This week marks the official start of summer, and though I love to read all year round, in my opinion there’s no better time to settle in with a good book than a gorgeous day at the beach. And nothing goes better with a dip in the waves and a stroll on the shore than some really awesome shark books. Well, nothing besides popsicles.
To that end, here are some of my favorite tomes dedicated to our most beloved apex predator, best enjoyed with a decent SPF and a cold beverage.
Oh, and one more quick thing: should you wish to purchase any of these great books, this former publishing professional entreats you to please step away from the amazon and visit your local independent bookseller. Wander a little, shop local, and support the noble book purveying profession. Here’s a wonderful resource to find an indie near you: http://www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder
Twelve Days of Terror: A Definitive Investigation of the 1916 New Jersey Shark Attacks by Richard G. Fernicola, M.D.
This excellent book is a detailed unraveling of the mysterious shark attacks that took place over a period of twelve days in New Jersey in the summer of 1916, in which four people were killed and a fifth terribly injured. This strange series of shark attacks, long assumed to be the work of a lone great white, served as major inspiration for Peter Benchley when crafting his novel, “Jaws”. Using scientific knowledge about shark behavior acquired in the years since the attacks as well as primary source material, the author attempts to answer pervading questions about what took place in 1916. What species was involved? Was it the work of one shark? Why so many violent interactions with swimmers in such a short span of time in one location?
My Rating: 4 out of 5 fins. A fantastic history lesson mixed with a detective story, and absolutely never boring. A must if you’re visiting the beaches of the Jersey Shore this summer.
The Secret Life of Sharks: A Leading Marine Biologist Reveals the Mysteries of Shark Behavior by A. Peter Klimley, Ph.D.
This books sets out to debunk many myths about shark behavior, and the author especially wants to disabuse readers of the notion that sharks are mindless eating machines, willing to take a bite out of anything they come across. Klimley gives the reader a front row seat alongside him as he details a career of observing many different species of sharks and cataloging their fascinating behaviors.
My rating: 3 out of 5 fins. Great photographs and helpful illustrations bring the sometimes dry and scientific narrative to life. For the serious and patient reader and shark enthusiast.
The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks by Susan Casey
I love this book. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I love this book so much that last October I found myself trying not to lose my lunch like every other shark nut with me as our vessel rocked in stomach-churning swells for 10 hours, just yards from the forbidding and forbidden Farallon Islands where Casey’s story takes place. A lifelong swimmer and journalist, Casey was bedridden with an illness when a documentary on the white sharks of the Farallon Islands captivated her. Just like that, she was on a voyage that would take her to one of the least accessible and wildest places in America, entrenched with passionate and dedicated scientists who were privy to the behaviors of the biggest white sharks in the world. This book has it all; an outlier’s perspective (note the lack of letters after Casey’s name-she’s writing for the laymen because she’s one too), thrilling encounters, narrow escapes, and even political and environmental controversy.
My rating: 5 out of 5 fins. Go get this book. Just call me before you book a trip to the Farallons. We should talk first.
Jaws by Peter Benchley
I know, okay? I know. Just hear me out.
Yes, this novel and subsequent blockbuster film were responsible for decades of anti-shark feeling in America and spawned a great many harmful myths about these largely misunderstood animals. But this is also a simply brilliant novel-thrilling, terrifying, nuanced, and I believe especially interesting to read today in light of the white sharks recent re-establishment in the waters of Cape Cod. Benchley’s book is both an age old Leviathian-eque man vs. monster story and a sophisticated account of a “modern” resort community’s battle to stay alive in the wake of a problem both primal and political.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 fins. Pulpy, scary, fun and different from the film. Not going say who’s involved but there’s a pretty juicy affair in these pages that never made it to the big screen…
Happy Sharky Summer Reading, friends!