8 Books That’ll Make You Scared to Go Back in the Water

If you’re looking for a book that will keep you glued to your beach chair for as long as it takes to finish, there’s no shortage of excellent titles to choose from.

But if you’re looking for a book that’ll keep you glued to your beach chair for the rest of the summer, because its contents have made you realize that the sea is dark and full of monsters, then you’ll be wanting one of the titles on this list.

This collection of beach-worthy reads will introduce you to the scariest denizens of the deep blue sea: sharks, squids, freaky frogmen, and other things that go bump on the ocean floor. Don’t swim for at least an hour after you consume these books, or you may experience cramps…made of pure unadulterated terror.

Jaws, by Peter Benchley
Before Jaws was a classic beachgoer’s horror starring Richard Dreyfuss and a host of hi-tech animatronic sharks, it was a beach read that would (and still will!) keep you quivering on the shore until winter. You know how the story goes, but if anything, the shark attacks are even more ghastly and gruesome in print than they were onscreen.

Sphere, by Michael Crichton
Although Crichton was most famous for penning books about genetically engineered dinosaurs, this sci-fi adventure is scarier than any velociraptor thanks to the claustrophobic horror of its undersea setting. Add in a mysterious sphere that has a certain gift for making your nightmares come to life, and you’ll be steering well clear of the deep long after the last page has been turned.

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Ben H. Winters and Jane Austen
Who says you can’t spice up a classic regency romance with action-packed scenes of violence and mayhem featuring tentacular monsters from the deep? ..Well, okay, some people do say that. But this book is not for them. It’s for you, the horror enthusiast who sees no reason why a pair of ladies in corsets can’t battle a horde of evil lobsters and make googly eyes at the marriageable bachelors of Devonshire all at once. This follow-up to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is just as good at plugging Jane Austen’s beloved heroines into a topsy-turvy world full of bloodthirsty monsters who are not named Wickham, which is to say, it’s very good at it.

Fatal Voyage: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolisby Dan Kurzman
Maritime disaster meets aquatic horror in this true account of the sinking of the Navy cruiser USS Indianapolis in 1945. Nine hundred men went into the water when the Japanese torpedoed the American boat in the Phillippine Sea. Five days later, just over three hundred came out—having watched their comrades succumb to burns, exposure, exhaustion, and a continuous onslaught by hungry sharks.

The Trench, by Steve Alten
The man responsible for the nail-biting Meg series continues his work with The Trench, featuring more giant prehistoric predators from the deep, more terrifying battles between man and man-eating mega-shark, and more evidence (not that we needed any) that the Marianas Trench is a place no reasonable human being should ever visit under any circumstances. The twist is that this one’s a family affair: this time around, it’s the captive daughter of the original Meg who’s doing all the chomping. (Think of it as Finding Nemo, with teeth, on steroids.)

Creatures of the Deep, by Erich Hoyt
If you’re bored with narratives and just want to terrify yourself by looking at pictures of the horrible things that lurk beneath the ocean’s surface, this is the book for you. Beautiful full-color photographs along with informative scientific sidebars introduce you to fish with needle-like translucent teeth, vampire squids, jellyfish, and other creatures you don’t want brushing up against your legs when you’re doing the dog paddle.

Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916by Michael Capuzzo
Once upon a time, the Jersey Shore was an opulent playground where the rich wiled away their days at expensive resorts, and bootleggers kept the naughty champagne flowing all night long. It was not, needless to say, an ideal time for a great white shark to venture into the shallows and start eating the vacationers—but that’s exactly what happened. This book traces the horrifying history of the attacks, which spawned mass panic, gave rise to a massive government-funded shark hunt to catch the beast responsible, and changed scientists’ entire understanding of the ocean predators.

The Shadow over Innsmouth, by H.P. Lovecraft
In a small seaport town near the ominously-named Devil Reef, the local citizenry isn’t looking so hot. They move strangely; they never blink; and they’re curiously close-mouthed as to just where they keep finding the fabulous jewelry they’re wearing. And when the narrator pries too deeply into the town’s history, things get dangerous—and slimy. After reading the rest of the books on our list, you may never go back in the water. After reading this novella, you won’t want to go within 100 miles of it. In fact, just to be safe, you should probably move to Nebraska.

What books about scary undersea creatures have ruined your summer?

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