All reading lists are incomplete and arbitrary. This is especially true of a list limited to a dozen works about the ocean, the blue immensity that comprises 71 percent of our planet. So take this list with a grain of sea salt — and suggest your own favorites in the comments section below.

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Book cover.Log From the Sea of Cortez

by John Steinbeck

A nonfiction account of Steinbeck’s voyage through the Gulf of California with his friend Ed Ricketts, who was the inspiration for the character “Doc” in Steinbeck’s much better known novel Cannery Row.

 

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Book cover.Sea Change

by Sylvia Earle

The only non-technical book I brought along on my trip researching coral reefs around the world. Earle, known to many as Her Deepness, is a leading ocean explorer, scientist, and ocean advocate. Read about her beginnings as an Aqua-babe. Yes, you read that right.

 

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Book cover.Reef Fish Identification (series)

by Paul Humann

Don’t just sit there reading about the ocean — get out and explore! Humann’s series of three black-binder ocean field guides are the perfect companions.

 

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Book cover.Ocean

by Miranda MacQuitty

If you’ve got kids and you want them to know something about the world, you’re probably already a fan of DK books. They combine beautiful illustrations and simple, clear, and accurate prose about their subjects. Ocean is no exception.

 

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Book cover.Aquagenesis

by Richard Ellis

This is my personal favorite of Richard Ellis’ many books about the ocean. Tracking the evolution of sea life to land, and sometimes back to the water, Aquagenesis will change the way you view the ocean.

 

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Book cover.Gift from the Sea

by Anne Morrow Lindbergh  

A classic meditation on life and the ocean that has lost none of its relevance since it first appeared in 1955.

 

 

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Book cover.Song for the Blue Ocean

by Carl Safina

One of our leading ocean advocates and writers, Carl Safina has written many lyrical books about the sea and its creatures. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

 

 

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Book cover.The Sea Around Us

by Rachel Carson

To the extent that Silent Spring marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement, The Sea Around Us, written a decade earlier, marked the start of Carson’s career as a nature-science writer capable of sparking a revolution in thought.

 

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Book cover.The Voyage of the Beagle

by Charles Darwin

Forget for a moment that Darwin’s writings are usually presented as assignments — books that have to be read. This story of young Charles’ journey of discovery sailing around the world is a joy to read, not something to be gotten through.

 

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Book cover.In the Heart of the Sea

by Nathaniel Philbrick

In telling the true tale that inspired Melville’s Moby Dick, Philbrick captures humanity’s complex and often tragic relationship with the sea.

 

 

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Book cover.The Ocean World

by Jacques Cousteau

No list of books for World Oceans Day is complete without one of Captain Cousteau’s many works. The anniversary of what would have been Cousteau’s 100th birthday will be celebrated in three days. What better way to honor both his life and his passion — the ocean world — than by reading one of his classic books?

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Book cover.Ocean: An Illustrated Atlas  

by Sylvia Earle and Linda Glover

Three hundred and fifty-two pages of maps, charts, photographs, and explanatory text make this 2008 National Geographic atlas the new standard for ocean reference books.