This list isn’t a “top ten” for books about sailing, it’s simply a list of great sailing books. Offering both fiction and non-fiction, these books will leave you planning your own sailing trip. If you feel that we have left off a fantastic book in our list, please share your favorites in the comments below.
The Old Man and the Sea By Ernest Hemingway
Written by a classic author, The Old Man and the Sea tells the story of a Cuban Fisherman, Santiago, and his struggle with a giant marlin off the Florida coast. This short novel written in 1952 contains a story of struggle while fishing at sea but ultimately, gives the message that through triumphs and failures there is hope to keep us going. Hemingway’s words are calming and uplifting, a perfect book to read while relaxing at sea.
Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum
A sailing memoir documenting Joshua Slocum’s global circumnavigation in 1895. He was the first to sail around the world alone; no small feat. Slocum’s book about sailing created a separate understanding of recreational sailing versus adventure. Most consider the memoir to be required reading for anyone who sails for either business or pleasure.
The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier
If you’re intrigued by the lore of sailing, Moitessier is a must-read. He followed his inspiration wherever and whenever. In the Long Way, Moitessier writes about his participation in the first solo circumnavigation race in history but decided not to finish and pulled out of the race. He then went on to sail his own course, eventually ending in Tahiti. His trip totaled 37,455 miles, and he never once touched land during that long journey. Moitessier writes a wonderful book for anyone who dreams of escaping the rat race and sailing the endless ocean waves.
A Voyage For Madmen by Peter Nichols
If you read Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way, this book is a great next read! Peter Nichols was one of nine sailors-another one of them being Bernard Moitessier-who were attempting to circumnavigate the globe solo. Nichols chronicles the race and the other individuals involved. He writes about the failure, madness, death, and challenges of mother nature trying to cross the finish line of the 1968 Golden Globe Race. Nichols’ story will give you a more full view of what happened in the race and how only one of nine men crossed the finish line winning fame and wealth.
The Wanderer by Sharon Creech
A Young Adult fiction novel about sailing, The Wanderer tells a story about a young girl and her family sailing from the United States to England. The story is told through a series of journal entries from the main character, Sophie, and her cousin, Cody. Creech’s book provides awe-inspiring scenes of the waves as they hit the boat and the crew as they work through a storm. The Wanderer is a wonderful book about sailing which focuses on adventure and love.
We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen
This fictional novel starts in 1848 following a group of Danish sailors as they sail off to fight the Germans. Not all return and the ones that do have been forever changed by war. Jensen’s novel spans four generations of fathers and sons, two world wars, and one hundred years. We, the Drowned, is a wise, thrilling, and humorous tale that tells the stories of adventure and courage sailing the high seas.
South Sea Vagabonds by John Wray
With little money and no skill at sailing, John Wray builds his own yacht and gathers a crew to set sail for an adventure in the Pacific. An entertaining and inspiring read, Wray writes about his insatiable desire and passion to sail. His passion becomes contagious to the reader, urging you to go on an adventure of your own.
The Lonely Sea and the Sky by Francis Chichester
One of the greatest adventurers of all time, Sir Francis Chichester writes his informative and inspiring autobiography. Documenting his achievements and triumphs while living his life to the fullest. Despite having a severe illness, Sir Francis didn’t let it stop him from pursuing his dreams. He is a true inspiration for anyone wishing to pursue their own sailing dreams.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage to the Antarctic by Alfred Lansing
The ultimate survival story, Endurance is the tale of Shackleton and his crew trying to survive in the Antarctic. Lansing used journal entries from the 28 men involved to recount the tale of man’s determination and courage. Managing to survive for two years in the harsh and freezing weather, this book is a thrilling, fast-paced read.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
We simply couldn’t skip the classic tale of Captain Ahab sailing the ocean in search of the white whale. A story surrounded by adventure and a battle of good versus evil. Moby Dick is a humorous and poetic novel that is more than just the hunting of the infamous white whale.
These swash-buckling tales of adventure and human triumph on the high seas are your perfect companions to read before your next sailing holiday. If you feel that we left out any fantastic books about sailing, leave your suggestion in our comments below. Happy adventuring!