This list is to be ongoing. Isn’t it strange, how if someone asks you think of a book you suddenly forget everything you’ve ever read? With that in mind, recommendations from fellow voracious readers are always welcome!
Some of these stories occur above the ocean, some within the seas themselves, and some are so fantastical it is hard to tell. Admittedly, a few are more to do with the people who live on the waters than they are with the waters themselves, but who can resist a pirates, or a good nautical tale?
The Abarat: a vast archipelago where every island is a different hour of the day, from the sunlit wonders of Three in the Afternoon, where dragons roam, to the dark terrors of the island of Midnight, ruled by Christopher Carrion. Candy, of Chickentown, USA, has a place in this extraordinary world: she has been brought here to help save the Abarat from the dark forces that are stirring at its heart. Forces older than time itself, and more evil than anything Candy has ever encountered.
Lucy and Edmund, with their dreadful cousin Eustace, get magically pulled into a painting of a ship at sea. That ship is the Dawn Treader, and on board is Caspian, King of Narnia. He and his companions, including Reepicheep, the valiant warrior mouse, are searching for seven lost lords of Narnia, and their voyage will take them to the edge of the world. Their adventures include being captured by slave traders, a much-too-close encounter with a dragon, and visits to many enchanted islands, including the place where dreams come true.
From the moment young Jim Hawkins first encounters the sinister Blind Pew at the Admiral Benbow Inn until the climactic battle for treasure on a tropic isle, this novel creates scenes and characters that have fired the imaginations of generations of readers. Written by a superb prose stylist, a master of both action and atmosphere, the story centers upon the conflict between good and evil – but in this case a particularly engaging form of evil. It is the villainy of that most ambiguous rogue Long John Silver that sets the tempo of this tale of treachery, greed, and daring. Designed to forever kindle a dream of high romance and distant horizons, Treasure Island is, in the words of G. K. Chesterton, ‘the realization of an ideal, that which is promised in its provocative and beckoning map; a vision not only of white skeletons but also green palm trees and sapphire seas.’
An ocean voyage of unimaginable consequences… Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. Be warned, however: If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours. For my part I intend to tell the truth as I lived it.
The Pirates of the Caribbean have a name for kids who walk on water — they call them polliwogs. As far as fourteen-year-old Jolly knows, she’s the last polliwog still alive — and this special talent makes her invaluable to the pirate captain who raised her. When someone sets a trap for Jolly’s ship, she alone escapes. Washed up on a tiny island, she meets Munk, who has been raised in hiding. Munk longs to go to sea, but his parents are afraid of pirates. They have forbidden Munk to reveal his true identity — he, too, is a polliwog.
A fisherman raises his daughter till her mother returns from the sea to claim her. Since the great storm nine years ago, The Sands has been surrounded by swirling, violent currents, and seems inaccessible by land or sea. There, Danny has seen his beautiful daughter Jessie, the image of her mother Mara, reach her tenth year without seeing another human. Sadly sure that their time together is coming to an end, Danny shows Jessie a secret way Inland to visit the world of men–the remote British village of Misterne. There she is met by Lisa, a lonely girl who has somehow known she was coming.
Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed. When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.” But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy, and an unlikely friendship develops.
After discovering a seemingly Edenic paradise on an island in a Thai national park, Richard soon finds that since civilized behavior tends to dissolve without external restraints, the utopia is hard to maintain. (Also made into a movie; see the Film section of the website)
Orphan Peter and his mates are dispatched to an island ruled by the evil King Zarboff. They set sail aboard the Never Land, a ship carrying a precious and mysterious cargo the “greatest treasure on earth” – but is it gold, jewels, or something far more mysterious and dangerous?
Aboard the Vociferous Carmichael, puppeteer John Chandagnac is sailing toward Jamaica to claim his stolen birthright from an unscrupulous uncle, when the vessel is captured . . . by pirates! Offered a choice by Captain Phil Davies to join their seafaring band or die, Chandagnac assumes the name John Shandy and a new life as a brigand. But more than swashbuckling sea battles and fabulous plunder await the novice buccaneer on the roiling Caribbean waters–for treachery and powerful vodun sorcery are coins of the realm in this dark new world. And for the love of beautiful, magically imperiled Beth Hurwood, Shandy will set sail on even stranger tides, following the savage, ghost-infested pirate king, Blackbeard, and a motley crew of the living and the dead to the cursed nightmare banks of the fabled Fountain of Youth. (The Pirates of the Caribbean movie of the same title was based off this novel)
Here we meet Horatio Hornblower, a young man of 17 who joins the British Navy fighting against Napoleon and his tyranny of Europe as an inexperienced midshipman in January 1794. Bullied and forced into a duel, he takes an even chance. And then he has many more chances to show his skills and ingenuities – from sailing a ship full of wetted and swelling rice to imprisonment and saving the lives of shipwrecked sailors. And along the way, he fights galleys, feeds cattle, stays out of the way of the guillotine, and makes friends with a Duchess. Here Hornblower becomes a man and develops the strength of character which will make him a hero to his men, and to all England.
1800s. Britain’s Nelson leads Navy against Napoleon’s France. Captain Jack Aubrey, newly promoted to old, slow HMS Sophie, is a brave and gifted seaman, his thirst for adventure and victory immense. Aided by friend and skilled ship surgeon Stephen Maturin, Aubrey and crew win clashes, finally hopelessly outmatched by a mighty Spanish frigate.
Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. (Also made into a movie – see the Film section of the website)
Kidnapped is set around real 18th-century Scottish events, notably the “Appin murder”, which occurred in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745. Many of the characters are real people, including one of the principals, Alan Breck Stewart. The full title of the book is “Kidnapped: Being Memoirs of the Adventures of David Balfour in the Year 1751: How he was Kidnapped and Cast away; his Sufferings in a Desert Isle; his Journey in the Wild Highlands; his acquaintance with Alan Breck Stewart and other notorious Highland Jacobites; with all that he Suffered at the hands of his Uncle, Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws, falsely so-called: Written by Himself and now set forth by Robert Louis Stevenson.”
Life as a ship’s boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas. There’s only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life–if only she doesn’t get caught. (Note: I can’t believe these aren’t globally famous. Such a fun series, with dynamic characters and a historically accurate setting across many prominent events)
French naturalist Dr. Aronnax embarks on an expedition to hunt down a sea monster, only to discover instead the Nautilus, a remarkable submarine built by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. Together Nemo and Aronnax explore the underwater marvels, undergo a transcendent experience amongst the ruins of Atlantis, and plant a black flag at the South Pole. But Nemo’s mission is one of revenge-and his methods coldly efficient.
List of unread books:
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
Dragonflight – Anne McCaffrey
Reefsong – Carol Severance
Book summaries credited to