You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat: 15 Great Books for Shark Week

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Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

If I was ranking things I am interested in, it would probably go 1) my cats, 2) books, 3) sharks, 4) bats, and 5) heavy metal. Unless my husband is reading this, then of course he is number 1. (Hi, honey!)

What I’m saying is: I REALLY like sharks. I find them wildly fascinating, and I own dozens of books about them, so it makes me a perfect person to write a list of great shark books in honor of Shark Week! (Although the Shark Week programming is a little out of control the last few years. What’s going to happen this year? A shark will duet with Tony Bennett? John Cena will wrestle a shark?)

Whether about science, history, or fiction regarding sharks, here are some wonderful books about our toothy cartilaginous ocean friends that you can sink your teeth into! 

Note: The world of sharks books is short on diversity. If you have recommendations of shark books by authors of color, we’d love to hear about them.


Shark! by Jeffrey Rotman

Okay, sharks aren’t exactly what you’d call pretty. (Look up the cookie cutter shark – you’ll never sleep again.) But they are SO amazing to look at anyway. And Rotman is one of the leading shark photographers. This is a great coffee table book.

Cover of Sharks in the Time of Saviors: A Novel by Kawai Strong Washburn

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

No list of best shark books would be complete without a mention of this novel! It’s not entirely about sharks, but the shark plays the most important role. When seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean, a shark gently returns him to his family, a supernatural event that affects the family for the rest of their lives.

close to shore

Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 by Michael Capuzzo

This true story was the inspiration for Jaws: In 1916, a large shark made its way from the ocean and swam an eleven mile stretch of a New Jersey river, killing several people in its travels. It reads like thrilling historical fiction except, hello, it REALLY HAPPENED. No list of shark books is complete without this one. (And there’s also a version for younger readers.)


Pocket Genius: Sharks by DK

DK makes the most wonderful guidebooks. They are always chock full of colorful pictures and information. This one details more than 150 types of sharks (and rays – go, Team Cartilage!) And it’s small, so you can carry it around, no problem. (What, you don’t carry shark books around with you?)

Cover of Sharks, Death, Surfers: An Illustrated Companion (Sternberg Press) by Melissa Mccarthy

Sharks, Death, Surfers: An Illustrated Companion by Melissa Mccarthy

This is one of the most fascinating shark books I have read! McCarthy (no, not that Melissa McCarthy) looks at how sharks have been depicted throughout the ages. She also discusses shark attacks and surfers, which unfortunately do happen, but at not even close to the rate that television and movies would have you think. 

demon fish

Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks by Juliet Eilperin

Eilperin examines sharks and their relationship with man throughout history all over the globe. You won’t be surprised to learn they have always been feared and admired.

MEG by Steve Alten

If you want to read a Jaws-type thriller that isn’t actually a lousy book like Jaws (Listen, the Jaws movie is amazing, but let’s face it, the book stinks), the MEG series is the best there is. And it’s now a movie with Jason Statham! Handsome Rob fighting giant sharks—YES, PLEASE!

Cover of Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating and Marta Álvarez Miguéns

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating and Marta Álvarez Miguéns

This is one of the most beautifully illustrated shark books for kids. It’s about Eugenie Clark, who fell in love with sharks at a young age while visiting an aquarium, and devoted her life to helping people understand and help save sharks.

in harm's way

In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton

Remember Quint’s speech in Jaws about the being on the boat that sank? Well, it really happened. On its return from a secret mission, The USS Indianapolis was torpedoed and sunk. 1300 men went into the water. After three days of exposure and circling sharks, 300 were left when rescue boats finally arrived. It’s a chilling story of war, politics, survival, and of course, sharks.

Motherfucking Sharks by Brian Allen Carr

In NO WAY based in reality but OMG sooooooo much fun! In Carr’s gritty alterna-western, sharks come up THROUGH THE GROUND to get you. Nowhere – and no one – is safe! Violent, amazing, and glorious.

the devil's teeth

The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks by Susan Casey

Casey traveled to the Farallon Islands, a tiny group of islands in dangerous waters off the coast of California, where great white sharks can be observed feeding once a year, during what is known as “shark season.” In the process, Casey got a lot more adventure than she had planned.

sharks and rays

Sharks & Rays (Nature Company Guides)

Another beautiful guide to the different kinds of sharks and rays. I never get tired of looking at the pictures. And rays are some of the weirdest looking creatures on the planet. Their like swimming pancakes with smiley faces on their bellies!

Cover of Surrounded by Sharks by Michael Northrup

Surrounded By Sharks by Michael Northrop

This is a really great middle grade novel about a boy named Davey who is on vacation with his parents. One morning, when he can’t sleep, he decides to sneak out and take a boat out to sea by himself. But the tide isn’t in his favor, and Davey soon finds himself—you guessed it—surrounded by sharks.

great white shark

Great White Shark: Myth and Reality by Alexandrine Civard-Racinais, Patrice Heraud (Photographer)

No other book was as detrimental to a single species as Jaws was to great white sharks. (Benchley felt terrible about all the shark killings and later devoted his time and money to shark conservation.) This book discusses the myths surrounding the great white and its history.

the encyclopedia of sharks

The Encyclopedia of Sharks by Steve Parker

A comprehensive look at types of sharks, their habitats and breeding, their history, and the dwindling populations and dangers that face sharks today, including finning and overfishing.