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Five Great Books That Take Place On Or Underwater

In the Heart of the SeaI think the ocean is terrifying. Even swimming in Lake Powell bugged me if I let myself think about all the black water below me for too long. And yet, I love to read about it. I love to watch documentaries about it. I even like the beach, but I don’t want to spend any time in the ocean, or on it.

Maybe you’re a chicken like me, maybe not. In any case, I think the following books that take place either on the oceans or beneath them are worth a try.

In The Heart of The Sea: The Tragedy of The Whaleship Essex

Men go whale hunting, whale sinks boat, men drift for a loooooong time in the ocean while struggling to stay alive. They also have to fend off madness and draw lots to see which one of them will be sacrificed so the others can use their bodies for food.

A true story, and the inspiration for Melville’s Moby Dick. My full review of In The Heart of the Sea can be found on the other side of that link.

All of the Patrick O’Brian books

This is the series that the Master and Commander movie was cobbled together from. A wonderful set of stories with a serious emphasis (at times) on nautical minutiae.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Some people say this is very boring. Do not listen to them.

Life of Pi

Yann Martell’s great story about a young boy trapped on a boat (or is he!!!) with an increasingly hungry tiger.

Moby Dick

One of the strangest books I have ever read. Most people think they know the story of Ahab and the whale, but there’s a lot more going on here. Also, very dense and quite boring at times.

That’s it for now. Take five. Go read.

Are any of you readers also moonlighting as swashbucklers or sailors? Fill in the blanks, please.


Actually, no, now that I have water and oceans on the brain, I also highly recommend 5 Very Good Reasons To Punch A Dolphin In The Mouth.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Marleah March 1, 2011, 9:17 pm

    I just brought 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth home from work today. SO GREAT.

  • Jim Janney March 2, 2011, 12:29 pm

    Frank Herbert, _The Dragon in the Sea_ I like this better than the Dune books.

  • Mike March 2, 2011, 6:23 pm

    My Votes,

    Michael Tougias: Ten Hours Until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do. Set in 1978 blizzard that lashed the Massachusetts coast.

    Sebastian Junger: The Perfect Storm

    I agree, stories of survival on the ocean tend to be quite gripping.

  • Carlene March 16, 2011, 8:53 am

    In the Heart of the Sea is one of my favorite books! I tell people about this one all the time, but I’ve gotten some strange looks. Maybe people think it’s odd that a woman would like this book? I don’t know.