Books

“The sea has many voices, Many gods and many voices”  TS Eliot

Books talk to each other in the sea library. Books about seas and oceans, islands and beaches, ships and storms, pirates and mermaids, waves and tides, surfers and sailors, lighthouses and ports, sea gods and drowned ones, selkies and whales.

This is still a profoundly small collection, but I have decided to share it. In 2018 I have opened a sea library in Jūrmala. Right now the library is in my studio at home. You can borrow a book right from the shelves or I can send it to you by post. Just let me know, which one you would like to read! E-mail.

Here books are being updated daily, come back again to see new ones added. For a full list (and some order), go to A-Z.

Grāmatas par salām un pludmalēm, kuģiem un vētrām, pirātiem un nārām, paisumiem un bēgumiem, sērferiem, jūrniekiem, bākām, ostām, jūras dieviem un slīkoņiem, par roņiem un vaļiem, par un ap jūru un okeāniem. Jūras bibliotēkā grāmatas vari ņemt un lasīt! Ja kāda uzrunā, dod ziņu. Šajā sadaļā grāmatu vāciņi tiek pievienoti ik dienu, vērts ieskatīties atkal. Ja gribi lasīt pilnu sarakstu, dodies uz A-Z. Ar laiku tiks papildināti plaukti ar grāmatām latviešu valodā, kā arī tiks apkopotas bērnu grāmatas.

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Edward Wilson-Lee “The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books” 2018

“The fascinating history of Christopher Columbus’s illegitimate son Hernando, guardian of his father’s flame, courtier, bibliophile and catalogue supreme, whose travels took him to the heart of 16th-century Europe” Honor Clerk, SpectatorScreen Shot 2018-11-20 at 12.35.12

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Sara Taylor “The Shore” 2015

A collection of small islands sticking out from the coast of Virginia into the Atlantic Ocean that has been home to generations of fierce and resilient women. Sanctuary to some but nightmare to others, it’s a place they’ve inhabited, fled, and returned to for hundreds of years. Dreamlike and yet impossibly real, profound and playful, The Shore is an ambitious and accomplished debut novel.

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Raynor Winn “The Salt Path” 2018

Just days after Raynor Winn learned that Moth, her husband of thirty-two years, was terminally ill, they lost their home and livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they impulsively decided to walk the 630-mile South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall. Living wild and free, at the mercy of sea and sky, they discovered a new, liberating existence – but what would they find at the journey’s end?

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Steve Sem-Sandberg “The Tempest”, translation in English, 2019

After many years away, Andreas returns to his childhood home: a small island off the Norwegian coast where he grew up with his sister Minna. As he settles into rural life, Andreas begins to question the shadowy history of the island itself. Steve Sem-Sandberg’s “The Tempest” is rich in shimmering echoes of Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

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Samantha Hunt “The Seas” 2004

The narrator of Samantha Hunt’s debut novel “The Seas” lives in a remote, alcoholic, cruel seaside town. Her grandfather is a typesetter and floods her mind with strange words and phrases. Her dead father has told her that she came ‘from the water’. Convinced that she is a mermaid, she is troubled by what the old myths tell her about the doomed nature of love between mortals and mermaids.  MY REVIEW

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“DRIFTFISH: A Zoomorphic Anthology”, edited by Susan Richardson & James Roberts, 2016

An anthology of essays, fiction and poetry in celebration and defence of marine wildlife. Zoomorphic’s core principle: to defend non-human species, we must reconnect our imagination to them.

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Charlotte Runcie “Salt on Your Tongue: Women and the Sea” 2019

“Odysseus was blown off course on his way home from Troy. He wanted to get home. I wanted to have an adventure. But I’m going to have a baby.” MY REVIEW

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“Everyman’s Pocket Classics: Stories of the Sea”, edited by Diana Secker Tesdell, 2010

An anthology of the best maritime fiction from the last two hundred years: tales of shipwrecks and storms at sea, of creatures from the deep, and of voyages testing human endurance to its limits.

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Sarah Moss “Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland” 2012

At the height of the financial crisis in 2009, Sarah Moss and her husband moved with their two small children to Iceland. She watches the northern lights and the comings and goings of migratory birds, and as the weeks and months go by, she and her family find new ways to live.

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W. H. Auden “The Enchafèd Flood: or, The Romantic Iconography of the Sea” 1950

“Auden’s territory in these illuminating lectures is the psychology of poetic symbols. His point of departure is a dream related by Wordsworth in The Prelude – a dream about the desert and the sea, the stone of abstract geometry and the shell of imagination or instinct, and the double-natured hero, half Ishmael and half Don Quixote.”

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Angela Cockayne & Philip Hoare “Dominion: A Whale Symposium” 2012

“We feel responsible for the whales because, however huge or wild they may be, we have ultimate power over them. That is the essential paradox.”

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Simon Winchester “Atlantic: A Vast Ocean of Million Stories” 2010

“It is both possible and reasonable, then, to tell the Atlantic Ocean’s story as biography. It is a living thing; it has a geological story of birth and expansion and evolution to its present middle-aged shape and size; and then it has a well-predicted end story of contraction, decay, and death.”

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Tom Nancollas “Seashaken Houses: A Lighthouse History from Eddystone to Fastnet” 2018

“Entranced by the stories and paradoxes of rock lighthouses, I pursued them doggedly through website and books, then, more boldly, across sand, across seas, and even through sky.”

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Bernd Brunner “Ocean at Home: An Illustrated History of the Aquarium” 2011

“Today, it is easy to take the aquarium for granted, but one must remember how awesome it must have been 150 years ago to peer through a window into a truly alien world.”

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Michael Brooke “Far from Land: The Mysterious Lives of Seabirds” 2018

“This book has attempted to paint a picture of how modern devices have enabled researchers to discover more about the lives of seabirds at sea.”

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Cynan Jones “Cove” 2016

“It does not matter who you are. You know what you are physically, and that you’re in a kayak in the middle of the ocean. It only matters what you are, right now.”

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Cynan Jones “Everything I Found on the Beach” 2011

“The tide had lapped up on the body and the salt water had swelled the edges of the big wound. It was early but the birds had been awake and the eyes were already gone. It was really severe to look at.”

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Jean Wainwright “Ship to Shore: Art and the Lure of the Sea” 2018

“The contemporary artworks discussed in this publication reflect the complex relationship that humankind has with the sea.” Based on an exhibition “Ship to Shore” in 2014, this book includes interviews with 16 artists, including Tacita Dean, Tracey Emin and others, and an essay “The Dark and Deep Blue Ocean” by Philip Hoare. MY REVIEWScreen Shot 2018-11-20 at 12.35.12

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Timothy Morton “Being Ecological” 2018

“Don’t care about ecology? You might think you don’t, but you might all the same. Don’t read ecology books? This books is for you.”

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Sara Hudston “Islomania” 2000

Why are islands so captivating? The best – like the Isles of Scilly – are unforgettable. We all dream of escaping to islands, to find ourselves or just to get away on holiday. What makes them special? Using Scilly as its main example, Islomania explores the place islands occupy in our imagination.

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Harry Thompson “This Thing of Darkness” 2005

1828. Brilliant young navel officer Robert FitzRoy is given the captaincy of HMS Beagle, surveying the wilds of Tierra del Fuego, aged just twenty-three. He takes a passenger: a young trainee cleric and amateur geologist named Charles Darwin.

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Robert Macfarlane “The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot” 2012

“Paths and their markers have long worked on me like lures: drawing my sight up and on and over. The eye is enticed by a path, and the mind’s eye also. The imagination cannot help but pursue a line in the land – onwards in space, but also backwards in time to the histories of a route and its previous followers.”

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Aimee Nezhukumatathil “Oceanic” 2018

“Come in, come in – the water’s fine! You can’t get lost here – even / if you wanted to hide behind a clutch of spiny oysters. I’ll find you. / If you ever leave me at night, by boat – you’ll see / the arrangement of golden sun stars in a sea of milk / and though it’s tempting to visit them – stay.”

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Tim Dee “Landfill” 2018

“This book tries to unpick this story: how, over the past one hundred years, gulls have made their way among us in a man-made world and how, more recently, various people have met them there. But it is not a book of natural history or of anthropology. My real interest is in exploring what these facts of gull-life have done to our minds.”

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Nick Pyenson “Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures” 2018

“This book presents a selective account, a kind of travelogue to chasing whales, both living and extinct. I describe my experiences from Antartica to the deserts in Chile, to the tropical coastlines of Panama, to the waters off Iceland and Alaska.”

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Caspar Henderson “A New Map of Wonders: A Journey in Search of Modern Marvels” 2017

“This book looks into philosophy, history, art, religion, science and technology in search of a better appreciation of both the things we wonder at and the nature of wonder itself. .. In times when fear and rage dominate public life, the askesis, or practice, of wonder has never been more important.”

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David Thomson “The People of the Sea” 1954 

“As to the seals themselves, no scientific study can dissolve their mystery. Land animals may play their roles in legend, but none, not even the hare, has such a dream-like effect on the human mind; and so, though many creatures share with them a place in our unconscious mind, a part in ancient narrative, the seal legend is unique.”

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Patrick Barkham “Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago” 2017

“I want to meet human and non-human islanders and listen to their stories. Through this island-hopping, I would like to reveal the unique character of small islands and small-island life.”

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Patric Barkham “Coastlines: The Story of our Shore” 2015

“I want to look at the different ways we relate to our shores as children, as adults and at the end of our lives. I will consider how we grow up by the sea, develop grand passions by it and are inspired to artistic creations on its shores; how the coast can be a theatre of war or a locus of religious pilgrimage; a place of work or an escape from reality.”

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Jonathan White “Tides: The Science and Spirit of The Ocean” 2017

“The moon may move our hearts today, but her first love was the ocean, stirred billions of years ago. The attraction may have grown stronger or weaker through time, but the affair has never ended.”

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Juli Berwald “Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone” 2017

“Once I started looking, I found jellyfish stories everywhere. I spent hours reading about their shape, how they swim, what they eat, whether they think, how they reproduce, how they sting, how they glow. “

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Alastair Bonnett “Beyond The Map: Unruly Enclaves, Ghostly Places, Emerging Lands and Our Search for New Utopias” 2018

“Geography is getting stranger: new islands are rising up, familiar territories are splintering and secret realms are cracking open their doors. The world’s unruly zones are multiplying and changing fast.”

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William Atkins “The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places” 2018

“‘It is curious how the desert satisfies me and gives me peace,’ Thesiger wrote to his mother. ‘You cannot explain what you find there to those who don’t feel it too, for most people it is just a howling wilderness.'” MY REVIEW

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William Atkins “The Moor: A Journey into the English Wilderness” 2014

“In wilderness lived wild things; the desert was inhabited by demons. While God resided in the mountains, and social man in the valley, the moor was where the outcast went – the fugitive, the savage, the misanthrope.”

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Virginia Woolf “The Waves” 1931

“The waves were steeped deep-blue save for a pattern of diamond-pointed light on their backs which rippled as the backs of great horses ripple with muscles as they move. The waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping.” MY REVIEW

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Virginia Woolf “To the Lighthouse” 1927

“It was his fate, his peculiarity, whether he wished it or not, to come out thus on a spit of land which sea is slowly eating away, and there to stand, like a desolate seabird, alone.”

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Peter Matthiessen “Far Tortuga” 1975

“In terms of distance from the nearest land, the most isolated point in the Caribbean is a group of ocean islands south of Cuba. On a voyage north from Panama to Hispaniola, according to the journal kept in 1503 by Ferdinand Columbus, ‘we were in sight of two very small and low islands, full of tortoises, as was all the sea about.'”

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Adam Nicolson “The Seabird’s Cry: The Lives and Loves of Puffins, Gannets and Other Ocean Voyagers” 2018

“Perhaps only the poets in the past would have thought of seabirds riding the ripples and currents of the world, attuned to how the ocean is, a place of interfolded gifts and threats, but that is what the scientists are seeing now too.” MY REVIEW

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Adam Nicolson “The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters” 2014

“There is a pair of linked questions at the heart of this book: where does Homer come from? And why does Homer matter? These ancient poems can be daunting and difficult, but I have no doubt that their account of war and suffering can still speak to us of the role of destiny in life, of cruelty, humanity, its frailty and the pains of existence. That they do is a mystery.”

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Adam Nicolson “Seamanship: A Voyage Along the Wild Coasts of the British Isles” 2004

“I was having affair with the Atlantic. Alone with my books in my room, I had been thinking of little else for weeks. I was longing for the sea.”

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Adam Nicolson “Sea Room: An Island Life” 2001

“For the last twenty years I have owned some islands. The are called the Shiants: one definite, softened syllable, ‘the Shant Isles’, like a sea shanty but with the ‘y’ trimmed away. The rest of the world thinks there is nothing much to them.”

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Helen Scales “Eye of the Shoal: A Fishwatcher’s Guide to Life, the Ocean and Everything” 2018

“This book is an underwater journey through the lives of fish. It’s an exploration of what fish are and the things they do in their cryptic world. I’ll unwrap fish from mysterious stories.” GUEST REVIEW

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Helen Scales “Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife
of Seashells” 2015

“No matter where you are in the world, you will never be far from a mollusc. These are some of the most abundant, most cosmopolitan animals on the planet, not to mention their being among the toughest, smartest and strangest creatures ever to evolve.”

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Helen Scales “Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorses, From Myth to Reality” 2009

“Seahorses are icons of the sea. They are one of the tiniest and most timid oceanic inhabitants, spending much of their lives hidden away, and yet every one of us knows of them – even if we might not quite believe they are real – and we smile when we recognize their eccentric shape.”

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Olivia Laing “To The River: A Journey Beneath The Surface” 2011

“I am haunted by waters. It may be that I’m too dry in myself, too English, or it may be simply that I’m susceptible to beauty, but I do not feel truly at ease on this earth unless there’s a river nearby. ‘When it hurts,’ wrote Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, ‘we return to the banks of certain rivers.'” MY REVIEW

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Alice Thompson “Burnt Island” 2013

“Once the sea had swallowed up his suitcase, the storm abated. His shirts and underpants and home-knitted cable jumper had clearly appeased the wind gods. Burnt Island was now appearing out of the mist, a huge, black rock rising inevitably from the sea.” MY REVIEW

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Philip Hoare “RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR” 2017

“The sea is so still it seems like a sin to break its surface. But I do. Swimming at night, with diminished sense of sight, only makes the act all the more sensual. You feel the water around you; you lose yourself in its sway. Fish bite me, leaving loving grazes. I turn on my back, watching the stars fall.” MY REVIEW

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Philip Hoare “The Sea Inside” 2013

“In the years since I have come back to it, the house has grown to become part of me. It is held together by memories, even as it is falling apart. Surrounded by ivy and screened by trees, it has become an enclosed world, left to itself. As I look out from my bedroom window, a blackbird paces out the garage roof, over which a broken willow hangs. Below, tadpoles swim blindly in a slowly leaking pool.”

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Philip Hoare “Leviathan or, The Whale” 2008

“On my own uncertain journey, I sought to discover why I too felt haunted by the whale, by the forlorn expression on the beluga’s face, by the orca’s impotent fin, by the insistent images in my head. Like Ishmael, I was drawn back to the sea; wary of what lay below, yet forever intrigued by it, too.”

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Herman Melville “Moby-Dick or, The Whale” 

“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.” MY REVIEW

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Horatio Clare “Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North” 2017

“But perhaps this is not a story about seafarers and ships, and Finland, and ice, and the dreams of worlds that are gone and others still forming, and nightmares of worlds melting, and the wilderness of an obscure and froze sea, though it will surely be about these too. Perhaps it is really a story about gulfs inside.” MY REVIEW

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Horatio Clare “Down to the Sea in Ships: Of Ageless Oceans and Modern Men” 2014

“I wanted to see men, their characters and their stories as if on a bare stage, away from women, children and the world. I was in love with the wonder, the rough romance and the potential horror of great ships: none of man’s machines have more awe and character than they do. And I wanted, more than anything, to know something of the vastness of the oceans.”

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Tim Winton “Land’s Edge: A Coastal Memoir” 1993

“It’s just that I lived the coastal life harder, with more passion. As a kid I recognized that life, embraced it and made it my own. In sight of the sea I felt as though I had all my fingers and toes.”

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Jean Sprackland “Strands: A Year of Discovery on the Beach” 2012

“Now, though, life is about to change, and my time with this beach will soon be over. I’m getting married again, and a move to London is on the cards. In this final year before I leave, I want to honour this place by looking more closely and recording what I see.”

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W.G. Sebald “The Rings of Saturn” 1995

“In August 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end, I set off to walk the county Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work. And in fact my hope was realized, up to a point; for I have seldom felt so carefree as I did then.” MY REVIEW