Shop Thoughts: Dark Skies? Read Some Ocean Stories


It’s raining—again—as I write this. And I’ve just finished reading The Lost Boys of Montauk by Amanda Fairbanks, which means I’ve got water on the brain in more ways than one.  The Lost Boys of Montauk tells the story of a commercial fishing boat lost at sea in March 1984, the four men onboard who perished, and how their disappearance has haunted and affected the community they left behind.  Even though the location is not exactly local, it paints a familiar picture.  It will rightfully invite comparisons to The Perfect Storm, though this book is more about what happened on land before and after the storm.

Because we’re based on the coast, the Book Shop always has a few good nautical books in stock.  Patagonia Books has recently reissued a classic handbook for “surfers, sailors, oceanographers, climate activists, and those who love the sea” called Waves and Beaches.  Originally published in 1964 and updated in 1979, the book has now been updated again to reflect the effects of climate change, with new text and photos, resulting in a beautiful and informative package.

Two new notable books by swimmers recently came to grace our shelves. Swimming to the Top of the Tide by Gloucester author Patricia Hanlon chronicles how she and her husband came to swim in the tidal estuary of The Great Marsh regularly.  In addition to being a thoughtful meditation on an exercise that gives both mental and physical nourishment, the book also serves as an observation of our changing landscape.  Similarly, Waterlog by Roger Deakin charts open water swimming escapades throughout Britain and observations of the natural world as Deakin embarks on a mission to swim the seas, rivers, lakes, pools, streams, moats, and quarries of his country in order to understand the wild aquatic better.  

In the fiction arena, much of Migrations by Charlotte McConoghy, recently released in paperback, takes place on a fishing boat, where the main character is following the last Arctic terns on what may be their final migration to Antarctica.  As her past comes into focus, the reader comes to realize there is more at stake than just the birds.  McConoghy writes mesmerizingly well about the natural world and our changing planet and, while continually raising the stakes, infuses her story with hope.  Much of Sea Wife by Amity Gaige also takes place on a boat. It tells the story of a marriage and a family aboard a sailboat bound for Panama. What initially seems like the perfect way to re-energize a failing marriage quickly turns into a page-turning tale of survival at sea.  Readers who persevere through the darker moments will be rewarded with an uplifting ending.

Books and water don’t generally mix that well, but in these cases you can dive right in.

hannah harlow, amity gaige, amanda fairbanks, roger deakin, the lost boys, patricia hanlon, gloucester