Ocean books we love

The virtual library that lies before you represents tens, hell, hundreds of thousands of hours of blood, sweat, and saltwater tears. They were put in by a litany of authors who have reeled, jibed, paddled, harpooned, speared, dropped-in, chummed, sailed, filmed, dived, trekked, fought, interviewed, photographed, and researched; they were thus compelled to sit hunched over quill, pen, typewriter, or word processor through generations of time. Just these titles alone would take you tens of thousands of hours to read.

At the Scuttlefish, we don’t deign this to be the definitive list of ocean-related authorship—we plan on expanding it even further in the evolving future of this humble website. What we do hope is that you’ll notice a work that strikes a resonant chord, sparks a watery memory or leaves you wanting to dip your toes a little deeper into briny ink. This library reflects our own biases, passions, and opinions, but most of all, it reflects a shared love—ours and these authors’ love of the ocean. And we promise every one of them will make you smarter – as any good book should.

As one of the inspirations behind our own library, a tip of the three-cornered hat to Drew Sievers, the patient surfing scribe who has turned his own hours behind the page into The Waterman’s Library.

If you have a recommendation, please don’t hesitate to hail the bridge.

— Chris Dixon

Adrift: Seventy-six days lost at sea


by Steven Callahan

Anyone contemplating any prolonged time on the water, whether it be a solo-ocean crossing or a short haul across a great lake, would best serve themselves by first reading this book. Give yourself a few weeks after reading (or at least until the nightmares subside) before taking to the sea. Keep plenty of water nearby when reading; Callahan has a way of describing thirst that makes readers desperate for a glass of water even while sitting in their own living rooms. — OB


All for a Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora


by David Rensin

David Rensin leaves no cobblestone unturned in his pursuit of true stories regarding the most brilliant, enigmatic, interesting, and confounding figures in the history of surfing. — CD

The Ashley Book of Knots


by Clifford W. Ashley

An essential sailor’s guide for knots first published in 1944. Ashley spent over a decade compiling thousands of illustrations for nearly 4,000 knots, and this is still the most comprehensive book of knots around today. It’s easy to use and reference, as each knot has its own catalogue number. Keep one onboard and another on your shelf at home. — OB


Atlas of Remote Islands


by Judith Schalansky

Covering fifty islands across roughly 100 pages, this atlas gives each landmass a map and a short tale that is sometimes factual, sometimes historical, and sometimes plain odd. It’s not a really a useful kind of atlas, and you’ll never navigate by its maps (and if you have to, god save your ship and soul) but letting into your consciousness the idea that such weird and remote places exist is worth the trip. –– BL


The Basics of Surfboard Design


 by Bob Smith

Fishes, logs, pigs, guns, noseriders, eggs, thrusters, quads, bonzers, channels, square/pin/diamond/squash/bat/swallow tails—surfboard shapes are analog, infinite in variation, and specific to every ⅛ of an inch matters. And don’t even get me started on fins. One can only really begin to understand how wave riding gear affects the ride itself by eventually using all the gear in all the waves. But until you have a quiver of 100 boards, an unlimited travel budget, and all the time in the world, you might as well get this short (almost pamphlet-esque) book by Bob Smith. If that’s even his real name. — BL


Born to Win



by John Bertrand

Another of my favorite books about the sea is Born to Win by Australian John Bertrand. The story is about him skippering Australia II to victory in the 1983 America’s Cup. The determination he showed to overcome the arrogance of the New York Yacht Club and the adversity they faced to win left a long lasting impression on me to always try your best and never give up not matter what is being thrown at you. Jackson English

 The California Surf Project


By Eric Soderquist & Chris Burkard

A ‘78 VW Bus, two surfers, their boards, and a camera take a drive from the Oregon border to Tijuana, surfing the coast and driving the 101 and 1 all the way down. My Diamond Head surf pad is filled with Californian shaped boards and art, but when I really miss California and all its balanced, golden perfection, I crack this book open. If you’ve ever loved the state and its waters, you should, too. — BL


Cannery Row


by John Steinbeck

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream,” writes Steinbeck, and his masterpiece vividly captures an incredibly long range of human experience alongside Monterey, California’s legendary wharf. When the book was written, just after World War II, the Row was a dark and rough shadow of hardscrabble human existence, so dramatically different from the tourist-teeming outpost of today that it’s almost impossible to conceive. Impossible, that is, without the writing of an American literary lion. — CD


Citizens of the Sea: Wondrous Creatures From the Census of Marine Life (Hardcover)


by Nancy Knowlton

The census of marine life was a study involving 80 countries that took a decade. While the scientific papers from the survey are not what you’d call casual reading, this book, filled with trivia and discoveries made during the census, is. — BL


Cod: A Biography of Fish That Changed the World


by Mark Kurlansky

“Cod…[is] just a brilliant, brilliant book. It was one of the first books about a history of a natural resource in that way. It has recipes…it begins in my town.” — Bren Smith, 3D ocean farmer and veteran commercial fisherman


  The Compleat Angler


by Izaak Walton

This may have been the first book ever written or published about sport fishing. In fact, it may well be the very foundation of fly fishing and the birth of fishing for sport. People thought Walton was out of his mind for considering fishing to be something beyond a means of putting food on the table. — OB

Coral Reefs and the Microbial Seas

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by Forest Rohwer

A 21st century tale of ocean science and scientists which I love is Forest Rohwer’s Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas. — Dr. Nancy Knowlton



by Michael Kew

“He reminds me of how [my boyfriend] and I travel – which is mostly just surf-centric, and each day is about chasing waves in an almost compulsive manner…Kew has other distractions… like whisky, and he tells his stories in a way that you really get a good feel for the places or culture he was experiencing and writing about.” — Laarni Gedo, ocean artist and surfer


The Cruise of the Snark


by Jack London

If there were ever a romantic novel about boatbuilding, circumnavigation, and no object of financial or geographical limits, The Cruise of the Snark is it. The highest-paid writer of his time, London sets out with his wife and a small crew to design and build the most perfectly seaworthy vessel minds could imagine and money could buy, his titular 45-foot ketch the Snark. This book is especially apt for those who’ve got a limitless bank account and an insatiable appetite for adventure. — OB


Deadliest Sea: The Untold Story Behind the Greatest Rescue in Coast Guard History


by Kalee Thompson

The 184-foot fishing vessel Alaska Ranger began taking on water in the wee hours of Easter morning in 2008, and all 47 crew members were forced to take into the water. Only about half of them made it to life rafts, while the others were left floating in their emergency suits as they watched, in a remarkably short amount of time, the bow of the Alaska Ranger point for the sky and sink. Of the 47 fishermen who entered the Bering Sea that night, 42 were saved. This is the story of their rescue, one of the most incredible coast guard rescues in history. — OB

The Death and Life of Monterey Bay 


A fascinating and hopeful read by Scuttlefish writer Carolyn Sotka and Stephen Palumbi, director of Stanford’s Hopkins Marine StationDeath and Life digs deep into the personal and ecological history of Monterey Bay  the prolific and once plundered embayment that runs from Pacific Grove up to Santa Cruz. The book weaves together the myriad of factors that led to the staggering exploitation of the Bay’s riches through the 19th and early 20th centuries – otters, sardines, whales – nothing was spared. We meet fascinating characters like the brilliant and obstinate Dr. Julia Platt, one of the bay’s early champions, and learn the complicated histories of Cannery Row author  John Steinbeck and his friends. The  research that went into this book is straight up astounding. It tells a story whose lessons are applicable in so many other parts of this modern world; when humans put their minds and hearts to it, even the most degraded places, can come back. — CD

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves


by James Nestor

Scuttlefish friend and San Francisco writer/waterman James Nestor gives a comprehensive history of the mammalian dive reflex and the renegade science behind it, from the first recorded 100-foot free-dive (which was then predicted to kill a human) down to the Mariana Trench, explored by Cousteau in 1960 and James Cameron more recently. Passages in this book describe the sensation of freediving with and being echolocated by sperm whales face to face. — BL


Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing


by Stuart Holmes Coleman

If you recently saw ESPN’s Emmy-winning 30 for 30 documentary Hawaiian, The Legend of Eddie Aikauyou were given a fascinating and heart-rending glimpse into the life of the first lifeguard and one of the pre-eminent big wave chargers on Oahu’s North Shore – a man who never lost a swimmer. Stuart Holmes Coleman’s deeply and respectfully researched tome delves far deeper into rest of the story. Worth a read just for Rabbit Bartholomew’s revelatory description of Hawaiian-style justice. — CD


The Encyclopedia of Surfing


by Matt Warshaw

One of my heroes and mentors—and the first editor to ever send me a rejection letter—the obsessive-compulsive Matt Warshaw is the only surfer alive with the patience or mental database (this book bears over 1,500 entries and has given rise to a new, completely insane EOS website to boot: to compile such a daunting, culturally valid, and solidly-written piece of reference work. When a journalist as accomplished as William Finnegan deigns to crown Matt “surfing’s foremost author and scribe,” he is completely correct. When Finnegan calls this book, “at least half mad, which helps give it to my mind, a glittering vitality that precious few reference works attain,” who would dare argue? — CD


The Evolution of Freediving and the History of Spearfishing in Hawai’i


by Sonny Tanabe

A gorgeous book of never-before-published photos from the life and collection of Sonny Tanabe, champion swimmer and spearfisherman, alongside a history of the sport. I interviewed Sonny for Outside Magazine last year, but the best way to understand Sonny’s gentle spirit and unparalleled experience in the water is in this book and in this clip— BL


The Fear Project


by Jaimal Yogis

This is a fascinating book, made all the more fascinating because the esteemed author is willing to throw himself headlong into some very scary situations. Some of his first-person research, I can surely relate to: fatherhood and love in particular. I’ve also sat out in the lineups at the Cortes Bank, Todos Santos, and Mavericks. But Yogis takes a further step that I (and most) simply never would. He paddles out into the heart of the lineup at Mavericks and describes what it’s really truly like to face a 40-foot-wall of water, and to try to ride one. Oh, and he swims with sharks, too. This gut-wrenching, hilarious, and ultimately highly educational ride will also teach you more about your amygdala than you ever wanted to know. — CD


Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing


by Stuart Holmes Coleman

I read this deep history of the turbulent, beautiful land known as Makaha (and its local royalty, the clan Keaulana) in foggy San Francisco before I ever surfed Makaha and met Stuart Coleman (author of the Eddie Aikau bio, Surfrider Hawaii Coordinator, and Punahou teacher). I plan on re-reading the book before this year’s winter swells roll through. — BL


Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking


by Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman is a culinary genius, and his Fish cookbook is as much a testament to that as any of his other weighty books on life’s finer pleasures. Not only does he provide flavorful, healthful recipes, he does not overlook the first and possibly most difficult part of cooking fish for most people: selecting one. He highlights the seventy most common species of fish and seafood, explaining how and why to pick them. — OB


Fly Fishing in Salt Water


by Lefty Kreh

If you’re going to take up coastal fly fishing, there’s no better book with which to start than Lefty Kreh’s Fly Fishing in Saltwater. There may have been a few before him, but Kreh is still a pioneer of the sport, perhaps most recognizably through his signature fly, Lefty’s Deceiver (which has caught my hands more fish than any other). There’s no better book to begin learning technique from. — OB


Force of Nature: Mind, Body, Soul (And, of Course, Surfing)


by Laird Hamilton

Because he’s probably too busy standup paddleboarding some mysto reef off Princeville or eating a live Mahi Mahi (he recommends in this book that we not eat dead food) to tell you how to live his life in person, Laird instead brings us this entertaining and ultimately inspiring quasi-handbook on Living the Laird Life. — CD


Hawaii, A Novel


by James A. Michener

Pulitzer-winner Michener writes nearly 1,000 pages on Hawaii, from its birth out of the earth’s subsea zits we call volcanoes to roughly 1,000 years ago when masterful seafaring polynesians colonized these lush lands smack dab in the center of the Pacific, and to the dozen or so decades since, when the white man brought his pestilence and way of life to the islands. — BL


Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen Liliuokalani


by Queen Liliuokalani and David W. Forbes

The only autobiography by a Hawai’ian monarch and the story of the failed attempts to resist the kingdom’s annexation by the United States. This new edition came out late last year. Yet another 500 pages I owe some attention to. — BL


The Hemingway Patrols: Ernest Hemingway and His Hunt for U-Boats

by Terry Mort

Hemingway grew a little stir-crazy while spending time down in Cuba between big game fishing and trolling bars for loose women, so took it upon himself to hunt down German U-boats with his fishing trawler, Pilar. The U.S. government was so afraid that he’d do something reckless and stupid they followed him. The whole concept is laughable, as is Mort’s analysis, but he paints a wonderful portrait of Hemingway’s spirit and soul. — OB


Ghost Wave: The Discovery of Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth


by Chris Dixon

On July 9, 2011, I received an email that changed my life and provided a justification for the hard yards, skinny paychecks, and professional uncertainty that accompanies the life of any journalist.

It read thusly:

“Ghost Wave takes us to a place of almost mythic power and tells a story that unfolds like a long ride on a killer wave. I can’t imagine doing what those surfers are doing out there on Cortes – and I can’t imagine a finer book about them. This is a beautifully researched and compellingly written book; I basically read it straight through from the first page. Terrifying.”

Sebastian Junger

Here’s the trailer for the book:

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Still humbled to this day. — CD


The History of Surfing


by Matt Warshaw

If the Encyclopedia of Surfing gave Matt Warshaw the chance to display his Rainman-esque skills as a researcher, The History of Surfing gives him an equal chance to prove himself an unparalleled wordsmith and historian. “Let’s revel in surfing’s grace and beauty and applaud the surfer’s bravery, innovation and humor,” he writes. “Absolutely. But let’s also acknowledge the sexism, the pettiness, the hubris, and all the other messy human qualities that are stitched and glued into the sport’s fabric.”

Can I get an amen? — CD


The Hundred Lives of an Ancient Mariner


Whom the Sea Has Taken


by William Willis

“William Willis was very big into raft voyages in the 50s. This guy William Willis was a real old sea dog and ended up disappearing at sea. At age 65, he built this raft called Age Unlimited that he sailed across the Pacific.” — Steven Callahan, Author of Adrift

There is, was, and may never be another sea dog as salty as William Willis. Famous for his single-handed sailing of small boats across oceans, he makes the Hyerdahl’s Kontiki look like a Disney ride. He lived by no means other than those of compassion and adventure. These books are long out of print, but there are still plenty floating around. — OB


Islands in the Stream


by Ernest Hemingway

If you’ve ever considered whiling away your final years in a fishing camp by yourself on a remote promontory on an island in the Caribbean, this book is sure to settle your decision. No women, an overrun bar tab, a tattered old boat, and infrequent visits from your estranged children. Then there’s the gun-running and human trafficking. This is the period of time during which Hemingway went mad; it’s no surprise why. — OB


Jacques Cousteau’s Calypso

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by Jacques-Yves Cousteau

If you can find this out-of-print book about the life and origin of JYC’s ship and home that he filmed his television shows from, consider yourself lucky. This is the book that few people realize contains the cutaway double-gatefold of the ship that was the inspiration for the single-panning cut of the interior of Steve Zissou’s ship in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic. Highlights include a passage that explains how Cousteau designed his sub’s shape after dinner plates. — BL

Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King


by Brad Matsen

This Jacques-Yves Cousteau biography tells us more than any of us who never knew him could ever hope to otherwise. — BL


 The Jolly Mon – Book and Musical CD


by Jimmy Buffett and Savannah Jane Buffett

A Caribbean fisherman whose supernatural guitar-playing summons fish, a kidnapping by pirates, and a magical dolphin make Jimmy and his daughter Savannah’s first foray into kid-lit a solid read—if you have a pirate looking at 4. — CD


Lady with a Spear


by Dr. Eugenie Clark

Before Dr. Eugenie Clark was a world reknowned shark expert and marine biologist, she was just a woman with a spear, exploring the blue for rare and bizarre fish. I have a first edition print of this book that dates to 1951. It’s a remarkable read. — BL


Last Chance to See…


by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine

The classic Douglas Adams book documenting his around-the-globe quest to see species on the brink of extinction. Since it’s published decades ago, some of the species in this book have gone away forever. Some, like the Komodo Dragon, are still there. A beautiful adventure. — BL


Leroy Grannis: Surf Photography from the 1960s and 1970s


by Leroy Grannis

Leroy Grannis was a pioneer of both surfing and aquatic photography and began suring in 1931 at the age of 14. It’s hard to imagine how few surfers there must have been then, especially in France. He moved to California in the 1960s, where he picked up a camera and began capturing many of the images we associate with Giget-era Malibu, California. This is a large coffee table book taken from his personal archives shortly before he passed away. — OB


The Lionfish Cookbook: The Caribbean’s New Delicacy


by Tricia Ferguson, Lad Adkins, and David M. Stone

Getting around to eating lionfish was tough in the beginning. They’re spiny, poisonous, and intimidating therein. But, once you learn how to fillet the mild white fish, a world of culinary opportunities open up along with the opportunity—some argue—to help fight off an invasive species. Either way, lionfish is delicious, and I found more than one dish in this cookbook that suited them during my time in the Caribbean. — OB


The Log from the Sea of Cortez


by John Steinbeck & E.F Ricketts

In 1940, Steinbeck commissioned the fishing trawler Western Flyer not for a fishing foray in an exotic land à la Hemingway, but with friend and marine biologist Ed Ricketts for a six-week, 4,000-mile ecological research expedition. As well as being a very introspective philosopher, Steinbeck was a very ecologically-minded outdoorsman, and he was well ahead of its time with his research (Darwin aside) on the Sea of Cortez. A decade later, the expedition ultimately resulted in this book. — OB


The Long Way


by Bernard Moitessier

The Long Way is the story of Bernard Moitessier’s participation in the first Golden Globe Race – a solo, round-the-world race rounding the three great capes. Nearing the end, Moitessier appeared to have an existential moment, turned around, and sailed to Tahiti. The story goes that he traveled nearly 40,000 miles without having once set foot on land. Recommended by Onne van der Wal and Steven Callahan. — OB


Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


by Dava Sobel

In our modern world of GPS, we take so much for granted. This fascinating work of nonfiction explains how and why we should all grovel at the grave of a 19th century genius clockmaker named John Harrison, who solved the problem that made modern navigation (and arguably the modern world) possible. — CD


Martin Eden


by Jack London

Martin Eden is a loosely autobiographical account of Jack London’s life. He grew up lacking parental figures, and by the age of 14 he was pirating oyster beds in the waters off of Oakland and hanging around Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon (which still stands today). This is an account of the life of a 19th- and 20th-century American seaman, and how dreadfully desperate that life can be. Like London, Eden (the novel’s protagonist) was self-educated in the public libraries in and around Oakland and San Francisco. He learned of life beyond heaving muscles around in brutish brawls and also came to see the delicate side of not only life but sailing, discovering a love for the sea. — OB


Ocean: An Illustrated Atlas


by Dr. Sylvia Earle and Linda K. Glover

Oh no big deal, just a giant book about how the entire ocean works (by the renowned Sylvia Earle, no less).  — BL


The Ocean Almanac


by Robert Hendrickson

Long out of print and filled with out-of-date science, the Almanac is filled with thousands of entries of random ocean lore (and plenty of pirate tales and bios). This is the book that inspired the Scuttlefish. –– BL


Ocean Racing


by Eric Tabarly

“I really learnt a lot about the terminology and ocean racing or ocean voyaging—how it worked with weather systems and storms and anchoring, how life was, and what to expect when I was going to do it myself.” — Round-the-world sailor and master photographer Onne van der Wal


The Old Man and the Sea


by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea is obligatory. It’s the story of an old Cuban fisherman who hooks into a giant blue marlin in the Gulf Stream after going 84 days straight without having caught a single fish. Through Hemingway’s simple yet suspenseful storytelling, we follow Santiago, the old man, as he’s dragged out to sea by the beast that might well kill him. All the while, he exercises that iconic Hemingway-esque end-all be-all grace under pressure. –– OB


The Pearl


by John Steinbeck

I first read this novella in high school and was mesmerized and exasperated by it. I reckon it was one of the first books that plainly revealed how the world and a great many people operated. How could this simple fisherman, who finds a most rare and valuable pearl and only seeks to provide for his family, find himself so beset by the wicked and the greedy? How can a mirror-smooth treasure that outwardly reflects happiness instead reveal a far darker side of humanity in its false luster? — CD


Photo/Stoner: The Rise, Fall, and Mysterious Disappearance of Surfing’s Greatest Photographer


by Matt Warshaw et al.

Matt Warshaw turns his prodigious talents to one of surfing’s enduring mysteries.  The long, slow trek down the rabbit hole of schizophrenia, hallucinogenics, electro-shock therapy, and mental illness that ultimately led to the disappearance of Ron Stoner, perhaps the greatest lensman surfing has ever known. — CD


A Pirate Looks at Fifty


by Jimmy Buffett

From crashing his seaplane and damn near drowning to going on a dive and damn near drowning to catching big fish to playing sold out gigs at Madison Square Garden to falling back in love with his wife, Buffett proves himself equal parts author, survivor, and Renaissance man. — CD


The Plight of the Torpedo People

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by Dave Parmenter and Bruce Jenkins

The photography book accompanying the bodysurfing movie Come Hell or High Water directed by Patagonia golden boy Keith Malloy. (Patagonia here refers to the clothing company, not the region in Chile…although the clothing company is named after… oh nevermind.) Both are worth your time and money for the words and footage of Mark Cunningham, world’s best bodysurfer. Cunningham is a man in a speedo who I have spent too much time analyzing in slow motion replay trying to understand how he rides wave faces on his face so well. — BL


Poolside with Slim Aarons


by Slim Aarons

Imagine Mediterranean seaside resorts and mansions in the 80s, and the tanned, beautiful people with speedos or Farah-Fawcett hair who would frequent them. Now imagine a photographer who managed to embed himself in that exclusive scene and the resulting book of lenswork. –– BL


Race France to France: Leave Antarctica to Starboard


by Rich Wilson

Rich Wilson studied at MIT and Harvard, taught math, and in 2008 became the second American to finish the single-handed sailing race, the Vendee Globe, as the oldest skipper in the race. This is the 58-year-old’s story. (And in a few years he’ll try again.) I met Rich in Monterey, California a few years ago. He’s a great guy: super humble, quiet, and thoughtful. You never know what kind of waterman or woman is sitting right next to you. — BL


Reef Creature and Fish Identification: Tropical Pacific


by Paul Humann and Ned Deloach

When I dive in Indonesia, every dive boat seems to have this book on board for figuring out what exactly it was that we saw 60 feet below. So I got a set for home. There’s one book for creatures and one book for fish, and there are editions for other regions, too. Not light reading; it’s more of a reference book. But it’s an invaluable reference book. — BL


Robinson Crusoe


by Daniel Dafoe

Based on a real-life character, Alexandre Selkirk, Robinson Crusoe is the fictional autobiography of a man who spent 28 years as a castaway on a remote island in the Americas. — OB

Sailing Alone Around the World


by Joshua Slocum

Hilariously self-deprecating yet hardened and true, Slocum may be considered one of the first notables to have completed a circumnavigation alone. In the late 1800s, he found a derelict ship and spent months rebuilding and refitting her before taking off by his lonesome. Along his way, he encounters pirates, varying illnesses, and merciless tempests. It goes as some sort of unwritten law that anyone considering a circumnavigation—alone or otherwise—must first read this book. — OB


Saltwater Buddha


by Jaimal Yogis

When Jaimal Yogis was a kid, he ran away from home in California with a few hundred bucks to Hawaii with dreams of learning how to surf. This is his story of being a wild kid who grew to become of the most wonderful and calm-under-pressure watermen I’ve ever known. (And a good neighbor of mine in SF’s Ocean Beach.) — BL


The Saltwater Fisherman’s Bible


by Erwin A. Bauer

Recommended by seafood chef Bun Lai, this book could stand an update, but it’s still timeless, earning a spot on the shelf of any saltwater fisherman. — OB

Saltwater Fly Patterns


by Lefty Kreh

If you’re an experienced fly fisherman that’s sick of blowing your money on buying flies, it may be time for this one. During the winter as a kid, I’d flip through this book and, however dubiously, try to string together a handful of Lefty’s flies over a weekend. They weren’t great, and I was only 7 or 8, mind you, but they still caught fish. I haven’t had the time or space for a fly tying kit in a long time, but your investment in one, along with this book, will go a long, long way (both in your catch and in your bank account). — OB


A Salty Piece of Land


by Jimmy Buffett

A 102-year-old sea captain named Cleopatra Highbourne emerges from a ganja-shrouded mist to take Caribbean cowboy Tully Mars and his horse on the misadventure of a lifetime. Hint: read Tales from Margaritaville first. — CD


The Sea Around Us


by Rachel Carson

“I don’t think that any book had a greater influence on my early interest in the ocean because I began to see the ocean as a living organism.” — Dennis Chamberland, developer of undersea habitat Aquatica


Sealab: America’s Forgotten Quest to Live and Work On the Ocean Floor


by Ben Hellwarth

The story of Navy doctor George Bond and the Navy’s attempts to put man on the sea floor before even Cousteau’s own experiments. I worked with Hellwarth reporting on the Aquarius research lab a few years ago during its last NOAA-funded mission. — BL


Sea Survival: A Manual & Survive the Savage Sea


by Dougal Robertson

“…having put myself in those situations — mind game-wise — helped me to be prepared for my journey.” – Steven Callahan

Do you know how to give yourself an enema, or produce a makeshift IV? This is the book Steven Callahan managed to scrounge off of Napoleon Solo before the 76 days he spent at sea in his survival raft. It wasn’t an easy survival by any means, but Robertson certainly brought him a great deal more comfort. — OB


The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustaceans


by Trevor Corson

The Secret Life of Lobsters puts Maine’s lobster industry through the looking glass of both fishermen and scientists. Examining the industry with a fine comb, Corson makes a powerful argument for why lobstering is still sustainable, all while probing into the complex social lives of our favorite crustaceans. You’ll be wondering why you hadn’t ever thought to learn more about them than how good their flesh tastes lathered in butter. — OB


The Ship and the Storm


by Jim Carrier

Jim Carrier is as professional and objective as any journalist ever was. His storytelling of the loss of the 282-foot, 679-ton tall ship, S/V Fantome (the flagship of the late, infamous rogue Michael Burke’s Windjammer Barefoot Cruise Line) during Hurricane Mitch in 1998 is a case study in solid journalism. — OB


The Silent World


by Jacques-Yves Cousteau with Frederic Dumas

This is Cousteau’s book about the beginning; how he came to create the aqualung in the 1940s. It allowed him to breathe and film underwater for the first time, entering a silent world unrestricted by lungs. When I read this book, it sent my life trajectory askew and towards a blue horizon. Note that you can watch the entire 49-minute award-winning documentary based off the book, of the same name, on YouTube. — BL

Smithsonian Ocean: Our Water, Our World

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by Deborah Cramer

Deborah Cramer’s book, Smithsonian Ocean: Our Water, Our World is beautifully written and illustrated coffee table sized book that covers the ocean comprehensively. Dr. Nancy Knowlton

South: The Endurance Expedition


Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage


by Ernest Shackleton and Alfred Lansing

Anyone who ever wishes to ‘journey’ upon the seas (especially the south seas) has to read about the Endurance expedition. It is a testament to the resilience of the human body and mind, and proof that people can survive well beyond their imagination with a good heart and a strong constitution. You also may never find a better description of the cold.

Also read Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, a more recent, third-person account by Alred Lansing, to gain a full appreciation of the story of the Endurance. In the annals of human survival, there has arguably never been a more unbelievable story than that of the Endurance. Lansing not only researched Shackleton’s story to exhaustion; he consulted ten of the survivors and accessed the diaries of eight others. — OB and CD



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Acclaimed photographer Susan Middleton’s gorgeous new coffee table book, “Spineless” showcases portraits of just about every marine invertebrate (animals without backbones) you could think of. Middleton’s opening paragraph sets the stage with two quotes from giants of the fashion world – as analogous to the natural world. Middleton explores the mysterious and surprising world of marine invertebrates, which represent more than 98 percent of the known animal species in the ocean. They are also astonishingly diverse in their shapes, patterns, textures, and colors—in nature’s fashion show, they are the haute couture of marine life. — CS

Stories of Rell Sunn: Queen of Makaha


by Greg Ambrose

Rell Sunn was a noserider, hapa, fisherwoman, pro surfer, slayer of haole hearts, dirty-joke teller, and the queen of Makaha hailing from the gritty, gorgeous west side of Oahu. Her all-too-short life told through stories from friends lives on in this book, as told to journalist Greg Ambrose. Makaha’s reputation as the rougher side of the island is well tempered by Rell Sunn’s story of one human’s fully-lived experience—most of it, happily, in the water. Whenever a winter wave is crushing me at Makaha’s right point break, I often imagine Rell slipping across the surface with total grace in the same conditions I’m just trying to not drown in. — BL

Surfer Magazine: 50 Years


by Sam George et al.

A solid look behind the scenes at the evolution of surfing’s seminal publication. Written from the perspective of the men (and why is it only men?) who edited and published the magazine from its inception back in 1960. With essays from founder John Severson, Drew Kampion, Sam George, Steve Hawk, Ben Marcus, Evan Slater, and Steve Pezman that reveal the sometimes tumultuous inner workings of The Bible of the Sport.CD


Surfing and Health


by Dorian Paskowitz M.D.

Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz was born in 1921 and he’s still surfing today. For that reason alone, if you want to keep surfing til you’re pushing a century, you should pay attention to this work. Couple that with the fact that he’s an M.D., believes lots of sex is a good thing, and lays out in stark terms all the things that are wrong with your modern lifestyle’s way of eating and taking care of yourself, and you end up with a compelling read. Doc also happens to be one of the most enigmatic figures surfing has ever produced. For proof, check out the film Surfwise. — CD


Surf Science: An Introduction to Waves for Surfing


by Tony Butt

I have an earlier version of this book with the late Hawaiian meteorology legend Ricky Grigg listed as a co-author. It was invaluable as a research tool for my book Ghost Wave.

Now in it’s third printing, Surf Science seeks to answer questions like: where, exactly, do the waves that break along our shorelines come from? How, exactly, do they go from being molecule-high ripples to 100-foot behemoths? How in the hell can those swells travel from deep in the Indian Ocean clear to Waikiki, Malibu, and Yakutat? And why do some spots break better than others on these swells – or not at all? These and many other questions are explained in this fairly dense but fascinating read. — CD


Surfing: The Manual: Advanced


by Jim Kempton

I got this book as a present from my friend Steven years ago, before I even knew how to surf. It was literally over my head and didn’t help much at the time, but it was inspiring. Now, years later, I still can’t really surf properly, but thanks to former Surfer editor Jim Kempton, I understand more of surfing’s technicalities and can read the next chapters in hopes of getting a little more steam out of my bottom turns and cutbacks. — BL


Tales from Margaritaville: Fictional Facts and Factual Fictions


by Jimmy Buffett

A surprisingly literary diversion into the wandering mind of the Mayor of Margaritaville. On first read, it may seem that Buffett possesses a vivid imagination. But Jimmy follows Hemingway’s rule; write what you know. Thus, most of the characters in this book are essentially the people Buffett has come to know as he has adventured through life. Only the names and maybe a place or two have been changed to protect the innocent – and the guilty. — CD

That Summer at Boomerang


by Phil Jarratt

That Summer at Boomerang by Phil Jarratt left a strong impression on me. It’s about Duke Kahanamoku, his life, and his trip to Australia and New Zealand in 1914/15. His love for the ocean and willingness to share it with as many people as possible was extraordinary. I would have loved to have been around at that time and be part of something so new. Jackson English

Tiki Pop: America Imagines Its Own Polynesia


by Sven A. Kirsten

The Tiki has come and gone in pop culture since Captain Cook’s Pacific expeditions, Gauguin’s early paintings and Jack London’s South Sea Tales first brought it to western attention, but in case you somehow haven’t had enough, or weren’t yet on earth in time to enjoy this fantastically tacky point in time, here’s a salty bit of yesteryear for your coffee table. Through art, literature, film, fashion and of course, the bar, urban archaeologist and Tiki authority Sven Kirsten takes us on a visual and historical tour of the Tiki. — OB

Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way to Swim Better, Faster and Easier


by Terry Laughlin with John Delves

The simple message of this book is that you should not be paddling like a motorboat. Swim smarter and smoother and glide, glide, glide. Understanding why is as easy as watching this famous YouTube clip. Understanding exactly how involves reading this book and its accompanying DVD. — BL

Trouble Dolls


by Jimmy Buffett and Savannah Jane Buffett

A picture book skewed towards the older young reader, this further collaboration between Jimmy and his daughter Savannah follows the intrepid Lizzy Rhinehart and her magical Guatemalan dolls on a mission to find her father, who’s been lost in the Everglades. — CD




by Laura Hillenbrand

Imagine you’re Louis Zamperini, a rascal of a kid who qualifies to become an Olympic runner. But instead of running, the second World War breaks out. You become crewman on a dangerously unairworthy bomber, get lost at sea for months, only to end up in a true hell on earth that leaves you thinking you might have been better off adrift. And imagine that through it all, you somehow never gave up. — BL

The Underwater Photographer


by Martin Edge

Although nothing can substitute a few weeks aboard a liveaboard learning alongside other dive photographers, this is the classic guidebook to underwater photography. — BL

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean


by Susan Casey

I once asked Susan Casey how a water woman such as she dealt with New York life as the editor of Oprah Magazine. (She replied she didn’t very well.) She has since left the Big Apple and is writing her next book somewhere in Hawaii. But until that tome is done, we have this book, which is all about rogue waves and how they crush ships, surfers, and coastal towns more often than we might expect. — BL


Where Is Joe Merchant? A Novel Tale


by Jimmy Buffett

Why this one hasn’t been made into a movie remains a puzzler to me. It’s got all the elements. Roguish pilot hero. Strange Caribbean mystic queen. Romance and high-seas adventure beneath the wings of a vintage Grumman seaplane. The ending is a cross between Raiders of the Lost Ark, Cast Away, and Forrest Gump. — CD

Wind and Water: Boating Photographs from Around the World


by Onne van der Wal

Onne van der Wal is known for taking some of the most dramatic photographs in sailing. Perhaps it’s because he’s a sailor at heart. In 1982, Olympus handed him a few cameras to put to use while he was competing in the Whitbread (now Volvo) Round-the-World Race. When he finished the race, Olympus, along with every sailing publication in the world, liked what he’d brought back so much that they convinced him to hang up his sailing shoes permanently. Since, he’s been aboard just about every kind of vessel and ventured as close to both poles north and south as possible in a sailboat. These are some of his favorite photographs from along the way. — OB

 The World Without Sun


by Jacques-Yves Cousteau

In 1964, at the birth of an era of undersea living experiments, Cousteau planted a starfish-shaped hut 10 meters down in the Red Sea. With topside support, he had a crew of men working and living below the surface for 30 days. The base even had a submarine hanger. The structures still exist, and divers can visit them, but there are few undersea labs that exist besides Aquarius Lab in Florida. Cousteau’s grandson, Fabien, recently lived in Aquarius for 31 days, roughly 50 years after his grandfather’s team did their month in a world without sun. (I was somehow set to be the backup-aquanaut for this mission, but could not make the trip, unfortunately.) The documentary, which also won an award, is also on YouTube. — BL


The Young Man and the Sea: Recipes and Crispy Fish Tales from Esca


by David Pasternack and Ed Levine

David Pasternack has been running Mario Batali’s restaurant, ESCA, for over a decade, and has been dubbed “Fish Whisperer” by The New York Times.  Most distinguishably, though, he’s credited with bringing crudo, or Italian-style sashimi, to the United States. This book earns a place in the kitchen of any lover of seafood. — OB

 The Young Wrecker on the Florida Reef


by Richard Meade Bache et al.

This fascinating work describes the harrowing work and lives of wreck salvagers who plied the waters of the Florida Keys during the 19th century through the eyes of a young boy. This book was very popular when first published in 1869 for its vivid description of what was back then one of the most dangerous places on earth to navigate a boat. — CD


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea


by Jules Verne

In 1870, a French marine biologist, his servant, and a harpoonist take after a monster in the Pacific Ocean. The team locate and attack the monster, only it strikes the ship’s rudders and the three men are thrown into the drink. Grabbing hold of the beast, they realize it’s not a beast at all but a submarine. They’re captured and taken aboard by the charismatic, mad biologist and societal deviate Captain Nemo, who’s discovered a way to hide from civilization while simultaneously striking back at it. The three protagonists take to the life well, donning dive suits and hunting sharks with air guns. Some people still see this work of fiction as a prelude of things to come (Verne was right about the submarine). — OB

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