Books

Top 5 books about the ocean, chosen by Deep Water author James Bradley

The Australian novelist and critic selects five books that have attempted to fathom the past, present, and future of the ocean

Image: Matt Hardy on Unsplash

The depths of the ocean have always inspired novelists, poets and scientists. Author James Bradley picks five books about its vastness.

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson  

When first published in 1951 this book was a sensation. Offering a dazzling portrait of the ocean – its past, present and future – it combines the rigour of Carson’s scientific training with a poet’s ear and eye and remains astonishing more than 70 years later. 

Omeros by Derek Walcott 

Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott is most famous for his extraordinary poem The Sea is History, but Omeros explores many of the same questions about identity and the poisonous legacies of slavery. The portrait of the passage across the Atlantic ocean on a slave ship is particularly wrenching. 

The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina  

In this remarkable piece of reportage, American journalist Urbina explores the lawless and often perilous world of the high seas, following people traffickers, pirates, illegal fishers and mercenaries among others. Gripping, visceral and often deeply shocking. 

Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs

Giggs uses the lives of whales and the ways humans have imagined and exploited them as a medium to explore not just the state of the ocean, but to ask profound questions about our relationship to the natural world and life in a time of ecological crisis. 

The Bathysphere Book by Brad Fox

In 1930, inventor Otis Barton and scientist William Beebe climbed into Barton’s bathysphere and descended 3,000ft, becoming the first humans to enter the deep ocean. This is a work of scientific biography that’s also a poetic meditation on light and darkness, the strangeness of bodies and the shadow histories of science and racism.


Deep Water: The World in the Ocean by James Bradley is out on 28 March (Scribe, £22). You can buy some of these titles from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.
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