The Best Boat Books for Boaters & Sailors

Whether you have your own boat, are a casual ship spotter or a professional sailor, we have the perfect pick for you in our selection of brilliant boat books. We have books about all kinds of boats and ships, big and small, and lots of guides on the history of watercraft. Whatever type of boat fan you are, we have loads of interesting books on all things nautical. Here are our best books for boaters and sailors.

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1. Narrow Boat

L.T.C. Rolt

This classic book on narrow boats, first published in 1944, is all about how L.T.C. Rolt and his wife adapted to life on a narrow boat called Cressy, moving through the waters of the Midlands. Narrow Boat is a celebration of boating and the beauty of the British countryside. This reissued edition comes with a foreword by Jo Bell, former Canal Laureate, and stunning new illustrations.

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2. Floating Luxury

Iwein Maassen

This slick boating book is all about the most luxurious cruise ships the world has to offer. Iwein Maassen takes you inside 20 of the most exclusive cruise ships with beautiful photography and provides insights into all the facts surrounding the history and making of these stunning ships. There is also a guide to nautical terminology and key ports to give you as much information about luxury cruise ships as possible.

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3. Fifty Ships That Changed the Course of History

Ian Graham

With stunning photographs and illustrations, Ian Graham's book showcases the most important ships in history, from the Stone Age to present day. Get an overview of the many ways ships have been used for transport, trade and war, and how they are still necessary for our world trade today. Fifty Ships That Changed the Course of History is an eye-opening look at the evolution of sea travel and the importance of watercraft.

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4. Too Narrow to Swing a Cat

Steve Haywood

This fun little book tells the story of Steve Haywood's cat, Kit, who has joined him on his narrowboat, Justice. Kit is an unlikely companion on Steve's mission to investigate the lost countryside of Britain, though her attitude makes things a bit tricky! Follow Steve and Kit as they explore the world around them from their narrowboat in this fun, unusual boating book.

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5. Ship Spotter's Guide

Angus Konstam

Angus Konstam's fascinating Ship Spotter's Guide focuses on the importance of ships throughout history. Starting with the boats of the Ancient Greeks and moving through to pirate ships and modern submarines, all the most interesting warfare ships of the past are included in this brilliant book. Featuring intricate artwork and technical details about 40 key ships, there is much to learn from this handy guide.

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6. The History of the Port of London

Peter Stone

The old Port of London, now the Docklands financial centre, has had an interesting history. Its use began in the Roman times, as explorers would voyage out from the port to discover new lands. Over time the port became invaluable in the making of London as a thriving city and by the 1800s London became the world's best port city. Discover more of this fascinating history in Peter Stone's unique book, perfect for boat and history fans alike.

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7. Barging Around Britain

John Sergeant and David Bartley

Discover the beauty of Britain with David Bartley and John Sergeant in this stunning book. With various illustrations, photographs and maps showing you the best canal routes to try out yourself, there is so much to take from this great boat book. Detailing the contributions of the people that have created the canal network, there is little that isn't covered in this beautiful insight into the joys of the British waterways.

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Whether you love barges, ships or yachts, check out our full range of boat books for more.

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    She was particularly taken with the small narrow ledges that ran along either side of the boat. For a cat, four inches is an airport runway - she could dance a Moonwalk along them on her two hind legs, juggling at the same time. Steve Haywood has a new member of crew aboard his narrowboat, Justice - but maybe not the kind he'd have wanted if he'd known the trouble she'd cause. Kit, an untidy bundle of fur with all the attitude you would expect from a 'sarf Lunnun' cat, joins him on a mission to discover lost parts of England. Steve gets a different perspective on the modern world in Too Narrow to Swing a Cat as he cruises the canals through a landscape unchanged for centuries, visiting picturesque towns and waterway festivals along the way.

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    First published in 1944, and now reissued with new black-and-white illustrations and a foreword by Jo Bell, Canal Laureate, this book has become a classic on its subject, and may be said to have started a revival of interest in the English waterways. It was on a spring day in 1939 that L.T.C. Rolt first stepped aboard Cressy. This engaging book tells the story of how he and his wife adapted and fitted out the boat as a home, and recreates the journey of some 400 miles that they made along the network of waterways in the Midlands. It recalls the boatmen and their craft, and celebrates the then seemingly timeless nature of the English countryside through which they passed. As Sir Compton Mackenzie wrote, 'it is an elegy of classic restraint unmarred by any trace of sentiment' for a way of life and a rural landscape that have now all but disappeared.
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    Cruise ships offer an intriguing escape. These incredible ships have always captured the imagination, they are unique, luxurious and have increasingly become floating cities on the oceans of the world thanks to innovative engineering and design. They are opulent hotels able to accommodate over a thousand people in comfort, with the opportunity for fine dining, entertainment, a range of leisure and sporting activites along with a slice of retail therapy. Floating Luxury showcases twenty of the world's most exclusive cruise ships giving a breakdown of basic data (facts and figures), the history of the ship and its design, all accompanied by some stunning photography. Additionally there is travel information, key ports and a list of nautical terminology; making this a fantastic resource for those who are passionate about cruise ships, either on deck or from the comfort of an armchair...allow yourself to be transported into another world.
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    Since the days of the Ancient Greeks, naval ships of all sizes have revolutionized warfare. From the Viking longship, pirate ships and super dreadnoughts to today's nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, naval warfare has proved to be an essential component of military forces across the world. The Ship Spotter's Guide provides essential information on 40 iconic ships, using detailed profile artwork to illustrate and aid recognition, as well as specification boxes to provide all the technical details.
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    The River Thames has been integral to the prosperity of London since Roman times. Explorers sailed away on voyages of discovery to distant lands. Colonies were established and a great empire grew. Funding their ships and cargoes helped make the City of London into the world's leading financial centre. In the 19th century a vast network of docks was created for ever-larger ships, behind high, prison-like walls that kept them secret from all those who did not toil within. Sail made way for steam as goods were dispatched to every corner of the world. In the 19th century London was the world's greatest port city. In the Second World War the Port of London became Hitler's prime target. It paid a heavy price but soon recovered. Yet by the end of the 20th century the docks had been transformed into Docklands, a new financial centre. The History of the Port of London: A Vast Emporium of Nations is the fascinating story of the rise and fall and revival of the commercial river. The only book to tell the whole story and bring it right up to date, it charts the foundation, growth and evolution of the port and explains why for centuries it has been so important to Britain's prosperity. This book will appeal to those interested in London's history, maritime and industrial heritage, the Docklands and East End of London, and the River Thames.
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    Barging Round Britain by David Bartley is a beautifully-illustrated guide to a unique and fascinating part of our history: the canal network. This book explores the people and places that have forged this national treasure, from the birth of the Industrial Revolution to the leisure explosion on our waterways today. Fully-illustrated with maps and photographs, the book will trace canal routes across the UK, from the Georgian grandeur of Bath to the dramatic splendour of the Scottish Highlands. David Bartley's Barging Round Britain includes a foreword and chapter introductions by the presenter of the TV series, John Sergeant.
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    From the Stone Age to the present day, no technology has had a more profound impact on mankind than watercraft. Boats and ships made possible the settlement and conquest of new worlds. They determined the victors of history-changing wars and aided the spread of new philosophies, technologies and religions. Even today, virtually everything we purchase and consume depends on seaborne trade. 'Ships that Changed History' is more than just a delight for lovers of the sea - it's a virtual history of the world told through the boats and ships that influenced how and where people lived, the ideas they exchanged and how they won and lost the battles that set the course of later generations and millennia. Beautifully illustrated with art and photographs, it is a guide to how men and women went to sea in every age and place.