Nine nautical books to pick up on National Read A Book Day

From tales of courageous crews to nautical novels, here are some books to add to your reading list. 

The Surviving the Storms book resting on a table next to a cup of coffee

Photo: RNLI

Surviving the Storms is filled with thrilling rescue stories

You shouldn’t need an excuse to delve into your favourite novel, but National Read A Book Day feels like a great opportunity to celebrate all things literary. In the RNLI’s long history of saving lives at sea, there are countless stories of courage from our brave lifesavers. The good news is that we’ve gathered some of these stories together in book form!

We’re also sharing some of our favourite classic nautical yarns and some recommendations from the RNLI Shop, so whatever you read, you can help support our lifesaving work. 

Stories of courage in these RNLI books

This National Read A Book Day, why not pick up a book filled with thrilling tales from the RNLI?

1. Surviving the Storms

Surviving the Storms has RNLI lifesavers telling the stories behind eleven very dramatic rescues. In their own words, get a gripping first-hand account of what it’s like to save lives at sea.

In the video below, ex-RNLI lifeguard Sophie reads an extract from her chapter in the book, which tells the story of how she rescued a surfer in dangerous seas off Perranporth Beach. Sophie was awarded the Bronze Medal for Gallantry for her bravery during the rescue.

2. Saved from the Waves

If that’s whetted your appetite for more lifesaving stories, then Saved from the Waves is another collection of rescues, only this time with a twist – all the casualties are animals. From a rather angry Bichon Frisé to a majestic humpback whale, the RNLI will try just as hard to save the lives of our furry and feathery friends where we can. These first-hand accounts are the perfect blend of thrill, fun and heart-warming for National Read A Book Day.

The cover of the RNLI’s Saved from the Waves rescue book

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

Animal rescue stories make for the perfect read

How about some classic seafaring tales?

The sea has been the inspiration for many nautical books, with some absolute classics waiting to be discovered.

3. Treasure Island

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is an obvious starting point, with its mixture of swashbuckling pirates and thrilling action. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe is another classic, telling the story of the title character’s adventures as he fights to stay alive while stranded on a desert island.

4. Moby-Dick

If you want an epic adventure story, Moby-Dick by Herman Melville is a literary masterpiece, telling the story of one man’s obsession with revenge against a great white whale.

5. The Old Man And The Sea

The Old Man And The Sea is somewhat smaller in size, but Ernest Hemingway’s poetic prose will have you gripped throughout.

6. Life of Pi 

If you fancy something a bit more modern this National Read A Book Day, Life of Pi by Yann Martel won the Booker Prize and adds a splash of fantasy into the mix. (It also features a lifeboat, but we promise that didn’t affect our recommendation). 

A stack of nautical books in the forest

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

There are plenty of books to explore in the RNLI Shop

More nautical tales from the RNLI Shop

What better way to celebrate National Read A Book Day than by choosing your next beach read from the RNLI Shop? There’s a wide selection of books available, spanning all sorts of genres. Here are some of our highlights.

7. The Boat Cookbook 

The Boat Cookbook by Fiona Sims has plenty of delicious recipes that can be cooked in the cramped galley of a sailboat or at your leisure in the kitchen, with contributions from top chefs like Angela Hartnett and sailing legends like Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. 

8. Sea Shanties: The Lyrics and History of Sailor Songs

Did the recent sea shanty craze make you wish you knew some of the songs so you could join in? Sea Shanties: The Lyrics and History of Sailor Songs by Karen Dolby collects 50 of the most popular songs, as well as some of the history behind the shanty.

9. The Practical Guide to Celestial Navigation

Ever looked at the stars and wondered how seafarers of the past used them to navigate? The Practical Guide to Celestial Navigation by Phil Somerville gives you a step-by-step guide on how you too can use the stars to guide you when out sailing.

And remember, every book you buy from the RNLI Shop helps raise money for our lifesavers.

The perfect beach read

If you’re thinking about heading to the seaside for National Read A Book Day, what makes the perfect beach read? Red and yellow flags. Yes, even if you’re going to dive headfirst into a page-turner rather than the sea, we always recommend visiting a lifeguarded beach. Not just because they’ll keep you safe if you do decide to go for a dip, but they’re also available to provide first aid if you should need it. 

Browse our collection of nautical books for sale in the RNLI Shop today and help support our lifesavers as they do all they can to save every one. And if these tales have inspired you to try and write your own story of courage, there are volunteer opportunities available so you can become a lifesaver too.

There are so many ways you can volunteer, from joining a lifeboat crew to helping run an RNLI shop or becoming a youth education volunteer. However you give your time, you’ll be saving lives at sea.

Find out more