Top Five Boat Books

Top Five Boat Books

Top Five Boat Books

Summer is coming to an end and nothing is more bittersweet than those last days aboard. Say goodbye to the season by curling up on the sundeck with a good book. Especially one that is (loosely) boat themed.

Here are my Top Five Boat books in no particular order. I have read all of these and enjoyed them each immensely. Don’t like my choices or want to suggest a novel that should be on this list? Let me know in the comments. 

The Old Man and the Sea Top Five Boat Books







1.  The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway wrote this short novel while he lived in Bimini. The epic battle between Santiago and a giant marlin is a sweet, philosophical story of a fisherman and his redemption.

life of pi Top Five boat books2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I first read this tale of shipwreck and subsequent survival of a young Indian boy when I was 12. At the time, I couldn’t understand the allegory and symbolism of zoo animals, religion and spirituality, so I dismissed it. While in college, I re-read the book thanks to a glowing recommendation from a friend. I was no longer disappointed by the magically tinged tale, and I am sure you won’t be either.

Sitting Ducks Top Five Boat Books

3. Sitting Ducks by Betsy Hitz-Holman
This one is a bit harder to find, but worth the read if you can stumble upon it. I read this memoir just a few months ago while on vacation and quickly consumed it. In summary, a former magazine editor and her partner are assaulted by pirates while anchored on their boat off a small island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1981. Perseverance and love gets them through the terrifying ordeal. Betsy never stopped sailing either—I know this firsthand because I would later babysit her children and go sailing with their family.


Islands in the Stream Top Five Boat Books

4. Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway
Yes, a second Hemingway… I have a type and it’s an old mopey fisherman with a drinking problem. I read this a few years back while working (appropriately) as yacht stewardess. We had some downtime in Marsh Harbour and I finished this book in just a few days. I smiled and cried (mostly cried) reading this three-part tale of one man’s life.

There is an especially harrowing battle between the main character’s youngest son and a marlin in the first section (Bimini) that still stands out to me years later. There is another particularly torment-drenched conversation in the second section (Havana) that has stuck with me as well. It’s a book without a clear ending, published posthumously by Hemingway’s fourth wife.


The Boys in the Boat Top Five Boat Books

5. Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Who hasn’t read this book? It was a bestseller for a few years. This true tale has all the ingredients for a feel-good story: underdogs, comeuppance, war, and Olympic gold. It’s definitely worth the read. If it hasn’t been optioned for a movie yet, it soon will be. It reads like cinema gold. Update: I googled this and it is slated for development already. Knew it.

Agree? Disagree? Debate me in the comments 🙂


  1. I don’t know which one you would leave off the list , but no such list would be complete without,
    “Mutiny on the Bounty “.

  2. I hereby nominate “The River,” the second installment of Gary Paulsen’s classic “Hatchet” series to at least make the top 7.

  3. Good list! How about adding, “Sailing alone around the world” by Captain Joshua Slocum, the first person to solo circumnavigate the globe.

  4. While these are all good reads, there are many, many more that would also qualify. Good example is Bruce Knecht’s “Grand Ambition”. Excellent yacht building story about very, very rich and the up/down events that affected the owner, the yard, and the many blue collar workers involved with the project .

  5. “To Have or Have Not”. This Hemingway book is truly an incredible story. Don’t watch the movie, read the novel.

  6. Has no one read c.s. Forester’s hornblower series? I have tried and tried, in vain, to finish a Hemingway book. BORING. Start slow with Mr Midshipman and by the time you get mid way, say to Beat to Quarters, you’ll be hooked. Sailing Around the Horn, by Dallas Smith, is more fun than Slocum, Caine Mutiny is great as are all of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales. But far FAR and away the best book, the BEST book, bar none is MOBY DICK.

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