Mark Twain once said: “The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” And so it goes for sailors. In addition to hands-on training and practice, one of the best ways to prepare yourself for life on the water is to read and study great sailing books. So, as an alternative to the rest of the summer reading lists out there, we’ve compiled this one for sailors.
A great place for any aspiring sailor to start is with ASA’s top-of-the-line textbooks, which are expertly written, laid-out, and illustrated with world class photography and diagrams:
Sailing Made Easy (ASA 101–Basic Keelboat Sailing)
Coastal Cruising Made Easy (ASA 103–Basic Coastal Cruising)
These books are included when you register for your sailing class with an ASA affiliated school, and the school will send them to you. Many of our members highly recommend reading the book before you take the class, as it will give you a solid foundation and help you get up to speed once you’re actually on the boat! Your instructor can provide more details.
For the more advanced sailor, classic manuals like Nathaniel Bowditch’s The American Practical Navigator and Chapman Piloting & Seamanship are time-tested and packed with useful information. However, these sailing books are so thorough that they can be a bit overwhelming to the novice.
Don’t forget–there’s more to the sailing lifestyle than practical manuals. There’s also a rich tapestry of lore, culture, and adventure to explore. We’ve compiled a list of some of the great nautical books of all time. These are guaranteed to expand your appreciation for sailing and the open ocean, especially when read under the bimini on a relaxing Caribbean afternoon!
The Mutiny on the Bounty Trilogy by Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall (first volume 1932)
The Aubrey/Maturin Novels by Patrick O’Brian (series of 20; first volume 1969)
Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome (series of 12; first volume 1930)
The Horatio Hornblower Novels by C.S. Forester (series of 11; first volume 1937)
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
Middle Passage by Charles Johnson (1990)
John Dollar by Marianne Wiggins
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)
Jaws by Peter Benchley (1974)
Sounding by Hank Searls (1982)
Mutiny on the Bounty by John Boyne (2008)
A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (1929)
Close to the Wind by Pete Goss (2000)
Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz (2002)
Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum (1900)
The Last Grain Race by Eric Newby (1956)
The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float by Farley Mowat (1969)
Sea Change by Peter Nichols (1998)
Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana (1840)
Ten Degrees of Reckoning by Hester Rumberg (2007)
Looking for a Ship by John McPhee (1990)
Godforsaken Sea: Racing the World’s Most Dangerous Waters by Derek Lundy (1998)