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Books & Recommended Reading

Here you will find some brief information about both the books I have authored or worked on in other capacities and the books that my associates have published. These include not only technical material but also great yarns that, in my view, would appeal to anyone, whether he or she is a sailor or not. In fact, some books have nothing to do with the sea but touch instead on general survival issues. Follow the links to find reviews, reader comments, sample pages, and ordering information. For books about survival, sailing adventures, and technical marine subjects that we highly recommend, please see our Bookshelf page.

Ballatine AdriftNow in print for more than a quarter century, Adrift recounts how I came to lose my small boat in mid-Atlantic and spent the next two and a half months learning to live like an aquatic cave man while piloting my way across 1,800 nautical miles of ocean. It is a tale of failure as well as triumph, and how, even in the worst of times, we can find value, meaning, even beauty in life. The deeper issues in Adrift are revealed through the magic and mystery of the ocean, particularly the dorado that followed me and provided me with sustenance and companionship, nearly killed me, but in the end, brought me salvation. Adrift became a NY Times (among others) best seller, has been published in numerous editions, and has been translated into 20 languages. Find out more and Buy.

Capsized: Jim Nalepka's Epic 119-Day Survival Voyage Aboard the Rose-NoƫlleWhen four men take off from New Zealand's South Island en route to Tonga, they have visions of palm trees and dancing native women, not the storm that would shortly capsize their 40-foot trimaran. With the boat half full of water, they take refuge in "the cave" under the cockpit, a space about the size of a double bed with 18 inches of headroom, where they will spend most of their time during the next for four months as they drift through the southern winter. As the four very different male personalities struggle to become a successful survival team, we find no unvarnished heroes but real men who come to rely on the strengths of their mates. Capsized, which I wrote for crew member Jim Nalepka, has been translated and dramatized for stage and radio. Find out more and Buy.

SurvivorMichael Greenwald, liveaboard sailor and former medic, approached both Dougal Robertson and me to assist him in producing this comprehensive ocean-survival reference book. According to the website LibraryThing, Survivor is "a massive compendium of survival stories and technical survival information. Twenty-one chapters cover everything from emergency medicine, lifeboat navigation, psychology of survival, cold weather, sharks, being marooned, and much more; with 300 illustrations." Robertson, a fellow survivor and author of Survive the Savage Seas, and I served as contributing editors, providing feedback on the realities of the ocean survivor's life. I also contributed a handful of original full-page illustrations to accompany the text. Although not a compact manual that one might pack into a ditch kit, Survivor should be read by anyone serious about venturing offshore. When you prepare for the worst, the best takes care of itself. Find out more and Buy.

North to the NightWhen I met Alvah and Dianajust before they headed off to winter over in the Arctic aboard Roger Henry, I was captivated by their energy, outlook, and eloquence. For decades, Alvah, an explorer from another era, and Diana have voyaged way off the beaten track to discover how cultures are shaped by as well as shape their physical environments. Their writings and talks reveal the wisdom of indigenous peoples whose "natural literacy" allows them to survive even hostile ecosystems. Nuggets of sublime insights I call "Alvahrisms" abound. He has an ability to see a larger universal picture in the most eclectic undertakings while Diana's photography is nothing less than stunning. But North to the Night is not just about the Simons, cultures, or wilderness adventure. When Diana had to be whisked away just before the arctic darkness enveloped Roger Henry, leaving Alvah alone to face untold cold and polar bears, he turned to his trusty cat Halifax and declared, "You've been promoted!" Find out more and Buy.

OverboardSeveral of Michael Tougias' 19 books adeptly chronicle the horrors and triumphs of mariners facing weather at its worst. In Overboard, well-found boats with experienced crews en route to Bermuda get caught in a meteorological bomb. With understated prose, Tougias masterfully weaves the stories of numerous players centered around one boat that suffers most mariners' greatest nightmare when the captain and mate are swept overboard and washed away. The grit and grace they use to survive days among monstrous seas, how crews pull together to save their boats and one another, and how Coast Guard, Navy, and merchant crews face enormous risks to help others is not only a fascinating narrative but also a tonic in this cynical and too often selfish age. Infinitely superior to surreality TV, Overboard might just blow you away. Find out more and Buy.

Finest HoursBooklist concludes: "The Finest Hours is arguably the best story of peril at sea since Sebastian Junger's Perfect Storm (1997)." The blizzard of 1978 clobbered New England with hurricane-force winds. When the tanker Global Hope ran aground off Salem, Massachusetts, and Coast Guard rescuers required rescue themselves, pilot-boat skipper and ex-Seabee Frank Quirk drove his yacht, the Can Do, into the teeth of the gale to save them, but she also ended up on the rocks with all hands lost. Like Michael's other books, The Finest Hours is a compendium of masterfully choreographed research and interviews to reveal the most stunning technical and humanistic issues relating to the storm, the vessels, the crews and their families. Michael's talks based on this book have been especially popular with the military and other government audiences. In 2016, the book was made into a film staring Chris Pine. Find out more and Buy.

Fatal ForecastFatal Forecast, also by Michael Tougias, chronicles a massive storm that struck fishing boats working on Georges Banks off of Cape Cod in November 1980. Because weather-data buoys had become dysfunctional, NOAA badly miscalculated their weather forecast. Unaware of the dangers, a number of boats were left to face 70-foot seas, which hammered them and capsized one, killing all but one who made it into a liferaft where he survived a staggering three days in frigid waters. Michael's research and interviews are woven together to paint both a nail-biting and most touching narrative. The impact has more than practical implications for anyone who goes to sea, but the event and a lawsuit that followed did inspire improvements in forecasts in the modern era. Find out more and Buy.

Sailing GraceJohn Otterbacher is a very accomplished guy, but he had a weakness: his heart. After eight surgeries and a heart transplant, the psychologist and former professor and Michigan-state politician decided it was time to transcend mere survival. He and his wife and kids soon shoved off on a voyage that would take them around the Atlantic. Sailing Grace shows how love heals, dreams energize, and trauma can be a wake-up call. John's popular talks parallel his prose with common sense, wisdom, humor, and authenticity. This book was honored as "Best New Non-Fiction Book" by the National Indie Excellence Awards, as a finalist for USA Book News "Best Books," and as a "Michigan Notable Book." It is now published by Adlard Coles in England as Outrageous Grace and has recently been optioned for film. Find out more and Buy.

Talking with Children About LossWritten for bereavement specialist Maria Trozzi by Kathy Massimini, Talking with Children About Loss employs fascinating stories to illustrate the fears, fantasies, and suffering that children and adolescents face when death, divorce, siblings with disabilities, suicide, community disasters, and other traumas strike. It describes how children's feelings and thoughts evolve and shows how adults can help them with age-appropriate strategies to work through four tasks of mourning and transform a loss into a process of "good grief and survival." T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., world-renowned author of Touchpoints, concludes: "I urge all parents to read Maria Trozzi's book and to be ready themselves to share their children's grief. Stan Turecki, M.D., author of The Difficult Child follows: "The wisdom, authenticity, and sheer presence of the author are evident from page one until the end of the beautifully written book." Find out more and Buy.

Sailing Alone Around the World Survive the Savage Seas Endurance: Shakleton's Incredible Voyage Heavy Weather Sailing

Sailing AdventuresSurvival & SeamanshipTechnical Marine

I have created a Bookshelf page (other recommended reading), listing books that I highly recommend written by authors other than myself and my close associates. Over the years, I've reviewed numerous book for publications ranging from the NY Times to Cruising World magazine. This list is composed of those titles that I have chosen to be in my own library and have found to be among the best available. I've divided the list into sailing adventures, survival and seamanship books, and technical marine subjects. Check them out and enjoy.

Other Recommended Reading

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Email: steve@stevencallahan.net

Copyright © 2011 Steven Callahan