The best books to take on your river cruise

Post updated: 08/03/2019

Thinking about what to add to your reading list ready for your next getaway?

Using inspiration from recent bestselling novels and non-fiction, we have drawn up a top five must-reads that will make your river cruise a real page-turner.

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme – Lars Mytting


Norway’s bestselling novelist and author of Norwegian Wood, Lars Mytting offers an intertwining tale of family, conflict and war on an epic scale. Explore the elegance and elusive lands of Norway with this emotional story which spans an entire century of family history.

Winner of Waterstones Fiction Book of the Month October 2018, the novel offers an illustrative account of Scandinavian lifestyle and family values.

‘Mytting follows up Norwegian Wood with a mystery that fits together like a piece of fine marquetry’ – Christian House, The Observer 

‘The Sixteen Trees of the Somme is so cleverly plotted, and it builds up such effortless dramatic momentum as it zeroes in on its conclusion’ – Roger Cox, The Scotsman

Adventures of a Young Naturalise – David Attenborough


A household name and hero of the natural world, follow David Attenborough’s story as he offers you insight into his remarkable life and times. This particular novel focuses on a young Attenborough in 1954, when he was approached to travel the world on a quest for rare and mysterious animals for London’s Zoo collection. The findings, travels and experiences would be filmed to appear on a new BBC show called Zoo Quest.

From staying with local tribes in Guyana to searching for Komodo dragons in Indonesia, this is the tale of the unrelenting beauty of the natural world as seen from the eyes of a man who has made us fall in love with it over and over again.

‘A marvellous book … unputdownable … utterly engaging.’- The Daily Telegraph

‘An elegant and gently funny writer.’ – Damian Whitworth – The Times

The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History – Kassia St Clair

World History

Winner of Radio 4’s Book of the Week, Kassia St Clair’s unique take on the history of the world is charming and insightful. Thread by thread, follow the story of fabric from colourful skeins on the floor of a Georgian cave to the linen linings of Tutankhamun’s mummy.

Enjoy learning of the traditions and social fabrics that take you back thousands of years, as Kassia St Clair explores the ‘golden thread’ of the past, present and future.

‘The history of the world through the eye of a needle… Fascinating… I recommend this book to anyone’ – The Spectator 

‘A charming, absorbing and quietly feminist history that takes us on a journey from the silk roads to sportswear, from ruffs to spacesuits… I devoured this book’ – The Sunday Times

Person holding books

Transcription – Kate Atkinson


Making her published works a trio, Kate Atkinson’s Transcription is a wartime story which explores espionage, deceit and consequences throughout life.

Fast-paced, funny and poignant, Atkinson’s third novel showcases her eloquence for mature writing and allows readers to reflect on history, collective choices and the future to come.

‘No other comtemporary novelist has such supreme mastery of that sweet spot between high and low, literary and compulsively readable. Brimming with dancing dark wit that reminds you how deeply satisfying good fiction can be’ – The Sunday Telegraph

‘…a pacy, witty, atmospheric novel’ – The Financial Times

Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life – Peter Godfrey-Smith


Uncover alien intelligence with distinguished philosopher of science and skilled scuba-diver, Peter Godfrey-Smith as he explores the story of how nature became aware of itself.

Taken from personal observations, Other Minds is an in-depth evaluation of the extraordinary world of alien consciousness and the part it plays in evolution of sentient life.

‘The beauty of Godfrey-Smith’s book lies in the clarity of his writing; his empathy, if you will. He takes us through those early stirrings in the seas of deep time, from bacteria that sense light and can taste, to cnidarian jellyfish, the first organisms to exhibit nervous systems, which he describes wonderfully.’ – Philip Hoare, The Guardian

‘Fascinating and often delightful … This book ingeniously blends philosophy and science to trace the epic journey from single-celled organisms of 3.8 billion years ago to the awakening and development of cephalopod consciousness.’ – The Times

Have you read any of these while sailing on a river cruise? What’s your favourite book you’ve read on holiday? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Emma Smith

Emma has more than six years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for over two years. She loves learning of new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in diary for 2021! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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