“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 small collection (400+ books), 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.
Books added in February 2020
This collection is called Poems Mostly of the Sea, but the poems only begin in the sea. They travel from the depths, to the shore, and too early to the city, where everything breaks down. From the decay of the city, they reform, and find a healthy balance between human and nature, life and death, sea.
In studying the history of marine science, we also learn about ourselves. Neptune’s Laboratory explores the ways in which scientists, politicians, and the public have invoked ocean environments in imagining the fate of humanity and of the planet―conjuring ideal-world fantasies alongside fears of our species’ weakness and ultimate demise.
David Raine “The Big Whizzo” 2018
What if the voyage took you whizzing down the deepest and scariest whirlpool on the planet The Big Whizzo – the whirlpool of whizzing terror – and down there you found a massive octopus factory. A factory that converts ocean polluting plastic bits, with the help of the vital magic ingredient, Horrid Green Custard, into lifesaving Mermaid Stones. Which are all then baked in Granny Bluebell’s old bakery replica oven in a parallel world. And what if, ocean creatures team, the mermaids, the octopuses, the crabs and your friend, the plastic Jimmy Ocean, desperately need you to make the whole insanely, mad and dangerous, and ocean-saving scheme work in the human world If that is what you would call a real adventure, then read The Big Whizzo.
Books added in January 2020
From cult graphic designer and long-time Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood comes a starkly beautiful graphic novel about the end of the world.
Georgie Codd is scared of fish. Really, really scared. Anxious that her fear could last a lifetime, Georgie plots to travel to Thailand, learn to dive, and swim with the biggest fish in the world: the mighty, massive whale shark.
Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart “Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters” 2006
While dinosaurs patrolled the lands, massive prehistoric sharks, giant scorpions, and colossal squid cruised the ancient oceans — most with just one thing in mind: eat or be eaten. Pop-up book masters Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart explore the prehistoric underwater world where monsters like megalodon ruled the waves. Full of captivating facts and more than thirty-five breathtaking pop-ups, this incredible volume is sure to astonish and amaze everyone from budding marine biologists to confirmed landlubbers.
The characters in Polish writer Paweł Huelle’s mesmerising stories find themselves, willingly or not, at the heart of epic narratives, legends and histories that stretch for beyond the limits of their own lives. Against the backdrop of the Baltic coast, mythology and meteorology mix with the inexorable tide of political change.
When art historian Max Modern returns to the seaside village where he once spent a childhood holiday, he is both escaping from a recent loss and confronting a distant trauma. The Sea is a winner of The Man Booker Prize.
Under the Stars is an inspirational and immersive call to reconnect with the natural world, showing how we only need to step outside to find that, in darkness, the world lights up.
Natalie Haynes “A Thousand Ships” 2019
In A Thousand Ships, broadcaster and classicist Natalie Haynes retells the story of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective. “This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of all of them.” A Thousand Ships gives voices to the women, girls and goddesses who, for so long, have been silent.
It’s late one night at the Spanish port of Algeciras and two fading Irish gangsters are waiting on the boat from Tangier. A lover has been lost, a daughter has gone missing, their world has come asunder – can it be put together again? Night Boat to Tangier is a novel drenched in sex and death and narcotics, in sudden violence and old magic. But above all, it is a book obsessed with the mysteries of love.
A small collection of written and drawn sketches around the theme of birds, observed in Scotland, Norfolk and the east coast, Pembrokeshire and area of Oxfordshire-Northamptonshire-Warwickshire border.
A revelation for Moby-Dick devotees and neophytes alike, Ahab’s Rolling Sea is a chronological journey through the natural history of Melville’s novel. From white whales to whale intelligence, giant squids, barnacles, albatrosses, and sharks, Richard J. King examines what Melville knew from his own experiences and the sources available to a reader in mid-1800s.
Robert Lee Eskridge “Umi: The Hawaiian Boy Who Became a King” 1936
For Umi, life on the islands of Hawaii is about as average as it can be. He and his brothers spend their days weeding the taro field, fishing in the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, and dreaming. But late one night Umi’s longing for adventure gets the best of him. And when he’s caught in a forbidden place by a powerful high priest, his life is turned upside down.
“So this is surfing in Britain, I told myself as I grumpily walked up a slope of wet rocks and wispy beach grass, trying to keep a foothold as rain and wind both tried their utmost to send me skidding back down to the freezing beach below.”
When twenty-three-year-old Inuit Ada Blackjack signed on as a seamstress for a top-secret Arctic expedition, her goal was simple: to earn money in order to provide for her young son. She and four men set in, the expedition was beset by hardship, starvation, and tragedy. When Ada found her way back to civilization two years later, she was the expedition’s sole survivor.
Tens of thousands of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and New England Fishermen have perished over the centuries while attempting to make a living on North Atlantic waters. Tragedy struck particularly hard during the August gales of 1926 and 1927.
In a replica of the boat that naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace himself sailed 140 years before him – a prahu, as these sleek Stone Age sailing vessels were called – and with Wallace’s own book: The Malay Archipelago, as his guide, Severin embarks on a venture that takes him and his small crew through sparkling coral seas to remote shorelines where they encounter exotic creatures.
The ill-fated 1881 effort to establish an American fort in the Arctic is chronicled in full detail, covering the terrible saga of starvation, mutiny, suicide, shipwreck, execution, and cannibalism that destroyed nineteen of the original twenty-five explorers.
The mother who uses charity as a weapon. An invisible chef and his deadly mashed potato. The obsession that takes a man closer to the mysteries of the cosmos than he counted on. A man who can’t stop crying. The murderer who helps his victims escape death. The weekend break that becomes a journey to edges of sanity. And more.
There was once a man who believed he owned everything and set out to survey what was his. “You are mine,” Fausto said to the flower, the sheep, and the mountain, and they all bowed before him. But they were not enough for Fausto, so he conquered a boat and set out to sea…
William Finnegan’s memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. “Without a doubt, the finest surf book I’ve ever read.” —The New York Times Magazine
A short, powerful, illustrated book written by Khaled Hosseini in response to the current refugee crisis, “Sea Prayer” is composed in the form of a letter, from a father to his son, on the eve of their journey. Watching over his sleeping son, the father reflects on the dangerous sea-crossing that lies before them. It is also a vivid portrait of their life in Homs, Syria, before the war.
Historical fiction young adult novel tells the story of four individuals in World War II who make their way to the ill-fated ship MV Wilhelm Gustloff. The story also touches on the disappearance of the Amber Room, a world-famous, ornately decorated chamber stolen by the Nazis that has never been recovered.
Books added in 2019, 2018, 2017
Throughout his journeys – to some of the hottest, coldest, and most desolate places on Earth – and via friendships he forges along the way with scientists, archaeologists, artists, and local residents, Barry Lopez searches for meaning and purpose in a broken world. “Horizon” is a crowning achievement by one of America’s most necessary voices.
Poet-naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield’s fourth collection documents and queries her work as a guide on ships in Antarctica, offering an incisive insider’s vision that challenges traditional tropes of The Last Continent.
Kenneth Brower “The Starship and the Canoe” 1978
Gripping story of two remarkable men, a father and son. One searched for meaning in the stars above, the other in the sea below. World-renowned astrophysicist dreams of exploring heavens and has designed a spaceship to take him there. His son, a brilliant high school dropout, lives in a tree house and is designing a giant canoe to explore the icy coastal wilderness of Northwest America.
In this involving, compassionate memoir, Christina Thompson tells the story of her romance and eventual marriage to a Maori man, interspersing it with a narrative history of the cultural collision between Westerners and the Maoris of New Zealand.
“Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans” is a cultural, environmental and geopolitical history that examines the relationship between humans and oceans, reaching back across geological and evolutionary time and exploring different cultures around the globe.
“The Outermost House” is widely considered Henry Beston’s masterpiece and has become an American classic. It was first published in 1928 after a year Henry Beston spent in a little house, facing the North Atlantic, on the beach of Cape Cod. This new edition, published by Pushkin Press, is illustrated by Pete Smith and with an introduction by Philip Hoare.
Daisy Johnson “Everything Under” 2018
It’s been sixteen years since Gretel last saw her mother, half a lifetime to forget her childhood on the canals. But a phone call will soon reunite them, and bring those wild years flooding back: the secret language that Gretel and her mother invented; the strange boy, Marcus, living on the boat that final winter; the creature said to be underwater, swimming ever closer…
“This is a book to be read outside – may it go waterlogged, sun-buckled and wind-chapped.” Lynne Roper is a visionary wild swimmer and she trusted her diaries to artist Tanya Shadrick before dying a month later from a tumour on August 13 in 2016. Both women met only once. Tanya Shadrick founded The Selkie Press and turned inspiring diaries into a book, working without a fee or crowd-funding. She also released the book without mainstream distribution in August 2018. This summer “Wild Woman Swimming” was longlisted for the Wainwright Book Prize 2019, UK-based prize for best nature writing.
Antonio Pigafetta “Magellan’s Voyage: A Narrative Account of the First Navigation”, translated in English 1969
Magellan died half-way through the three-year voyage, during a fight with Philippine natives. Of the five ships and approximately 270 men who set out, only one ship and seventeen men returned. But the Victoria was full of spices and land claims, and for this del Cano received a pension, an addition to his coat of arms, and a globe with the inscription, “You were the first to encircle me” (“Primus circumdedisti me”). Among the survivors was Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian tourist destined to make a major contribution to the genre of travel literature. Little is known about Pigafetta, but he was on business at the Spanish court at the time, adventurous enough to want to tag along with Magellan, and well-connected enough to arrange it. Although snubbed by Captain del Cano upon their return, Pigafetta also presented himself to Charles V (now Holy Roman Emperor), bringing with him not “gold, silver, or any other precious thing worthy of so great a lord,” but “a book written in his own hand, in which were set down the things that happened from day to day during their voyage.” Now known as Magellan’s Voyage.
How many books have you always wanted to read? Felt you should read? Pretended you actually have read? Andy Miller has a job he quite liked and a family he loved. But something was missing: books. So began a year of reading that was gradually to transform his life. From Moby-Dick to The Da Vinci Code, from Jane Austen to Douglas Adams, Andy Miller explores how and what we read – and why we should make the time to do so. Inspiring, deeply personal and laugh-out-loud funny, The Year of Reading Dangerously is a reader’s odyssey and it begins with opening this book.
French writer Catherine Poulain was 56 when her first novel was published in 2016. Now “Woman at Sea” has been translated into English and I am so happy to have it in the Sea Library. Book is inspired by Catherine Poulain’s incredible biography. She has lived on the road and on the sea for most of her life. She has worked in fish farms in Iceland, as a farm worker in Canada, as a barmaid in Hong Kong, in naval shipyards in the US and for many years as a fisherman in Alaska. Book is about Lily, a runaway, who leaves her life in France to go in search of freedom and adventure. Her search takes her to Alaska, where she is the only woman on the fishing boat.
“The Shipping News” by American writer Annie Proulx was first published in 1993 and received the Pulitzer prize in Literature. It was made into a movie in 2001 with Kevin Spacey as hapless, hopeless hack journalist Quoyle who leaves New York for Newfoundland. Although I have the ’93 edition of “The Shipping News”, I couldn’t resist buying this one too, re-published this year as part of 4th Eastate Matchbook Classics series: 10 books with old-school British matchbox design for covers.
Funny, subversive, fearless and fiercely intelligent, Iris Murdoch was one of the great writers of the twentieth century. To celebrate her centenary Vintage Classics presents special editions of her greatest and most timeless novels. “The Sea, The Sea”, winner of the Man Booker Prize 1978, is about Charles Arrowby, who has determined to spend the rest of his days in hermit-like contemplation. He buys a mysteriously damp house on the coast, far from the heady world of the theatre where he made his name, and there he swims in the sea, eats revolting meals and writes his memoirs. “I saw a monster rising from the waves.” With an introduction by Daisy Johnson, whose debut novel, Everything Under, was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, and she is the youngest nominee in the prize’s history.
The Silver Darlings is a tale of lives hard won from a cruel sea and crueller landlords. It tells of strong young men and stronger women whose loves, fear and sorrows are set deep in a landscape of raw beauty and bleak reward. Neil Gunn’s story paints a vivid picture of a community fighting against nature and history and refusing to be crushed.
Inspired by a brief passage in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Sena Jeter Naslund has created a vast, compelling saga of a woman whose life is dominated by the sea. As a child, Una Spenser is sent away from her family to live in a lighthouse but the unknown beckons and she encounters disasters, adventure, loss, murder and madness before meeting her match, Captain Ahab.
“Immersive .. a powerful reminder that we can bury our head in the sand about climate change for only so long before the sand itself disappears.” Jennifer Senior, New York Times
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is strange – not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. But she has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. “Circe back as superwoman .. Miller’s Me Too era, kickass portrait of a woman trying to defy the men and Fates arrayed against her is enchanting” The Times
15th-century Oakham, in Somerset: a tiny village cut off by a big river with no bridge. When a man is swept away in the early hours of Shrove Saturday, an explanation has to be found. Was it murder, or suicide, or an accident? “It made me gasp, and when I’d finished it, I started it again.” Alex Clark, Times Literary Supplement
Jill Dawson “White Fish With Painted Nails” 1994
The water so cold, I’m scalding.
Every pore is singing.
Steam rising from the place
in the water where a gull circles
a strange fish with white skin
and painted nails.
White Fish With Painted Nails is Jill Dawson’s first collection of poems.
Set against the backdrop of the waterlogged Fens, Jill Dawson’s riveting, disturbing novel captures the mysteries of childhood, and that volatile stage when girls become aware of their attractions, but do not grasp the dangers.
“Unforgettable. Julian Hoffman presents a radical and revelatory perspective on our planet. At a time when the earth often seems broken beyond despair, this courageous and hopeful book offers life-changing encounters with the more-than-human world.” Nancy Campbell, author of The Library of Ice
“At such a time, are the arts irrelevant, a luxury? To the contrary, they have an essential place both in grieving for what is lost and in imagining new human possibilities.”
Without algae none of us would exist. Full of surprising science and history, and even a few recipes, Bloom will overturn everything you thought you knew about algae. As author Ruth Kassinger concludes “They created us, sustain us, and if we’re both clever and wise, they can help save us.”
“The Southern Ocean is a wild and elusive place, an ocean like no other. With its waters lying between the Antarctic continent and the southern coastlines of Australia, New Zealand, South America and South Africa, it is the most remote and inaccessible part of the planetary ocean, the only part that flows completely around Earth unimpeded by any landmass.”
“Part crime novel, part love song to the sea, it is so beautifully, lyrically written that you want to stay forever luxuriating in the language…” Live and Deadly
The characters in Polish writer Paweł Huelle’s mesmerising stories find themselves, willingly or not, at the heart of epic narratives, legends and histories that stretch for beyond the limits of their own lives. Against the backdrop of the Baltic coast, mythology and meteorology mix with the inexorable tide of political change.
Over the course of a year, leading historian and nature writer David Gange kayaked the weather-ravaged coasts of Atlantic Britain and Ireland from north to south: every cove, sound, inlet, island. Paddling alone in sun and storms, among dozen of whales and countless seabirds…
Adam Weymouth “Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey” 2018
“Adam Weymouth paddled an 18ft glass-fibre canoe down the Yukon, almost 2,000 miles through Canada and Alaska, to the Bering Sea. His account of that journey is so assured, so accomplished … rich in characters, and beautifully written” Michael Kerr, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year
“The news travelled fast, breaking within minutes against the walls of that neat bungalow on the crest of the hill where a collection of lives already lay in shards. They had found her, in the water at Inch Levels.”
We Are the Ocean is a collection of essays, fiction, and poetry by Epeli Hau’ofa, whose writing over the past three decades has consistently challenged prevailing notions about Oceania and prescriptions for its development. Hau’ofa’s essays criss-cross Oceania, creating a navigator’s star chart of discussion and debate.
Mermaid has inspired numerous artists and spawned countless tales, from Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid to the West African Mami Wata legend. Sophia Kingshill has written the history of a unique family tree, travelling back 3,000 years to discover the enduring myth and the vibrant folklore that continue to enchant us and ensure the mermaid’s survival.
Stephen Rutt “The Seafarers: A Journey Among Birds” 2019
In 2015, Stephen Rutt escaped his hectic, anxiety-inducing life in London for the bird observatory on North Ronaldsay, the most northerly of the Orkney Islands. This beguiling book reveals what it feels like to be immersed in a completely wild landscape, examining the allure of the remote in an over-crowded world.
“The house on the edge of the cliff was demolished this week, which means we are now the house on the edge of the cliff.”
Seven-year-old Esther must negotiate adult dysfunction, and a school environment that exposes her to prejudice and injustice. From Seven to the Sea is a window onto the world of a child who rejects convention and expectation. Esther embarks on a creative expedition; each day, in place of school, sets out to sea.
William Least Heat-Moon “River Horse: The Logbook of a Boat Across America” 1999
In his most ambitious journey ever, William Least Heat-Moon sets off aboard a small boat named Nikawa (“river horse” in Osage) from the Atlantic at New York Harbor in hopes of entering the Pacific near Astoria, Oregon. He and his companion, Pilotis, struggle to cover some 5,000 watery miles.
Albert Camus “The Sea Close By” Penguin Classics 2013
Part of the Penguin Classics campaign celebrating 100 years of Albert Camus in 2013, this little book A Sea Close By reveals the writer as a sensual witness of landscapes, the sea and sailing. It is a light, summery day-dream. Accompanying The Sea Close By (1954) is the essay Summer in Algiers (1938), a lovesong to his Mediterranean childhood.
One perfect day at Sunset Beach, the two surfers are in the water when Mark Foo audaciously steals a wave from right under Ken Bradshaw’s nose, sparking a bitter feud that is to last for over ten years and end in tragedy. Stealing the Wave is not just the story of a legendary sporting rivalry. It goes to the core of what it means to compete…
The North Shore on the Hawaiian island of Oahu is a strip of beach and a microcosm of the world: the abode of terror and ecstasy, innocence and experience, a mecca and coliseum for surfers. Andy Martin joins the surreal afficionados of a sport that is also a religion, a compound of myth, miracle and masochism, with its high priests and ritual sacrifices.
Joanna Streetly “Wild Fierce Life: Dangerous Moments on the Outer Coast” 2018
“Wild Fierce Life is a portal into something sadly now rare: a human life lived in intimate relationship with the ocean and the wilderness. .. Reading these essays, I too lived on the edge of the world. I tasted salt and felt the rain on my skin..” Kathy Page, author of Paradise & Elsewhere
Jill Fredston “Rowing to Latitude: Journeys Along the Arctic’s Edge” 2001
“For years my husband, Doug Fesler, and I have led a double life. In the winter, we work as avalanche specialists. Then, with the lighter days of summer, we disappear .. on three-to-five-month-long wilderness rowing and kayaking trips.”
“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, Spectator
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
“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
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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 REVIEW
“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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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. “
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.”
“‘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
“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.”
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
“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.”
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.'”
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
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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
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.”
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.”
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
“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
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
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.”
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.”
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
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
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.”
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.”
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.”
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