Ocean friends, a new year is upon us and that means new book recommendations for 2019…and boy, are there some phenomenal pieces on the list this year. Grab a warm mug of your favorite beverage, get comfy and ready yourself to make the only difficult choice that this list requires you to make: deciding which title you’ll read first!
Inspiring Depictions of Natural History
While our ocean is inspiring on its own, knowing the natural histories of its various habitats and species can help us appreciate it all the more. These books help us understand how and why our ocean came to be as it is today, as well as how it established itself as being one of the most important features of communities and cultures across the globe.
- Aquagenesis by Richard Ellis
A mind-blowing account of what we know about the history and evolutionary origins of animals that thrive within our ocean today, Aquagenesis is a book filled with information that could make anyone’s jaw drop. The author illustrates what the very first ocean animals were like, how they evolved into the tens of thousands of marine species in existence today, and the how and why behind the changes species go through over time. This book is full of fascinating documentation of both the present and past of the sea and is sure to quench the thirst for knowledge in the minds of those wanting to know more about our blue planet.
- Spying on Whales by Nick Pyenson
This book focuses on the evolution and survival of cetaceans, one of the most iconic creatures in our ocean today. From their origins as land-based creatures the size of canines to swimming specimens weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds, it’s no wonder why whales can pull emotions of both affection and fear from our minds at times. This piece answers readers’ greatest questions about whales and draws on just how much we still have to learn about these magnificent creatures. It was also named a ‘best book’ by Popular Science!
Books that Introduce Us to the Minds of Sea Creatures
- Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith
Written by an experienced scuba diver with a Ph.D. in philosophy, Other Minds discusses the basis and history of subjective experience, and how the story of self-awareness actually largely began (and still occurs) in the ocean. Focusing heavily on the minds of cephalopods, it expands on the countless questions that surround the evolution of the genius displayed by octopus species in particular. How did they become so intelligent, and when exactly did they start to think for themselves? This, among many other touchpoints, is covered by Dr. Godfrey-Smith and is a must-read for anyone fascinated by the idea that animals can display a type of consciousness similar to that which we experience in our daily lives.
- What a Fish Knows by Jonathan Balcombe
Does a fish have the ability to think, form memories, or recognize people, places and things? The answers to these questions may surprise you. In this intriguing text, author and ethologist Jonathan Balcombe works through big questions like these, elaborating on the shocking capabilities many people don’t realize fish have. As the book explains our tendency to see fishes as members of groups rather than as individuals, the predispositions believed to be true by many people about our ‘underwater cousins’ are overturned, proving just how much more we have in common with fish than we may realize.
Books for Kids Who Love the Sea
If we know one thing for sure, it’s that a love for the ocean is often founded in the earliest of our childhood years. Because of this foundational admiration for marine ecosystems, pieces of children’s literature that open the eyes of youngins’ are sure to fill their hearts and minds with wonder and a greater appreciation for our seas. These books teach children important lessons through their narrative structure and story arch development, and kids will love the wondrous illustrations.
- A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle
This story follows a young hermit crab as he grows, searching shell after shell for the perfect home. A heartwarming story mirroring the good that change can bring, it’s been recommended for young children going through changes and growing into new phases of their lives. A House for a Hermit Crab is a whimsical tale of never letting fear of change get the best of you and the colorful, true-to-Carle illustrations will bring fascination to any child’s eyes.
- Duffy’s Lucky Escape by Ellie Jackson
This is a fun-filled series installment that is actually pretty new to shelves, but all the more worth a recommendation. Written by an environmentalist and marine debris solutions activist, this book structures a narrative around a sea turtle’s experience with ocean plastic to teach children to be aware of the harm pollution can cause. Written in a gentle yet optimistic tone, this book and those in its series (Wild Tribe Heroes) all inspire children to be both cognizant of their own interactions with potential plastic pollution. It also encourages kids to lend their own hand and creative mind in helping solve pressing global environmental problems like these.
- Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton
If you’re looking for an upbeat series with a bunch of cute animals to go along with it, this is it! This is the first installation of a new, yet beloved, series of the adventures of a narwhal and his sea jelly friend and tells a heartwarming story of friendship between even the most unlikely of ocean critters. Teaching children the joy that comes along with teamwork, Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea is destined to be a book the kids in your life won’t want to put down.
Photography-Based and Coffee Table Books
Know someone who loves visuals and photography? These books use the power of imagery to communicate their key messages and unite in a common theme: demonstrating the beauty of our ocean through photos.
- Ocean: An Illustrated Atlas (Sylvia A. Earle and Linda K. Glover)
- Citizens of the Sea (Nancy Knowlton)
Books on Marine Life and the Living Seas
If you or someone you know is highly interested in marine life and the creatures that dwell beneath the surface of the sea, these are the wildlife-focused books we recommend.
- The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson
Published more than 50 years ago, this book is a classic and largely considered to be “one of the most influential books ever written about the natural world.” In the text, iconic environmentalist and author Rachel Carson recounts the life story of our ocean. Critically, she also traces some of our ocean’s greatest modern-day threats, from oil spills to ocean acidification to polar ice cap melting and beyond. Originally selling more than a million copies when it was published in 1951, this is without a doubt the book for you if you love the ocean and want to know how we can best preserve and protect it from its greatest threats.
- Kraken by Wendy Williams
Coined after the name for many feared sea monsters in history’s most intriguing legends and lore, this book is all about one of the most curious creatures in our ocean: cephalopods. From squid to cuttlefish to the charismatic octopus, the book brings readers into the enchanting world of these species, examining their truly wild abilities and charming displays of intelligence. If someone you know loves octopuses, this is definitely a go-to gift idea.
Tales of Sea Travel and Living at Sea
- Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening by Captain Liz Clark
When Liz Clarke was in her early twenties, she set out on an adventure she had dreamed of since childhood: traveling the world via water. Her book recounts the incredible adventure she experienced as she embarked from Santa Barbara, California on her 40-foot sailboat to destinations beyond the horizon. With true grit and unrelenting inspiration, this piece of literature tells the story of how one young woman traveled (and is still traveling) more than 20,000 miles to see as much of this world as possible, and how she found herself when she took one step toward the life of her dreams.
- Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum
Renowned as the first person to circumnavigate the world alone, Captain Slocum set sail from Boston in the late 1800s and sailed for three years to places such as Gibraltar, Tierra del Fuego, South Africa and more. Even one hundred years after his legendary adventure, the rich narratives of his recorded discoveries and experiences are still said to be “one of the greatest narratives of adventure ever written.”
Useful Tools for Seaside and Underwater Excursions
- The Ultimate Guide to Sea Glass by Mary Beth Beuke
The perfect companion for the sea glass forager, this book was written by the owner of one of the world’s most dazzling sea glass collections: Mary Beth Beuke. However, as these precious coastal gems have become rarer a sight, Beuke realized there was a gap to be bridged in the world of beachcombing. Sea glass hunters needed a guidebook to both get started and grow in their hobby, and this text fills that role nearly perfectly. From learning the history of sea glass to curating your own set, this book is bound to groom even the most novice of aspiring collectors to become experts in no time.
- Reef Fish Identification by Paul Humann
Whether you’re getting ready to snorkel for the first time or are an expert diver, this series of books includes highly-rated must-haves for anyone yearning to know what species they are encountering in reef environments. The books contain hundreds of photos of resident species, with separate editions covering such geographic areas as the Caribbean and Tropical Pacific. You can even get some of these editions in multi-packs contained in slipcases, an excellent gift idea for the underwater adventurer in your life.
- The Beachcomber’s Guide to Marine Debris by Michael Stachowitsch
This informative book provides guidance for readers of what is, unfortunately, a likely encounter they may have on the beach these days: marine debris. Readers will find hundreds of photos to showcase just how many diverse forms of marine debris there are, as well as decomposition stages and recommendations for clean-up and prevention. The text is sure to come in handy for anyone traveling the world’s beaches no matter where on Earth they are, enabling them to do the best they can to play their part in the fight to solve our ocean’s global marine debris problem.
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