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Pirates, smugglers, castaways: 10 great adventure books for the beach

By Susannah Palk for CNN
A good book is the perfect companion on holiday. We've compiled a list with themes around adventure and the sea. Photo courtesy of John D. Carnessiotis,
A good book is the perfect companion on holiday. We've compiled a list with themes around adventure and the sea. Photo courtesy of John D. Carnessiotis,
  • Almost as essential as sunglasses and sunscreen on holiday is a good book
  • We've waded through the lists so you don't have to and compiled a guide to summer reading
  • The list has a maritime, adventurous feel
  • Classic novels include "Moby Dick" and "Treasure Island", with modern titles such as "Life of Pi"

London, England -- Almost as essential as sunglasses and sunscreen, a good book can make relaxing on holiday by the sea even better.

But with so many titles out there, choosing can prove tricky. After all, when you're lounging in the sun, you don't want your book to turn out to be a flop.

With this in mind, we've waded through the lists so you don't have to and compiled a guide to summer reading.

All the books have a maritime theme to enjoy while sailing the high seas, or just relaxing on the beach beside them.

There's a range of fiction and non-fiction titles; a few classics mixed in with biographies and historical accounts of epic voyages; tales of action and adventure as well as love and loss, and they all take place on boats or on the ocean.

Here's what we've come up with. Please add your suggestions in comments at the bottom of the page.

'A Voyage For Madmen'
Peter Nichols, 2002
In 1968, nine men set out on a dangerous (and in hindsight disastrous) race to be the first to sail solo around the world non-stop. It had never been done before and nine months later, only one man made it across the finish line. Full of tension, Nichols' authoritative account chronicles the journeys of nine men and their quest for glory.

'Life of Pi'
Yann Martel, 2003
A gentle yet gripping story about a young Indian boy drifting helplessly across the Pacific Ocean with only a 450-pound Bengal tiger for company. If it sounds surreal, it is. But this has not stopped the book receiving critical acclaim, winning the Man Booker prize in 2002. Written by Spanish-born Canadian Yann Martel, the book could best be described as part fable, part spellbinding adventure. And it even has a clever twist at the end.

'Treasure Island'
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1883
Hidden treasure, peg legs and parrots -- Stevenson's classic novel is the quintessential pirate yarn. Written in 1883, it follows the adventures of young Jim Hawkins as he searches for treasure buried by the notorious and brutal Captain Flint. It's a favorite for both adults and children and has done more to influence the popular perception of pirates than any other book.

'Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe'
Laurence Bergreen, 2004
Filled with suspense and drama, Bergreen's book retells the story of Ferdinand Magellan's 1519 expedition to the Spice Islands, which ultimately led to the first known circumnavigation of the globe. It was an ill-fated journey undone by Magellan's inflated ego and obsessive quest to find the Islands.

'Moby Dick' (or 'The Whale')
Herman Melville, 1851
"Moby Dick" considered by many to be a literary masterpiece, secured a place for Melville as one of America's greatest writers. Written in 1851, it is the story of Ishmael and the hunt for the great white whale. Some would say the book is dauntingly long, but if you've the stamina, you'll be justly rewarded with an epic tale.

The 'Aubrey-Maturin' series
Patrick O'Brien, 1969 - 1999
Many of the novels in this series by acclaimed English novelist Patrick O'Brien have hit The New York Times Best Seller list. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, they chart the exploits of Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and his ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin, as they fight the French and discover new lands. The books, with titles including "Master and Commander," "HMS Surprise" and "The Far Side of the World," are a fascinating insight into the 19th century world of sailing and warfare, spun around absorbing storylines.

'Sailing Alone Around the World'
Joshua Slocum, 1900
The story of seaman and adventurer Joshua Slocum, the first man to single-handedly sail around the world. Now considered a classic, Slocum's autobiography recounts his arduous three-year journey from 1895 to 1898 aboard his 37-foot sloop, "Spray." Although published more than 100 years ago, it remains an enthralling and funny read.

'Coconut Chaos'
Diana Souhami, 2007
A mix of autobiography and historical retelling, "Coconut Chaos" follows the exploits of the inhabitants of Pitcairn Island, past and present. Diana Souhami recounts and reinterprets the famous story of the "Mutiny on the Bounty" on the island, while weaving in her own personal experiences of the place and her romance with a woman known only as the mysterious Lady Myre.

'Sea of Poppies'
Amitav Ghosh, 2008
An enthralling 17th century saga about a motley crew of sailors, stowaways, convicts and passengers from across the world aboard the converted slaving ship, "Ibis," now used to transport opium to China. It brings to life beautifully the culture and politics of the time, offering enlightening details into 1830s Calcutta, the production of opium and the dangers of 19th century seafaring.

'Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage'
Alfred Lansing, 1959
This best-selling book recounts Sir Ernest Shackleton's failed attempt to cross the Antarctic in 1914 at the head of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. It recounts the two years Shackleton and his 28-man crew spent fighting to escape the icy grip of the Antarctic. Diary excerpts and lengthy interviews with surviving crew members keep the account accurate and enthralling.