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The Sailor’s Bookshelf

Fifty Books to Know the Sea



James Stavridis

Annapolis, MA, USA: Annapolis Institute Press, 2021

Hardcover   232pp   RRP $69.25


Reviewer: Roger Buxton, March 2022


I suspect that the books on a sailor’s bookshelf are usually determined by the interests or vocation of the sailor, whether as a recreational yachtswoman, historian, marine scientist or as a professional merchant or naval sailor. It could be possible to be very knowledgeable in one area but to have limited knowledge of others – although this is unlikely as sailors tend to have a wide interest in the medium on which they spend much of their lives.

This is certainly the case with Admiral Stavridis, one of the most distinguished naval officers of his generation and an influential academic, who has selected fifty books from his library: fiction and non-fiction, covering different oceans and periods of history and including ‘some of the most fundamental texts that help sailors learn and hone their craft’.

The selected books are grouped under The Oceans, Explorers, Sailors in Fiction and Sailors in Nonfiction. As stated in the afterword, ‘… the selection presented here is part of a much larger canon and is not meant to be comprehensive or even prescriptive’ and one would find it difficult to fault this eclectic selection. All the classic books that come to mind are included here, together with others many of us may not have read.

The chapter on Short Stories of the Sea includes some important books that might otherwise have been excluded, such as Nicholas Monsarrat’s short story HMS Marlborough Will Enter Harbour which describes a captain’s struggle to bring his torpedoed sloop back to safety.

The Sailor’s Bookshelf is highly recommended as a guide to important books that may have escaped your attention or been overlooked through lack of time. Personally, I would have liked to see Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon included, but in such a diverse field some must inevitably be excluded.




The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.

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