Fishing can be calming, grounding, and good for connecting with loved ones in a beautiful setting. It can also be adventurous, exotic, or just plainly terrifying! Everything depends on the point of view.
Great numbers of people go fishing every year in the US (more than 51.5 million in 2017, for example) and they are bound to make either great memories or less than stellar ones. Within this spectrum, there are some lucky souls who walk away with amazing stories they will be able to tell and retell for the rest of their lives.
The bottom line is that fishing can inspire tales that move and perplex us. Many great writers, perhaps not surprisingly, have also practiced and loved the sport dearly. They often take the fabric of their experiences and fashion it into masterpieces imbued with a passion for the water and fishing.
If you are an avid reader as well as a devoted fisherman, you might find your dedication reflected back at you. Even if you are only starting in one— or both— of these activities, you can use this short list as inspiration to get into deeper waters!
The 7 Best Books About Fishing
#7 – The Perfect Storm – Sebastian Junger
The words in this title make many experienced fishermen shiver: everyone knows how wild a storm at sea can be!
This novel by the American author Sebastian Junger pits a small group of professional fishermen against the most savage storm in a century in a fight to the death. The narrative takes you straight into the heart of the tempest, right next to 30-meter-high waves and buffeting winds.
The next time the sky is looking suspect as you head out to fish, take The perfect storm with you! If anything, you’ll feel less worried about the light drizzle.
#6 – Greatest Fishing Stories Ever Told – Various Authors
This collection of short stories keeps it sweet and simple. If the weather isn’t good or you want some fishing inspiration to read in bed, you can pick any of these short tales and relax.
The book includes 28 pieces by famous American writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Annie Proulx— and they are all about the sport! Each story features unique characters and incredible fishing settings, from wild ocean beaches to cold rivers in the mountains.
This book is great for those times you’re feeling adventurous but can’t take a big fishing trip in real life.
#5 – The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing – Thomas McGuane
Published in 1999, this intriguing book is a collection of essays by author Thomas McGuane. A dedicated fisherman for his whole life, McGuane brings us 33 inspired pieces born of his experiences.
Unassuming at first, these snippets and reflections grow on you steadily. The book itself embodies the reflective quality of fishing: it’s as if you were talking to yourself, only clearer. Diverse in characters and philosophical questions, this book’s a must-read.
Read The longest silence when you are feeling uninspired or straight out blue: its many lifestyle references and funny bits will pick you right up. This is the perfect book to rekindle your love for fishing.
#4 – Moby Dick – Herman Melville
There are few fishermen out there who haven’t gone through Herman Melville’s greatest classic. But a reread of such a great novel never hurts!
Pick a cozy sunlit spot and delve into the wild adventures of Ishmael, the narrator bearing witness to the sea-madness of the whaling ship captain, Ahab. This figure is only surpassed in mystery by Moby Dick itself: unknowable, unpredictable, and dangerous, the whale is a representation of the force of the ocean.
If you are down for a good old-fashioned reading session, pick up this classic and travel with Ahab in pursuit of the vicious creature.
#3 – The River Why – David James Duncan
A bit of a coming of age story, The River Why is a funny but deep novel written by David James Duncan.
This book is a masterpiece that, under the cover of truly hilarious humor, explores contemporary issues and life’s greatest mysteries. The young hero, Gus, is obsessed with fly-fishing and wants to find his own identity in the sport. In his quest, he is confronted with crucial questions about his identity, spirituality, and the decay of the natural world.
The River Why will make you laugh, sigh, and think. Be careful! You won’t come out unchanged.
#2 – A River Runs Through It – Norman Maclean
This semi-autobiography by author Norman Maclean plunges straight into the waters of family relationships and the dynamics of fishing traditions (if you grew up fishing, you know what I’m talking about).
Written perfectly from both the structural and artistic perspective, this is a book that moves and delights. Its first phrase, “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing”, sets the tone for an amazing journey through the lives of complex characters.
Through fishing, the characters— and we— understand that life, family, and love go on, just like the flowing river.
#1 – The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
Perhaps the most famous book about fishing, The Old Man and the Sea tops each and every list.
The fabulously picturesque hero is a sea-worn fisherman who, at the end of his life, embarks on the last adventure. By himself, with little food and water, he is dragged across the Gulf of Mexico by a giant fish. While he waits for his prey to tire, he reflects on his long life and passion, and on “Ella” (her), the Sea.
This beautiful tale of fishing passion and sorrow is a short novel that packs a huge punch. If you want to cry, laugh, and love the Sea as much as the hero, this is the book for you.
On your next fishing day, pack one of these masterpieces with the rest of your gear. Maybe you can read it while you sit and wait, on the way back home, or even before sleep. The possibilities are endless!
Whether you are a “book person” or not, you can enjoy any of these powerful books about fishing. Reading them will rekindle your passion for the sport, give you an extra boost of inspiration for when you are tired, and push you to appreciate better your own skills and the moving water.
Bonus – Ernest Hemingway