prose and haunting beauty, “The Old Man and the Sea” is a timeless meditation on the human condition.

Why it’s a good read:

“The Old Man and the Sea” is a literary classic that continues to resonate with readers of all ages for its profound insights and universal themes. Ernest Hemingway’s spare, evocative prose captures the raw beauty and harsh realities of life at sea. Through Santiago’s solitary struggle against the forces of nature, Hemingway explores timeless questions of human existence and the quest for meaning and significance in a seemingly indifferent universe. Santiago’s indomitable spirit in the face of overwhelming odds serve as a powerful reminder of the human spirit’s resilience.

13. The Salt Path

by Raynor Win (2018)

What it’s about:

Raynor Winn’s poignant memoir. Raynor and her husband Moth lose their home and livelihood in the wake of a devastating financial crisis and Moth’s diagnosis with a terminal illness. They make the bold decision to embark on a remarkable adventure: walking the South West Coast Path, a 630-mile trail along the rugged coastline of England. With nothing but a tent and a few essentials, they set out on a transformative pilgrimage. Along the way, they encounter breathtaking landscapes, unexpected acts of kindness, and profound moments of connection with the natural world.

Why it’s a good read:

It’s a deeply moving memoir that captures the essence of the human spirit and the transformative power of adversity. Raynor Winn’s lyrical prose and vivid descriptions transport readers to the windswept cliffs and wild beaches of the South West Coast Path. Through Raynor and Moth’s journey of survival and self-discovery, the memoir explores themes of resilience, loss, and the redemptive power of love. “The Salt Path” is a compelling and unforgettable read.

14. She Rises

by Kate Worsley (2013)

What it’s about:

“​She Rises” is a gripping historical novel set against the backdrop of the treacherous seas and bustling port towns of 18th-century England. The story follows the journey of fifteen-year-old Louise Fletcher, who escapes a life of poverty and drudgery. She disguises herself as a cabin boy and joins a British warship bound for the West Indies. Louise navigates the perils of life at sea and the harsh realities of naval warfare.

Why it’s a good read:

“She Rises” is a riveting historical adventure that transports readers to a vividly rendered world of seafaring exploits, forbidden romance, and daring escapades. Kate Worsley’s evocative prose and meticulous attention to historical detail bring the maritime world of the 18th century to life. The novel explores themes of gender, class, and the quest for autonomy in a society bound by rigid hierarchies and conventions. Worsley’s richly drawn characters and suspenseful plot twists keep readers eagerly turning the pages until the very end. Whether you’re a fan of historical fiction, adventure tales, or stories of resilience and redemption, “She Rises” is a compelling read.

My Personal Picks

Personally, I am a big Agatha Christie fan. I remember going through an obsessive crime reading spree in my early teens! Death on the Nile is a classic for a reason, and certainly one of her most iconic Poirot stories.

My dad read Treasure Island to me when I was younger. I recall the vivid descriptions and complex characters. To this day, it stays among my favourite reads. Robert Louis Stevenson is responsible for many important pieces of literature, including The Curious Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide, but Treasure Island stands out. One to read out loud to my future kids!

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists is utterly bonkers but I love the charming humour and how easy it was to read. Reading this reminded me to unwind and read for a good laugh more often!

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