Chris' Favorite Sailing Books

Because to the global importance of sailing, vast numbers of books are around that deal with pretty much any aspect of sailing – be it as a sport, or as a mean to socialize in clubs, be it a reference to the history of ships. No way anyone could ever read even nearly everything that is published around this diverse topic.

A Sailboat in the CaribbeanNevertheless, I am trying to do my best; merging two of my dearest hobbies (sailing and reading), I put together the following list of books that I enjoyed very much. I tried to make this list as diverse as possible, covering interests of total beginners as well as those of more advanced sailors.

In addition, I looked into specialist topics, such as nautical design or shipbuilding. The list is still growing, since this website is anything but dead. Check frequently for new publications on “Chris’ favorites” list. In addition to my thoughts about the books, I added links to, the online warehouse. I order most of my books from amazon and appreciate it for being straightforward, cheap and reliable.

Books for Beginners and General References

The Complete Sailor: Learning the Art of Sailing
By David Seidman
A very good reference with general notes on the sport. There is little fuss about details, making the text concise and well understandable. Many good illustrations help to visualize the basics of sailing. It doesn’t aim to any particular age-group and makes generally a great introduction to essential sailing techniques and a bit of the technical background. I would recommend the book to people who just got started or plan to do a sailing course soon and look for a practical, supplementing guide. It is a paperback, so probably very suitable to be taken with you even onboard.
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DK Complete Sailing Manual
By Steve Sleight
When it comes to general references, this is my favorite. A very visual masterpiece with 750 illustrations and photographs that aims to briefly explain every significant aspect of sailing. It is designed for beginners as well as advanced sailors, and is extremely well written and very easy to understand – all the information contained comes in small portions, which helps a great deal if you enjoy just browsing the book. In terms of tradeoffs, it’s fairly extensive and a hardcover, so more a desk-reference than a “field guide”; also, the length is mostly due to the illustrations, text-wise the book doesn’t go too much into detail. I recommend this book to people who enjoy sailing and look for a reference that covers all aspects of it – a guide to the theory and practice of sailing.
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Sailing for Dummies
By J. J. Isler and Peter Isler
This book is a basic introduction to sailing in a casual tone – as it is the case with most books from this series. I have a bit of a weak spot for the Dummy-books, which is mainly why I have included the book in this list. There are relatively few illustrations, but the text is very clear and follows practical aspects of sailing. It is good fun to read and might contain chunks of new information even for sailors that consider themselves as experienced – but after all, it is written for the beginner. It is a paperback and therefore, easy to carry with you even aboard if desired. I recommend this book to people who are familiar with the “X for Dummies” books and like the style – or to someone looking for a supplement to other books.
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Books on Boatbuilding and Repair

Books on Cruising

World Cruising Essentials: The Boats, Gear, and Practices That Work Best at Sea
By Jimmy Cornell; about
Do you plan to go on a cruise yourself? Then remember the name Jimmy Cornell. He the man! This book is only one of several key references to cruising and I decided to include this one in the list because it is probably the most important and most basic one. Being very successful, the current edition is the third and got extended once again. Make this one your starting book and then look into the other books of the “World Cruising” series. This book covers both the theory of cruising and many practical aspects. It explains among many other things the main traffic routes of cruisers; materials and types of boats and all sorts of gear essential for cruising; health and safety issues; as well as help and advice with legal issues such as visa regulations and formalities. I recommend this book urgently to everybody who is seriously thinking about going on a cruise.
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How to Sail Around the World: Advice and Ideas for Voyaging Under Sail
By Hal Roth; about
Another general reference for people who think about cruising. Hal Roth is a legendary character among writing sailors. In this book, celebrated by many as a classic in the scene, he explains essential cruising issues such as how to choose and equip a boat to prepare a long-distance journey, how to master daily challenges aboard, how to handle foul weather and how to enjoy stays in exotic destinations. This book has a very wide approach to cruising and is written in a light and comprehensible tone. I recommend it to everybody who is thinking about going on a cruise and wants to learn more about this way of sailing.
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More Good Books on Cruising


Books on Specialist Topics

The Greatest Sailing Stories Ever Told: Twenty-Seven Unforgettable Stories
By Christopher Caswell (Editor)
This book is – not surprisingly thinking of the title – twenty-seven stories that take you to a range of historic settings and introduce you to some very influential sailors. Such as Ernest Shackleton, whose bad management drove his crew into failure and death. In this book, an essay by Shackleton draws another picture of the legendary captain. The stories of the book vary in style and reflect the range of different backgrounds of their writers. Not all of them are as interesting as the Shackleton story, but all in all, the book contains 300 very entertaining pages. I recommend it to everybody who is interested in sailing and the history of the sport – and who would enjoy a more epic approach to this topic. Other writers include: James Thurber, William F. Buckley Jr., Ann Davison, Sterling Hayden, Tristan Jones, C. S. Forester, Peter Goss and others.
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Nautical Style: Yachting Design and Interiors
By David Glenn
Okay, this one is a bit off the theme – but I personally enjoy nautical design very much. Think of the golden age of yachting – the 1920ies and 30ies – and you will immediately think of teak decks, polished brass and that very special apparel of a the classic sailor. In fact, “classic” is the right word of describing the style of these days. And since sailing is not only about cold wind and adrenaline, but also has beauty and style. This book will allow you to explore how much thought was once put into the construction of luxury yachts by their wealthy owners. Even if you are personally more into dinghy sailing, you will find it hard to resist the beauty of a 1920ies schooner. Books like this teach you to appreciate the style of boats and experience them with more depth. I recommend this book for everyone who has any kind of interest in sailing or shipbuilding – it also makes a great gift.
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Books on the History of Sailing