The gift-giving season rapidly approaches, so it’s a good time to come up with a list of our favorite boating book titles. Maybe you have a boater on your list and are looking for a perfect gift book. Or maybe you’re the avid boater and, in anticipation of Auntie Alice’s annual cash gift, you’re looking for something to purchase for yourself.
Below, we’ve organized our suggested titles of boating books in categories. Because boating books, like boaters, come in all shapes and sizes. Some boating books contain useful information, others (both fiction and nonfiction) take the reader away on flights of fancy or historical events.
The good news: all these books can be found in your favorite local bookstore, or online retailer… they won’t be stuck on a container ship waiting in line off the California coast!
Read Ho! Here’s some of our favorite titles for the boating reader.
Useful, how-to, educational books
Boating Skills and Seamanship (14th Edition)
By the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
The granddaddy of boating how-to books, this Coast Guard textbook is the authoritative reference work on seamanship that has been used by millions of students and boaters.
The main concepts in the book, in addition to a rigorous introduction to common practices and boating terminology, include choosing the right kind of boat, essential equipment required by law and regulation, and the latest electronic navigational guides currently in use.
The book explains the concepts of manoeuvring, navigation, reading nautical charts, seamanship, and boat handling. Special attention is paid to the loading and launching of boats from trailers.
This book should be in every captain’s library and found on board of every boat, large or small. (About $32 on Amazon.)
The Total Boating Manual
By Kevin Farley
Another useful compendium of how-to boating skills and knowledge that every and any boat owner should know.
Published by the editors of Boating Magazine, the book contains descriptions, user guides, tips and tricks that everyone who goes out on the water should know.
Flexibound copy from $29 at Amazon.
Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual
By Nigel Calder
Some of us, when things start going pocketa-pocketa on the boat, reach for the telephone to call our service department!
But others, armed with this exhaustive 900-page resource guide, flip through the pages to find out what’s going wrong.
Covering almost every working part on a boat, this book covers power systems, electronic systems, electrical power generation, corrosion, and seamanship.
In addition to detailing the mechanical stuff, there are also sections on the proper maintenance and upkeep of your boat, including discussions on DIY repairs, potential problems that may arise, repairs, and solutions to small issues that occur with wear and tear. Around $45 at Amazon.
The Adventure of Boating
A Unit of Water, A Unit of Time – Joel White’s Last Boat
By Douglas Whynott
There is something about the skill of boatbuilding that seems lost in the modern era of mass-production and synthetic materials. Gone are the days of hand-crafting wooden boats, one piece of wood at a time.
In 1996, Joel White, the son of famed author E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and many others), learned he had cancer and began work designing and then building the W-76 racing yacht, his final masterpiece. Douglas Whynott spent a year at the Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine, watching and taking notes as the design took shape, first in sketches and then during the painstaking process of building the wooden craft.
The result, A Unit of Water, A Unit of Time, is a classic portrait of dignity, charm and achievement, along with a look into the feisty Maine maritime community that keeps this vanishing world and its skills alive.
Paperback, hardback and Kindle (ebook) from around $15 at Amazon.
Barons of the Sea: And Their Race to Build the World’s Fastest Clipper Ship
By Steven Ujifusa
In a world that sounds surprisingly familiar, wealthy American entrepreneurs once made (and lost) great fortunes trading with mainland China. Often using profits generated in the opium trade, these robber barons of the Gilded Age sought to import from China tea, silks and porcelain goods that were highly sought after here in the States.
The problem was the time it took to get those goods from there to here. Thus began the competition to build the fastest clipper ships, seeing who could come up with a boat design that would cut off days, weeks or months from the cross-Pacific journey.
Ujifusa’s fascinating book chronicles the men, the ships and the cutthroat competition to build the fastest vessel, in a riveting tale of innovation and ingenuity. An engrossing read.
Paperback and Kindle (ebook) from around $13 at Amazon.
The Voyage of the Narwhal
By Andrea Barrett
In 1845 Sir John Franklin set off on an expedition to find the elusive Northwest Passage, the fabled sea route to the Pacific through the frozen Arctic Ocean. His ships, Erebus and Terror, were lost; Franklin and his men seemingly vanished into thin air.
In Barrett’s novel, naturalist Erasmus Darwin Wells sails from Philadelphia in 1855 aboard the Narwhal with the aim of discovering Franklin’s fate. This is a gripping novel that recreates the atmosphere aboard a 19th century ship venturing into the unknown with chilling accuracy.
Available in Kindle and Auiobook ($7.95) at Amazon.
By James Patterson with Howard Roughan
Best-selling author James Patterson is everywhere these days. This fast-paced page-turning thriller is typical Patterson: ordinary people dealing with extraordinary things.
Since the death of her husband, Anne Dunne and her three children have struggled in every way. In a last ditch effort to save the family, Anne plans an elaborate sailing vacation to bring everyone together once again. But only an hour out of port, everything is going wrong. The teenage daughter, Carrie, is planning to drown herself. The teenage son, Mark, is high on drugs and ten-year-old Ernie is nearly catatonic. This is the worst vacation ever.
Anne manages to pull things together bit by bit, but just as they begin feeling like a family again, something catastrophic happens. Survival may be the least of their concerns.
Written with the blistering pace and shocking twists that only James Patterson can master, Sail takes “Lost” and “Survivor” to a new level of terror.
Available in paper, Kindle and audio editions starting at $8 at Amazon.
This Thing of Darkness
By Harry Thompson
In 1831 Charles Darwin set off in HMS Beagle under the command of Captain Robert Fitzroy on a voyage that would change the world. This is the story of a deep friendship between two men, and the twin obsessions that tear them apart, leading one to triumph, and the other to disaster.
The book focuses on the captain, Fitzroy, as it weaves its fascinating story.
Hardback and paperback editions from around $20 at Amazon.
Swallows and Amazons
By Arthur Ransome
If you grew up in the British Isles, you were probably introduced to Ransome’s series of young adult novels detailing the adventures of the Walker children (John, Susan, Titty and Roger) and the Blackett children (Nancy and Peggy) as they sail around the Lake District of northwest England and have assorted adventures and travails.
These books may be listed as being ‘for children,’ but kids of all ages will enjoy these great stories, each one celebrating independence and initiative with a colorful, large cast of characters. Like the entire series that follows, this book is for anyone captivated by a world of adventure and imagination, exploring and setting sail.
Paperback and e-book editions from $8 at Amazon.