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Shark Week Reads

It’s the most wonderful week of the year: Shark Week! Be sure to check out some of these titles to read in between shark week programming.

Fiction Featuring Sharks


Close to Shore

Combining rich historical detail and a harrowing, pulse-pounding narrative, Close to Shore brilliantly re-creates the summer of 1916, when a rogue Great White shark attacked swimmers along the New Jersey shore, triggering mass hysteria and launching the most extensive shark hunt in history.

During the summer before the United States entered World War I, when ocean swimming was just becoming popular and luxurious Jersey Shore resorts were thriving as a chic playland for an opulent yet still innocent era’s new leisure class, Americans were abruptly introduced to the terror of sharks. In July 1916 a lone Great White left its usual deep-ocean habitat and headed in the direction of the New Jersey shoreline. There, near the towns of Beach Haven and Spring Lake-and, incredibly, a farming community eleven miles inland-the most ferocious and unpredictable of predators began a deadly rampage: the first shark attacks on swimmers in U.S. history.

For Americans celebrating an astoundingly prosperous epoch much like our own, fueled by the wizardry of revolutionary inventions, the arrival of this violent predator symbolized the limits of mankind’s power against nature.

Interweaving a vivid portrait of the era and meticulously drawn characters with chilling accounts of the shark’s five attacks and the frenzied hunt that ensued, Michael Capuzzo has created a nonfiction historical thriller with the texture of Ragtime and the tension of Jaws. From the unnerving inevitability of the first attack on the esteemed son of a prosperous Philadelphia physician to the spine-tingling moment when a farm boy swimming in Matawan Creek feels the sandpaper-like skin of the passing shark, Close to Shore is an undeniably gripping saga.

Heightening the drama are stories of the resulting panic in the citizenry, press and politicians, and of colorful personalities such as Herman Oelrichs, a flamboyant millionaire who made a bet that a shark was no match for a man (and set out to prove it); Museum of Natural History ichthyologist John Treadwell Nichols, faced with the challenge of stopping a mythic sea creature about which little was known; and, most memorable, the rogue Great White itself moving through a world that couldn’t conceive of either its destructive power or its moral right to destroy.

Scrupulously researched and superbly written, Close to Shore brings to life a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history. Masterfully written and suffused with fascinating period detail and insights into the science and behavior of sharks, Close to Shore recounts a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history with startling immediacy.

The Shark Club

One summer day on the beach in Florida, two extraordinary things happen to Maeve Donnelly. First, she is kissed by Daniel, the boy of her dreams. Then, she is bitten by a blacktip shark.

Eighteen years later, Maeve has thrown herself into her work as a world-travelling marine biologist discovering more about the minds of misunderstood sharks. But when Maeve returns home to the legendarily charming and eccentric Hotel of the Muses where she was raised by her grandmother, she finds more than just the blood orange sunsets and key lime pies she’s missed waiting for her.

While Maeve has always been fearless in the water, on land she is indecisive. A chance meeting on the beach with a plucky, irresistible little girl who is just as fascinated by the ocean as Maeve was growing up leaves her at a crossroads: Should she rekindle her romance with Daniel, the first love she left behind when she dove into her work? Or indulge in a new romance with her colleague, Nicholas, who turns up in her hometown to investigate an illegal shark-finning operation?

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends.

Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods – a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family’s legacy.

When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawaii – with tragic consequences – they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.

One of Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2020. Named one of the Best Books of 2020 by the New York Times (#30), the Guardian, the Boston Globe, Oprah Magazine, Kirkus Reviews, BBC Culture, Good Housekeeping, LitHub, Spectrum Culture, Third Place Books, and Powell’s Books.


Non-Fiction on Sharks

Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks

Agroup of traders huddles around a pile of dried shark fins on a gleaming white floor in Hong Kong. A Papua New Guinean elder shoves off in his hand-carved canoe, ready to summon a shark with ancient magic. A scientist finds a rare shark in Indonesia and forges a deal with villagers so it and other species can survive.

In this eye-opening adventure that spans the globe, Juliet Eilperin investigates the fascinating ways different individuals and cultures relate to the ocean’s top predator. Along the way, she reminds us why, after millions of years, sharks remain among nature’s most awe-inspiring creatures.

From Belize to South Africa, from Shanghai to Bimini, we see that sharks are still the object of an obsession that may eventually lead to their extinction. This is why movie stars and professional athletes go shark hunting in Miami and why shark’s fin soup remains a coveted status symbol in China. Yet we also see glimpses of how people and sharks can exist alongside one another: surfers tolerating their presence off Cape Town and ecotourists swimming with sharks that locals in the Yucatán no longer have to hunt.

With a reporter’s instinct for a good story and a scientist’s curiosity, Eilperin offers us an up-close understanding of these extraordinary, mysterious creatures in the most entertaining and illuminating shark encounter you’re likely to find outside a steel cage.

Devil’s Teeth

Susan Casey was in her living room when she first saw the great white sharks of the Farallon Islands, just twenty-seven miles off the coast of San Francisco.

In a matter of months, Casey went to the Farallon Islands to join Scot Anderson and Peter Pyle, the two biologists who bunk down during shark season each fall in the island’s one habitable building. Two days later, she got her first glimpse of the famous, terrifying jaws up close and she was instantly hooked; her fascination soon yielded to obsession-and an invitation to return for a full season. But as Casey readied herself for the eight-week stint, she had no way of preparing for what she would find among the dangerous, forgotten islands that have banished every campaign for civilization in the past two hundred years.

Emperors of the Deep

In this remarkable groundbreaking book, a documentarian and conservationist, determined to dispel misplaced fear and correct common misconceptions, explores in-depth the secret lives of sharks—magnificent creatures who play an integral part in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans and ultimately the planet.

From the Jaws blockbusters to Shark Week, we are conditioned to see sharks as terrifying cold-blooded underwater predators. But as Ocean Guardian founder William McKeever reveals, sharks are evolutionary marvels essential to maintaining a balanced ecosystem. We can learn much from sharks, he argues, and our knowledge about them continues to grow. The first book to reveal in full the hidden lives of sharks, Emperors of the Deep examines four species—Mako, Tiger, Hammerhead, and Great White—as never before, and includes fascinating details such as:

Sharks are 50-million years older than trees;
Sharks have survived five extinction level events, including the one that killed off the dinosaurs;
Sharks have electroreception, a sixth-sense that lets them pick up on electric fields generated by living things;
Sharks can dive 4,000 feet below the surface;
Sharks account for only 6 human fatalities per year, while humans kill 100 million sharks per year.
McKeever goes back through time to probe the shark’s pre-historic secrets and how it has become the world’s most feared and most misunderstood predator, and takes us on a pulse-pounding tour around the world and deep under the water’s surface, from the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle to the coral reefs of the tropical Central Pacific, to see sharks up close in their natural habitat. He also interviews ecologists, conservationists, and world-renowned shark experts, including the founders of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior, the head of the Massachusetts Shark Research Program, and the self-professed “last great shark hunter.”

At once a deep-dive into the misunderstood world of sharks and an urgent call to protect them, Emperors of the Deep celebrates this wild species that hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the ocean—if we can prevent their extinction from climate change and human hunters.

World of Wonders

From beloved, award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil comes a debut work of nonfiction–a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us.

As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted–no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape–she was able to turn to our world’s fierce and funny creatures for guidance.

“What the peacock can do,” she tells us, “is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life.” The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world’s gifts.

Warm, lyrical, and gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders is a book of sustenance and joy.

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