I really love reading and I really love the sea… so I’ve collected some wonderful books for ocean-lovers of all kinds right here. Some inspiration for yourself, and to give as gifts – books for surfers, coastal hikers, swimmers, adventurers, curious thinkers, and for kids who care about the sea.
If I’m not actually in the sea, I love getting lost in a book on the beach. Or reading at home, wrapped up warm, but transported to ocean wilds somewhere in my imagination.
I don’t own any ‘single use’ books: they’re made to be shared. I love passing my favourites on to family and friends, or giving them away to charity.
Where to buy your books
Support your local bookseller (you’ll have a much more positive impact on the world than buying from Amazon). Our local bookshops are precious – and most booksellers would be more than happy to order any book in for you (I love doing that via our local Penzance bookshop: Edge of the World). Alternatively, you could try second hand book suppliers with a sustainable ethos like World of Books.
If you buy new, you also get to support the amazing creative authors and their families – there are few writers who actually make their entire living from their books, and every purchase helps them to create more wonderful books for us to read.
If money is tight, use your local library and browse charity shops. To reduce the impact of print and production on the environment, you could buy audio books instead.
As always, there are no ads, and nothing has been sponsored or gifted to me for this guide. Nearly all of them are books I’ve bought, borrowed, read and loved myself – or others I trust have recommended to me. (One of them I did write myself though!)
I plan to keep adding to the list: which means that I’d love to know the books that YOU love as sea-lovers. Let me know your favourites in the comments, and I’ll come back to update this post with your recommendations too…
1. FOR EVERY WOMAN, AT EVERY STAGE OF LIFE:
Gift from the Sea – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
This little book is a classic. Every time I read it, I get something more from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s observations – her words are so beautiful, and strangely timeless.
I actually have two copies, which is maybe a little excessive! One that I brought for myself, and one that was gifted to me by someone else who loves it – which is actually perfect, because now I get to keep one AND have the pleasure of loaning this one out on a regular basis…
It was written when Anne was on a precious seaside writing break, away from her husband and five children many years ago, yet her wise words on life, love, motherhood, the modern world, ageing and solitude still ring true today.
Her thoughts on love and marriage are so honest and beautiful, and have such meaning for me personally, that we shared a reading from this book when we got married by the sea ourselves…
2. FOR THE WALKER AND MEMOIR LOVER:
The Salt Path – Raynor Winn
I was loaned this book by a fellow swimmer recently – when I really wasn’t in the mood for reading. Yet, somehow, the bittersweet charm of this beautiful book quickly drew me in.
It’s the true story of Raynor and her partner Moth’s walk along the South West Coastpath – a mad/brave response to their life having recently crumbled away beneath their feet. Soon after losing their family home, they received news of Moth’s terminal illness – and with nowhere else to go, they started walking.
It’s a beautiful love story, a wonderful description of the coast I adore, and an impactful insight into the experience of being homeless and outcast.
3. FOR THE ARTY SEA ADVENTURER:
The Sea Journal: Seafarer’s Sketchbooks – Huw Lewis-Jones
Everyone in our family absolutely loved The Explorers’ Sketchbook which Huw wrote with his wife Kari Herbert (confession: Kari’s one of my best friends, and hugely talented – check out her current book, We are Artists: Women Who Made Their Mark on the World, which has nothing to do with the sea, but is awesome nonetheless…).
Like this one, The Explorers’ Sketchbook was a true work of love, stuffed full of incredible diaries and drawings from all sorts of explorers’ adventures.
The Sea Journal focuses on the wonders of the sea: there are peeks into journals and log books, excerpts from diaries and letters, and sketches and art created by mariners, ship captains, explorers and adventurers from all over the world. As we learn about their lives and journeys, we get to see how they captured their experiences, the mystery and magic of their ocean voyages on the page – bringing those journeys to life.
4. FOR THE BRAVE SWIMMER (or wannabe swimmer):
Taking the Plunge: The Healing Power of Wild Swimming for Mind, Body and Soul – Anna Deacon and Vicky Allan
I haven’t read this one yet as it’s only just been published – but I’ve seen so many excerpts and stunning photos – and I feel like I know so many people involved (simply from following lots of other passionate sea swimmers on instagram) – that I’m sure it is going to be amazing.
It’s absolutely on my Christmas list!
Full of inspiring, moving, well-researched, and beautifully-told stories of pain healed and lives changed for the better by wild swimming and the wonderful community of swimmers that come together in the water.
It also includes advice on how to get started – so if I haven’t inspired you yet with Sea Soul Blessings and my own swimming stories, there’s a good chance this book will get you in the water!
5. FOR THE TRAVELLING SURFER:
The Stormrider Guide – Oliver Fitzjones
I think this book has probably been opened and read more times than any other book in our household…
It’s a vital guide for any surfer to the best surf breaks across Europe – all you need to know when planning a dawn patrol, a surf trip or a family adventure.
My husband seems to get happily lost in this book on a regular basis, planning imaginary surf trips. I’m sure it’s what inspired him to get so good at speaking Spanish…
We’ve also been lucky enough to visit a lot of the amazing surf spots mentioned in the book as a family. We’ve used this book’s wise advice to keep ourselves safe too – by staying away from all those it warns are not all that friendly from either a human or environmental point of view…
6. FOR THE BUSY MINDFULNESS-SEEKER:
Sea Soul Blessings – the mini book – Pippa Best
I made a book too! Each box set of beautiful Sea Soul Blessings cards is accompanied by a pocket-sized book: a standalone treat in its own right.
Sea Soul Blessings: May the Sea be your Guide is just 60 pages long, yet each page offers the reader an immediate mindful connection to the sea – a wave of encouraging words that allow you to soak up the magic of the sea. It offers gentle encouragement to listen, wherever you are in the world.
Along with my personal story, the book offers ideas for using Sea Soul Blessings as a tool to build self compassion, make time for yourself, and find greater clarity and peace. You can also use the book without any cards at all – by simply turning the pages until a particular message draws your attention. May the sea be your guide.
7. FOR THE CURIOUS WATER-LOVER:
Blue Mind – Wallace J Nichols
This book made sense of everything that I’ve felt about being in the water – and everything that I’d witnessed in my husband’s passion for surfing.
In Blue Mind, J brings together all sorts of research from around the world (including lots from the University of Exeter, not far from us here…) to explain why water has such a profound and transformative impact on us all.
Blue Mind provides the science and personal stories to explain why water calms us, inspires us to be more creative, sends us into a positive meditative state – amongst many other benefits.
J’s writing is always engaging – he makes complex ideas accessible, and reminds us of the importance of protecting and preserving our blue spaces.
I was very honoured to be able to send some Sea Soul Blessings over to J at the last Blue Mind conference, which rather aptly, looked at ‘Blue Mindfulness’ – and I so love the idea that our seas have connected through those cards and this book!
8. FOR THE COFFEE DRINKER WITH A SEA VIEW
Waves – Seascapes, storms and surf – Mike Newman
Every good book list needs a lovely coffee table photography book to flick through, and this one is no exception.
Mike Newman’s a very talented Cornish photographer, father, and surfer. (He’s even taken some hilarious photos of me for the local paper, dressed by my child for charity – in which he showed true dedication to the craft by borrowing someone else’s dog to give the photo a little extra ‘lift’…!)
I haven’t spotted any random additional dogs in this book (as yet), but there are a lot of beautiful waves and seascapes in Cornwall – all sorts of amazing colours, shapes and movement – and stunning evocative scenes of the Cornish coast in all weathers.
9: FOR READING ALOUD TO KIDS:
The Snail and the Whale and Tiddler – both books are by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
I’m cheating and including two by Julia Donaldson, because I LOVED reading both of these books to my kids: beautifully illustrated tales that roll off the tongue…
The Snail and the Whale tells the story of a snail who wants to travel the world – in search of adventure, she befriends a humpback whale and together they head off on wild sea adventures. But when the whale is beached, the tiny little snail has to find a way to save her friend.
It reminds the reader that the smallest of us can have a powerful impact, illustrates the beauty of kindness and friendship, and the importance of following our dreams – and of course, it teaches respect and appreciation of this beautiful planet we live on, together, and its seas.
I never get bored of reading Tiddler aloud, and I must have read it hundreds and hundreds of times…!
Tiddler is a little fish who is always late for school – he always has a wonderful story to tell about why – that absolutely no one believes. But one day, he is caught up in a fishing net and really does go on a big adventure…
Set in an underwater world of imagined and real adventures and connections between a wild diversity of creatures, this is a beautiful book about the power of stories and or storytelling to connect us all.
Seb and Polly Planet on their Ocean Quest – Michelle Cassar and Eve Barrat
Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage describes this book:
“Seb and Polly Planet is a beautiful tale of the planet, plastic, empowerment, and how positive environmental action gives hope to us all, and for the future of Planet Ocean.”
I haven’t read this yet, but it has been illustrated by the very talented Eve, one of the lovely people that I participated in the School for Social Entrepreneurs with a few years ago. And it recently succeeded in raising the crowdfunding it needed to go to print – yay!
I love the team’s ambitions – to create a fun and timely kids book to encourage simple solutions to plastic pollution. I know that worries about the environment are weighing on my kids’ shoulders already – this book intends to empower and encourage, making them feel less alone in that struggle, and more positive about their capacity to make a difference – which has to be a good thing. Also, a percentage of profits from sales are donated to Plastic Oceans UK, Plastic Free July and City to Sea.
If you liked this article, you might also like my gift guide for sea-lovers…
Thanks for reading and I hope this has given you some great ideas for sea-reads for you and your loved ones.
Do let me know your favourite sea-related themes in the comments below so that we can share the books we love with each other.