Books that reveal our lives are defined by water

A woman leafs through a book next to the water

Many of us are in the midst of yet another lockdown. Unable to travel, sometimes even outside the confines of our city block, we’ve been escaping through the pages of books. In fact, book sales have surged since the lockdowns began and many people have finally managed to make a significant dent in their “To Read” lists. 

Looking for some inspiration for what to read next? We’ve compiled a list of our favorite water-themed books for you to order from your local independent bookstore. 

Happy reading!

For those wishing they were sailing around the world

The Odyssey is the enduring story of a homecoming by the sea. The hero Odysseus, king of Ithaca, is endeavoring to make seaward passage home following the tribulations of the ten-year Trojan War. He’s unfortunately managed to anger Poseidon, the god of the sea, resulting in a long series of mishaps stalling his journey home. This story has aged well, despite being more than 2800 years old, and remains an enthralling read even in the modern age. 

The Life of Pie by Yann Martel enjoyed so much international acclaim a few years back that it’s hard to believe some people have yet to read it yet. Martel paints a vivid tale, full of phenomenological details, depth, and humor. The story begins aboard a Japanese freighter transporting the protagonist Pi, his family, and their zoo animals to North America. What follows is a wild tale set on the backdrop of drifting across both the Pacific Ocean and the ocean of our mind.  

For young bookworms

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is a bedtime story classic. Mole, Water Rat, Toad, and Badger get up to plenty of mischief and adventures while boating along the waters their beloved riverside home. The anthropomorphic characters are an absolute riot and the book is really perfect for reading aloud–– each of the odd fellows deserves their own, unique voice. 

For more independent young readers, author Natalie Babbitt weaves a story about the importance of language and water in the book The Search For Delicious. Set in a fairytale kingdom, the main character is a 12-year-old messenger sent on an adventurous journey to define the meaning of the word delicious in a land struggling to come to a consensus. 

For those in search of goosebumps 

A child disappears in the midst of winter on a Stockholm archipelago. Taking place on a small island sparsely populated in the winter with a weird atmosphere, whispers emerge of a strange relationship between the inhabitants and the surrounding sea. Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist proves hard to put down and easy to devour. 

Set in an eerie house by the sea, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a masterly work of gothic fiction. An orphaned lady’s maid receives a surprising proposal from a rich suitor and is then whisked away to his lordly estate. You can practically feel the whip of the salt sea wind as you follow a plot that twists and turns just when you think you know what has happened. 

Dark waves on the ocean

For those looking for a riveting adventure

Written in the confessional style of a travelogue, many 18th century readers of Daniel Defoe’s Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe thought the story was had actually taken place. However, this tale of the survival of a buccaneer shipwrecked in a storm and marooned at length on an island is actually been credited as being the first English novel. Plus, his isolated situation is sure to arouse some sympathies. 

Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is considered an early work of science fiction for its incredibly accurate depiction of the modern submarine long before such underwater ships were in production. Richly descriptive in the fashion of 19th-century writers, you’ll feel like you’re peering out of the large oval main window of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus as it journeys around the underwater world. 

For those wishing they had become marine biologists 

Despite being a work of scientifically accurate non-fiction, Under the Sea Wind by marine biologist Rachel Carson is written in soulful poetic prose. Carson divided the book into several parts, each of which presents the perspective of a single sanderling, a mackerel, and an eel of the Atlantic sea. Carson follows her cast of characters, each of which has been affectionately named, for a year as they navigate their life at sea. Carson is credited with being one of the proponents of the global environmental movement.

John Steinbeck is perhaps best known for his fictional depictions of common people during the Great Depression. However, his close friendship with famed marine biologist Ed Ricketts led him on a six-week marine specimen-collecting boat expedition in 1940 at various sites in the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez). The Log From the Sea of Cortez details the findings and musing of the voyage, but its greatest feat is voicing early ecological concerns about the effects of humanity on the ecosystem. 

Woman reading a book near the water

For those in search of spirituality

All life originated from water. Yet, we know less about the deepest recesses of our oceans than we know about the peripheries of outer space. In The Water Book, Alok Jha narrates the story of water on our planet, from arrival to its role in the development of our civilization, all the way to our deep-seated love of water-based leisure. 

Discredited by many as complete pseudoscience yet a New York Times bestseller, in The Hidden Messages in Water author and researcher Masaru Emoto poses the question, what if water had a consciousness? The book is based on his experiments in which he attempted to infuse water with different emotions and analyze the resulting water crystal shapes. It’s a divisive book, but certainly worth a read before forming an opinion on whether it’s a scientific breakthrough or utter scientific fiction. 

For those interested in the role of water in our future

In The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, Charles Fishman explores the nature of the relationship between our civilization and the water we need to survive through an engrossing narrative of water stories from around the world. We are often told that usable water is becoming increasingly scarce, however, Fishman presents a picture where the issue is not quantity, but smart management. No doubt this book will change the way you look at what comes out of your tap.  

Our planet might be 71% water but this should not suggest that our water resources are abundant. In fact, the age of safe and free abundant water is long behind us, a topic detailed in

The End of Abundance by David Zetland. Where are we failing and what can be employed to help? Zetland provides a breadth of interdisciplinary insights for changing the patterns of scarcity. 

As our entire lives are defined by our access to water, it’s a theme that has enriched countless publications.

Did we forget to mention any of your favorite water-themed books? Let us know which one in the comments. 

By Natalia Kvitkova — Feb 9, 2021
The information contained in this article is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or nutritional advice.

Recent articles