1) "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex" by Nathaniel Philbrick
The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth. In 1819, the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with twenty crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than ninety days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents-including a long-lost account written by the ship's cabin boy-and penetrating details about whaling and the Nantucket community to reveal the chilling events surrounding this epic maritime disaster. An intense and mesmerizing read, In the Heart of the Sea is a monumental work of history forever placing the Essex tragedy in the American historical canon.
2) "The Day the World Was Shocked: The Lusitania Disaster and Its Influence on the Course of World War I" by John Protasio
Over 1,200 people perished in this attack, including citizens from the then neutral United States of America. Although America did not declare war over this incident, the repulsion over needless loss of life put the country in psychological terms on an inexorable path toward intervention in Europe.
Many questions, however, rage to this day. Was the liner armed? Did she carry contraband (munitions) in a secret effort to aid the Allies? Did the Germans set out from the start to sink this ship? Was the Lusitania deliberately allowed to be sunk (by the supposedly protective Royal Navy) in order to draw the United States into the war?
This book answers these and other questions surrounding this emotionally charged sinking. It traces the story from the time of the vessel's construction to her demise, while providing a real-time look at the chaos on board once German torpedoes had shattered the ship. And what of the U-boat commander, who may either have made the greatest mistake in history, or had just been performing his duty? This account deals with the diplomatic repercussions of the sinking while at the same time examines the human side of the story.
3) "The Sea Wolf" by Jack London
Hailed by critics as one of the greatest sea stories ever written, this rousing adventure offers a fascinating combination of gritty realism and sublime lyricism in its portrayal of an elemental conflict. Jack London began his career at sea, and his shipboard experiences imbue The Sea-Wolf with flavorful authenticity.
In the story, the gentleman narrator, Humphrey Van Weyden, is pitted against an amoral sea captain, Wolf Larsen, in a clash of idealism with materialism. The novel begins when Van Weyden is swept overboard into San Francisco Bay, and plucked from the sea by Larsen's seal-hunting vessel, the Ghost. Pressed into service as a cabin boy by the ruthless captain, Van Weyden becomes an unwilling participant in a brutal shipboard drama. Larsen's increasingly violent abuse of the crew fuels a mounting tension that ultimately boils into mutiny, shipwreck, and a desperate confrontation.
Read and loved around the world, this 1904 maritime classic has influenced such writers as Hemingway, Orwell, and Kerouac.
4) "Steel on the Bottom: Great Lakes Shipwrecks" by Frederick Stonehouse
5) "Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942" by Ian W. Toll
On the first Sunday in December 1941, an armada of Japanese warplanes appeared suddenly over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Six months later, in a sea fight north of the tiny atoll of Midway, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sent into the abyss, a blow that destroyed the offensive power of their fleet. Pacific Crucible tells the epic tale of these first searing months of the Pacific war, when the U.S. Navy shook off the worst defeat in American military history and seized the strategic initiative.
This dramatic narrative, relying predominantly on eyewitness accounts and primary sources, is laced with riveting details of heroism and sacrifice on the stricken ships and planes of both navies. At the war’s outset, Japan’s pilots and planes enjoyed a clear-cut superiority to their American counterparts, but there was a price to be paid. Japanese pilots endured a lengthy and grueling training in which they were disciplined with baseball bats, often suffering broken bones; and the production line of the Zero— Japan’s superbly maneuverable fighter plane—ended not at a highway or railhead but at a rice paddy, through which the planes were then hauled on ox carts. Combat losses, of either pilots or planes, could not be replaced in time to match the fully mobilized American war machine.
Pacific Crucible also spotlights recent scholarship that revises our understanding of the conflict, including the Japanese decision to provoke a war that few in their highest circles thought they could win. Those doubters included the flamboyantly brilliant Admiral Isokoru Yamamoto, architect of the raid on Pearl and the Midway offensive.
6) "In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors" by Doug Stanton
7) "The Terrible Hours: The Greatest Submarine Rescue in History" by Peter Maas
8) "Resolute: The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin and the Discovery of the Queen's Ghost Ship" by Martin W. Sandler
It all began when, in one of the biggest news stories of the 19th century, Sir John Franklin and his ships the Erebus and the Terror disappeared while attempting to locate the fabled Northwest Passage. At the request of Franklin’s wife, Lady Jane, the first mission set out from England in hopes of finding him; many others followed in its wake, none successful.
Among these was the Resolute, the finest vessel in Queen Victoria’s Navy. But in 1854 it became locked in Arctic ice and was abandoned by its captain. A year later, a Connecticut whaler discovered it 1,200 miles away—drifting and deserted, a 600-ton ghost ship. He and his small crew boarded theResolute, and steered it through a ferocious hurricane back to New London, Connecticut. The United States government then reoutfitted the ship and returned it to the thankful Queen. In 1879, when theResolute was finally retired, she had the best timbers made into a desk for then-President Rutherford B. Hayes. It is still used by U.S. presidents today...one of the most celebrated pieces of furniture in the White House.
9) "Death on the Black Sea: The Untold Story of the 'Struma' and World War II's Holocaust at Sea" by Douglas Frantz
On the morning of February 24, 1942, on the Black Sea near Istanbul, an explosion ripped through a decrepit former cattle barge filled with Jewish refugees. One man clung fiercely to a piece of deck, fighting to survive. Nearly eight hundred others -- among them, more than one hundred children -- perished.
In Death on the Black Sea, the story of the Struma, its passengers, and the events that led to its destruction are investigated and fully revealed in two vivid, parallel accounts, set six decades apart. One chronicles the international diplomatic maneuvers and callousness that resulted in the largest maritime loss of civilian life during World War II. The other recounts a recent attempt to locate theStruma at the bottom of the Black Sea, an effort initiated and pursued by the grandson of two of the victims. A vivid reconstruction of a grim exodus aboard a doomed ship, Death on the Black Seailluminates a forgotten episode of World War II and pays tribute to the heroes, past and present, who keep its memory alive.