Five Marine Horror Books to Bite Into for Shark Week

These five books descend to untold depths of horror, emerging with tales of monsters guaranteed to keep us on dry land.

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All hail Shark Week! Really, the holiday should last all summer, but we marine horror lovers are sequestered to just one week in late July-early August. Thankfully, we can make the most of those precious days with the fathoms of shark-centric media crowding pop culture. While cinephiles might contend themselves with titles like Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, The Shallows, and 47 Meters Down, we at Bookstr have created a list of the best marine horror novels. Let’s dive in.

Jaws by Peter Benchley



The first spot on this list could go to no other book. Peter Benchley’s seminal 1974 novel did more than inspire a nationwide fear of sharks and the ocean; it also succeeded in cementing itself as a cultural classic, and Benchley as a household name. While Spielberg’s movie adaptation might have had a larger following and impact, it all began with this story of “the great fish” and a Melvillian showdown for the ages.

Creature by Peter Benchley



Honestly, we could fill the remaining spots with Benchley novels and have it be a sound list (hey, there’s an article idea!), but we’ve restrained ourselves to including only two of his works. Creature, retitled from White Shark in 1997, centers on the hunt for a menacing man-shark hybrid born from several morally-questionable Nazi experiments. It’s classic Benchley, which basically translates to: oodles of character drama, a twisted aquatic monster, and a kickass final battle at sea.

Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten



Since Jaws, there have been countless adaptations, attempts, and spoofs (looking at you, Sharknado) to duplicate and/or surpass it. None have succeeded, and Steve Alten’s Meg is no exception… except, it comes damn close. Damn close, I tell you!

Taking a hint from the failings of his contemporaries, Alten didn’t seek to craft a shark tale to emulate the white-knuckle terror of Jaws, which is nigh insurmountable; his mission, instead, was to surpass the scope of the shark itself. Alten’s beast is a fifty-plus-foot monstrosity from prehistoric times, preserved thousands of feet beneath the ocean’s surface. The writing style is a tad shoddy at times, and we recommend skipping over the cringe-inducing descriptions of female characters, but even those detractions aid to the book’s over-the-top, campy feel. It’s a massive, gigantic, impossible ginormous shark. ‘Nuff said.

Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 by Michael Capuzzo



For our readers of nonfiction, we have the book for you. It follows the horrifying events of the summer of 1916, when the “Matawan Man Eater” killed four of its five victims on the Jersey Shore. The real-life inspiration for Jaws, the identity of the killer has varied from a rogue bull shark to a great white. The latter is widely accepted, considering a great white was caught with 15 pounds of undigested human still in its stomach.

Indianapolis by Lynn Vincent and Sarah Vladic



Remember Quint’s chill-inducing monologue aboard the Orca, in which he recounts (in Robert Shaw’s badass growl) the nightmarish events of his time aboard the USS Indianapolis? “Didn’t see the first shark for about a half-hour,” he says. “Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail.”

Well, Quint’s tale was inspired, down to the names used, by the doomed Navy warship torpedoed by the Japanese at the tail end of World War II. Of the 900 men who made it into the water, only 316 survived. The number of men lost to circling sharks numbers between a few dozen and 150. This book, layered with accounts from the survivors, recounts those horrific days at sea and the legal drama that followed.

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