What to read while you’re at sea: Southern Fried Science’s favorite ebooks for a multi-month research cruise

AndrewThumbUntil March 9, 2013, I’ll be at sea. I love that phrase. At sea. For this expedition, we’re leaving from Jamaica, returning to Antigua, and spending several days on a research program separate from ours. I have a lot of travel and a little downtime to look forward to. When I started going to sea almost a decade ago, this meant that I carried a couple books and dozens of research papers, and traded them around with the rest of the science team, the crew, and the ship’s library.

Now, thanks to kindles and other e-readers, I can carry entire libraries with me, loading them up with all the books I want to read and stockpiling thousands of research papers. This. Is. Awesome.

So, if you find yourself with a kindle and a long stretch of travel time, consider checking out some of my favorite ebooks. I’ve read  all of these over the last year and they all look great on an e-reader. This reading list should keep you occupied during the quieter moments of your travels.


Science and Conservation

Science Fiction

Ocean Adventures

Social and Political


Feel free to recommend your favorite ebooks in the comments below.


  1. Jenn · February 1, 2013

    Thanks for the tips! I’m always looking for good books. Of the ones on your list, I’ve only read two: Visit Sunny Chernobyl was wonderful. Depressing, but intriguing, and I loved the author’s premise. Looking for a Ship was also a good read, (it’s hard to think of anything by John McPhee that isn’t).

  2. Matt Rigney · February 1, 2013

    Hi Andrew–

    This is a great list of books. You’ve got some of my favorites up there, including Roberts’ “Unnatural History of the Sea.” On your next voyage, perhaps you’d like to try “In Pursuit of Giants: One Man’s Global Search for the Last of the Great Fish.” It was published by Viking/Penguin last June 2012 and recounts the story of my five-year, 75,000-mile journey to encounter the great fish of the sea–marlin, bluefin tuna, and swordfish–and to tell the story of their decline. If you have a moment, take a look at the website. It features reviews, a short two-minute video trailer, and links to my Facebook page and various means to get the book.

    link: http://www.inpursuitofgiants.com

    Best wishes~

    Matt Rigney

    • Andrew David Thaler · February 1, 2013

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks! I just put In Pursuit of Giants on my kindle. Looking forward to reading it while floating around the Caribbean.

  3. Michelle Lotker · February 1, 2013

    I recommend The China Voyage! Awesome sea adventure on a traditionally built raft.

  4. Mike Bok · February 12, 2013

    I would add Darwin’s, ‘Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the various countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle’. Very interesting, if not action packed, but tremendous in scope. It is a very gratifying look into the head of someone who most biologists regard in a demi-god like status. Reading his travel narrative humanizes him to a huge degree and you can’t help relating to his enthusiasm and wonderment for the natural world.

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