35 Best Books for Sailors: Adventures, Sailing Stories, and Guides
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If you’re a sailor, you know that there’s nothing quite like the open sea. The sun on your face, the wind in your hair, and the waves crashing against your boat’s hull – it’s a feeling that can’t be captured anywhere else.
We’ve put together a list of our favorite sailing books that inspire that passion and some of the best sailing guides to get you out on the water.
From sailing adventure novels to non-fiction books about sailing around the world, there’s something for everyone on this list. We’ve also included sailing books for cruisers and liveaboard sailors that share information and stories about the sailing lifestyle.
So whether you’re looking for a new book to read on your next sailing trip or just curious about life on the ocean, be sure to check out our picks for the best books for sailors.
Sailing Adventure Books – Non-Fiction
Non-fiction sailing books offer sailors a glimpse into the actual dangers and excitement of life at sea. Some of the most fantastic adventure stories are about life on the open ocean. These books of survival, exploration, and determination will leave a lasting impression and feeling of respect for the sea.
1. Adrift: 76 Days Lost at Sea
By Steven Callahan
Adrift is a non-fiction book by Steven Callahan that tells the story of his 1982 sailing expedition, during which he was stranded in a lifeboat for 76 days.
The book chronicles his story as he fights for survival against all odds. This is an original, true adventure story that should be on every sailor’s reading list.
2. The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst
By Nicholas Tomalin
The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst is a non-fiction book by Nicholas Tomalin that tells the story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst, a man who attempted the Golden Globe Race around the world in 1968.
The book follows Crowhurst’s journey, revealing this solo race’s mental toll on a sailor.
3. The Proving Ground
By Bruce Knecht
The Proving Ground is about the 1998 world-renowned Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. A distance of only 630 nautical miles, it is considered one of the most challenging races in the world, but it would also become fatal in this particular year.
A massive storm with 80-knot gusts and enormous waves tore apart the racing yachts killing six sailors and stranding 55 others. The book follows the stories of three of the yachts fighting for survival and showcases how those people of different backgrounds reacted in the face of disaster.
This story of courage, determination, and tragedy has been described as the ‘Perfect Storm’ version of a sailing race. Even if you know nothing about yacht racing or sailing, you can still find this book interesting and entertaining to read.
4. The Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
By Alfred Lansing
The Endurance is a non-fiction book by Alfred Lansing that tells the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 expedition to Antarctica. The book follows the journey of the Endurance, a ship that was caught in pack ice and eventually destroyed.
This book is one of the most remarkable survival stories ever told. It is made even more interesting since the wreckage of the Endurance was just recently found in March of 2022 over 10,000 feet below the Weddell Sea.
5. In the Heart of the Sea
The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
In the Heart of the Sea is a non-fiction book by Nathaniel Philbrick that reveals the true story of the whaleship Essex – the ship that was the inspiration for the timeless classic Moby-Dick.
In 1820, the Essex was attacked by a giant sperm whale, and the crew was forced to abandon ship. They sailed for over 90 days in small boats before finally being rescued. This is a sailing book of true survival and the unforgivable nature of the sea.
6. The Perfect Storm
A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger
The Perfect Storm is a non-fiction book by Sebastian Junger that tells the story of the 1991 Perfect Storm, a hurricane that caused massive damage along the East Coast of the United States.
The book follows the lives of the fishermen who were caught in the storm, and it paints a vivid picture of how perilous a storm at sea can be.
A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea by Tami Oldham Ashcraft
Adrift is an autobiography by Tami Oldham Ashcraft about two adventurous souls and their sailing passage from Tahiti to California. During this trip, Tami and her fiancé encounter a cataphoric hurricane that severely damages the sailboat.
This book is a true sailing survival story of a woman dealing with loss while struggling against impossible odds.
8. The Silent World
By Jacques Cousteau
The father of scuba diving first introduced us to the mysteries of the underwater world in his book The Silent World. This book was published before Cousteau’s TV series and literally dives into the beginning of scuba and underwater adventure.
This book will delight sailors who are also divers and interested in exploring and discovering the deep sea as it was first explored through scuba in the 1950s.
9. Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft
By Thor Heyerdahl
The Kon-Tiki expedition was a famous 1947 voyage from South America to Polynesia on a raft built from balsa wood and bamboo. The team consisted of six men. The voyage was designed to test Heyerdahl’s theory that the ancient Polynesians could have settled in South America, and it proved to be a success.
This book is another fascinating true story of sailing expedition and exploration in the 20th century.
Sailing Adventure Books – Fiction
Sailing adventure books are a great way to get lost in a story while enjoying the open seas. These novels often follow the journey of a sailing vessel or crew fighting for survival on the sea or a dangerous voyage in uncharted waters. They’re perfect for anyone who loves adventure and suspense or wants to escape from the real world.
These are some of our favorite fictional books on sailing adventures.
10. The Old Man and the Sea
By Ernest Hemingway
The Old Man and the Sea is a classic novel by Ernest Hemingway, first published in 1952. The novella tells the story of an aged Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin fish for three days and nights in the Gulf Stream before finally killing it. He sets himself against both his own past, represented by his young brother, and the present, in the form of the marlin.
It’s a simple (and relatively short) story, but with a closer look, you can see why this book earned Hemingway the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953.
By Herman Melville
One of our favorite sailing novels is also a classic by anyone’s standards. Moby-Dick tells the story of a sailor’s quest to hunt down a giant white whale.
The book captures the essence of life on the open ocean and, in turn, captures who sailors are as people, both adventurous and determined. This is one of the great sailing stories that should be on your must-read list.
12. Master and Commander
The Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian
Master and Commander is the first book in the Aubrey-Maturin series, a series of historical fiction novels set during the Napoleonic Wars. The book follows the life of Captain Jack Aubrey, a British naval officer, and his friend Dr. Stephen Maturin, a ship’s surgeon.
The Aubrey-Maturin series offers a glimpse into the life of a naval officer during the Age of Sail. It’s a story of friendship and adventure, and it’s sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who reads it.
You can also check out the movie of the same name, which made our Top 12 Sailing Movies list.
13. The Life of Pi
By Yann Martel
The Life of Pi is a novel by Yann Martel that tells the story of a young boy who is stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger in the Pacific Ocean.
The story follows Pi as he attempts to survive for 227 days on the lifeboat, using his wits and animal instincts to keep himself alive. It’s an intense and harrowing story, but one that ultimately speaks to the human spirit and the will to survive.
14. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
By C.S. Lewis
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the fifth novel by C.S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia series that tells the story of King Caspian’s voyage to find the seven lost lords of Narnia. The book follows the journey of the Dawn Treader, a ship that King Caspian captains.
Lewis’s ability to create interesting characters and settings makes this book a joy to read. If you are looking for a story with a fun sailing adventure, this is a good book to get lost in!
Books About Sailing Around the World
These books are true stories about sailors who circumnavigated the globe. From the first solo sail around the world to sailing around the world in a 12-foot boat – these books are packed with some of the best sailing stories of all time!
15. Sailing Alone Around the World
By Joshua Slocum
Sailing Alone Around the World is a sailing classic written by Joshua Slocum. The memoir recounts Slocum’s journey as the first person to solo sail around the world.
This book follows Captain Slocum’s three-year, 46,000-mile journey beginning in 1895 as he encounters an exciting number of challenges, including dangerous coral reefs, pirates, and even Indians. This book is the original true-story sailing adventure novel!
16. Maiden Voyage
By Tania Aebi
Maiden Voyage is an autobiography that tells the story of an 18-year-old whose father gives her a choice between college and circumnavigating the globe solo in a 26-foot sailboat.
The book chronicles her remarkable journey around the world and provides a story of inner strength and determination that is sure to inspire anyone who reads it.
17. Gipsy Moth Circles the World
By Francis Chichester
Gipsy Moth Circles the World is a book about the author’s solo circumnavigation in 1966 on his 53-foot ketch via Cape Horn. At the time, he was one of only nine boats to sail around the world on this route and set a new record for speed on his 226-day journey.
This book is an authentic mariner’s sailing story, providing all the details of what it was like sailing solo on this voyage – from constant sail changes to weather and day-to-day activities. The fact that the author was 65-years-old on the journey makes the feat even more impressive.
By Robin Lee Graham
Dove is a sailing autobiography by Robin Lee Graham that tells how at 16-years-old he began an around-the-world sailing exhibition in 1965. During this trip on a 24-foot sloop, he became the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo.
The book chronicles his 33,000-mile journey, from exploring gorgeous tropical islands to finding his wife.
19. 500 Days: Around the World on a 12 Foot Yacht
By Serge Testa
Follow along with Testa as he sets the world record for the smallest boat to circumnavigate. During his 500 days sailing on an incredibly tiny yacht built by the author himself, he recounts his sailing stories with humor sprinkled throughout.
There’s no doubt Testa is a very self-sufficient and determined sailor, and he might even convenience you to start your sailing journey on a smaller sailboat!
20. The Long Way
By Bernard Moitessier
The Long Way is a book by Bernard Moitessier that tells the story of his 1969 participation in the first Golden Globe Race. This race is a non-stop circumnavigation during which Moitessier sails around three capes, including Cape Horn. Follow along with the author and the many challenges he faces, including terrible weather, loneliness, fatigue, and maintenance issues.
The Long Way exploits the struggles of solo sailing passages and shows the rewards behind such a challenging feat.
Best Books on Sailing for Beginners
If you’re new to sailing or living on a boat, you might wonder where to start. These books will teach you how to sail, maintain a sailboat, and live on a sailboat. We’ve also listed excellent guides to cruising on a sailboat, including what boat to buy and how to outfit it.
Here are some of the best books for beginner sailors and liveaboards.
21. Sailing Made Easy
By The American Sailing Association
Sailing Made Easy is a book by the American Sailing Association that provides a comprehensive guide to sailing for beginners. The book covers everything from the basics of sailing to more advanced topics, and it includes many helpful illustrations and photos.
Sailing Made Easy is the guidebook for sailing school with the American Sailing Association and its ASA1 course. It’s an essential resource for anyone who wants to learn how to sail!
22. Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual
By Don Casey
Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual is the ultimate guide to sailboat maintenance. Casey is considered the ‘go-to’ expert for answers about repair and maintenance in the sailboat community.
With six full sections on sailboat maintenance, this book includes everything from how to repair sails and other sailboat fabrics, to how to repair fiberglass. Casey includes many helpful illustrations and photographs along the way to make it easy to understand each step of the project.
Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual is an essential resource for anyone who owns or plans to own a sailboat. Not only will it help you keep your boat in top condition, but it will save you money in the long run.
23. The Boat Galley Cookbook
By Carolyn Shearlock & Jan Irons
The Boat Galley Cookbook is a cookbook that was written specifically for sailors cooking in a sailboat galley.
The author, Carolyn, is well known in the cruising community for her blog The Boat Galley, and is considered an authority on cooking onboard.
The book includes over 800 recipes for all kinds of meals, snacks, and desserts, and it provides instructions on how to prepare them while sailing. The authors have also included helpful tips on food storage and preparation and advice on how to make things like yogurt and bread aboard.
The Boat Galley Cookbook is an essential resource for anyone who loves to sail and wants to enjoy delicious food while doing so. It’s also an excellent gift for any sailor in your life!
24. The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat
By Mark Nicholas
This book is chock-full of realistic and useful information for anyone who wants to learn how to live on a boat. Nicholas covers everything from the basics of living aboard to more advanced topics, such as insurance and liveaboard marinas. He also goes in-depth on boat buying and budgeting.
This is truly an excellent resource for the new boat owner who has a goal to liveaboard.
25. Get Real, Get Gone
How to Become a Modern Sea Gypsy and Sail Away Forever by Rick Page
Rick Page’s book, Get Real, Get Gone, is about escaping the rat race by sailing away on a boat – and not needing to be a millionaire to do it.
Page provides helpful tips, from choosing the right boat and preparing for departure to dealing with challenging weather conditions and staying safe at sea.
Rick Page’s philosophy is to keep things simple so you can get out on the water as soon as possible. The author focuses on simplicity onboard, frugal sailing, and sustainable traveling. This book is an incredible resource for anyone looking to make their dream of sailing away into the sunset a reality.
26. Capable Cruiser
By Lin & Larry Pardey
This book is an updated extension of the Pardeys’ book ‘The Self-Sufficient Sailor.’ This comprehensive cruising guide is even more jam-packed with information on all aspects of cruising, from boat selection and outfitting to weather forecasting and provisioning.
The authors have over 50 years of combined cruising experience and are somewhat legends in the cruising community. Their motto of “go small, go now” has gotten many sailors out on the water sooner with a simple setup that allows them to live their cruising dreams!
27. Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual
By Nigel Calder
The Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual is a book that covers in detail the mechanical and electrical systems of a boat.
The author, Nigel Calder, has included information on everything from maintaining your diesel engine, wiring your boat, servicing your winches, troubleshooting your batteries, and much more.
Nigel is so good at answering your mechanical and electrical issues we took to just saying “let’s see what Nigel says” whenever we had a problem on our sailboat.
This book is an essential resource for boat owners and sailors.
28. The Annapolis Book of Seamanship
By John Rousmaniere
The Annapolis Book of Seamanship is considered the bible of sailing. It is a comprehensive guide covering topics such as sailing basics, sail trim, navigation, weather, boat maintenance, safety, anchoring, and more.
This guide is updated regularly and is an essential book to have onboard your sailing vessel.
Best Blue Water Sailing Guides
If your goal is blue water sailing, these three books are some of the most highly acclaimed and respected resources available today. They get you started with what sailboat to buy, the gear you need, route and passage planning, and more. Don’t leave shore without them!
29. World Cruising Routes
By Jimmy Cornell
This book is the most comprehensive guide on sailing routes around the world. Often referred to as the blue water cruising bible, it includes detailed information on weather conditions and currents around the world and the best times to make passages. You’ll even find details on where to provision, have repair work done, and other essential information.
World Cruising Routes is a must-have resource for any sailor interested in blue water sailing.
30. The Voyager’s Handbook: The Essential Guide to Blue Water Cruising
By Beth Leonard
The Voyager’s Handbook is a book that covers everything you need to know about long-distance cruising. From buying the right blue water vessel to weather forecasting, passage planning, safety and emergency preparation, etc. This book presents a guide to cruising on either a shoestring budget or a larger allotment.
The author, Beth Leonard, has sailed around the world herself, and she provides detailed information on every topic and skill needed to successfully complete a long voyage on a sailboat.
31. How to Sail Around the World
By Hal Roth
Hal Roth has been sailing for more than 50 years and has logged more than 200,000 nautical miles. In his book, he shares his vast knowledge of sailing and very detailed information on blue water sailboats, passage planning, single-handing a small boat, and more.
He also covers topics such as:
- How to buy a boat
- How to learn navigation skills
- What you need in order to sail around the world safely
If you are planning to circumnavigate or sail around part of the world, this is a great sailing blook to have at your disposal.
Best Sailing Books About Cruising
These books are written by cruisers living aboard and contain many sailing adventure stories to inspire your own liveaboard adventure! If you are looking for an accurate and sometimes humorous description of what it’s like living on a sailboat, these books are an excellent place to start.
32. A Sail of Two Idiots
100+ Lessons and Laughs from a Non-Sailor Who Quit the Rat Race, Took the Helm, and Sailed to a New Life in the Caribbean by Renee Petrillo
A Sail of Two Idiots is a book written by Renee Petrillo that tells the story of her journey with her husband to go from zero experience as sailors to living on a boat in the Caribbean.
Renee shares her sailing adventures and lessons learned with humor, intelligence, and insight. Her book will make you laugh, cringe, and want to set sail on your own adventure. This book is recommended for beginner sailors or anyone who aspires to go cruising.
33. An Embarrassment of Mangoes
A Caribbean Interlude by Ann Vanderhoof
Ann Vanderhoof’s book, An Embarrassment of Mangoes, is a delightful account of her time spent living on a boat in the Caribbean.
Vanderhoof provides readers with a charming and humorous look at the people, culture, and food of the Caribbean. With stories that focus on their adjustments to life on a sailboat, intertwined with recipes and cooking tips around local ingredients in the islands.
An Embarrassment of Mangoes is a must-read for any foodies dreaming of living the cruising lifestyle!
34. Escape from the Ordinary
By Julie Bradley
Julie Bradley’s book, Escape from the Ordinary, tells the story of her and her husband’s decision to leave their life in the U.S. behind and sail around the world.
Bradley provides readers with an inspiring and honest look at the highs and lows of living a life of adventure as they travel to exotic places all over the globe.
35. Plunge: One Woman’s Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary
By Liesbet Collaert
If you’re looking for an inspiring and honest account of one woman’s journey to find a life less ordinary onboard a sailboat, you need to read Plunge.
Collaert provides readers with a compelling and candid look at the challenges and rewards of living a cruising lifestyle. From working remotely on a sailboat to the challenges of a relationship on a boat – Liesbet covers everything from a realistic perspective.
If you are considering diving into the world of sailboat living, Plunge will give you an accurate depiction of the lifestyle’s high highs and low lows.
The Best Books About Sailing
The best books for sailors provide readers with an inspiring and honest look at the challenges and rewards of a life of adventure.
Whether you want an inspiring account of one woman’s journey around the world or a humorous look at going off the grid and living aboard a sailboat in the Caribbean, these books will give you the inspiration you need to take the plunge.
Want to find more articles for sailing inspiration?
Check out our lists of sailing movies, quotes, music, and more that inspire this lifestyle.
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