Paddling books top picks: what to read off the water

Paddling books top picks: what to read off the water

We recognise that getting out on the water when the weather is well, cold, damp and windy, isn’t to everyone’s taste. However, just because you’re not physically paddling, doesn’t mean you can’t expand your paddling knowledge, research adventures, or learn about the tides for example! With so many different routes you can take when paddling, from nature paddles to white water challenges, distance adventures to multi-day canoe camping or packrafting trips. There’s so many ways you can start to expand your knowledge to help guide you when you next head back to the water.

With that, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite fiction and non-fiction, adventure and practical paddling books to help keep your mind active when your body isn’t up for a paddle.

Skills related paddling books

Why not use your time off the water to brush up on your skills? With books ranging from reading weather, water and tides, to safety and rescue techniques and handy knots, there’s plenty to read (and practice) off the water!

Top picks

  1. How To Read Water: Clues & Patterns from Puddles to the Sea by Tristan Gooley
  2. The Book of Tides by William Thomson
  3. Safety and rescue essentials by Chris Brain
  4. Knots & Splices: The Most Commonly Used Knots by Steve Judkins &  Tim Davison

Adventure planning & tales of adventure

Reading about other people’s adventures, or taking time out to plan and research your own adventures is a great way to spend time off the water if you want more. With books around planning your own trips, to reading about the trials and tribulations of paddling everywhere from Birmingham to Canada, there’s some brilliant adventure reads!

Top picks

  1. The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw
  2. Hidden Nature by Alys Fowler
  3. Paddle: A long way around Ireland by Jasper Winn
  4. Paddling Britain: 50 Best Places to Explore by SUP, Kayak & Canoe by Lizzie Carr
  5. Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes by Alastair Humphreys
  6. Amazon Woman: Facing Fears, Chasing Dreams, and a Quest to Kayak the World’s Largest River from Source to Sea by Darcy Gaechter
  7. Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey by Adam Weymouth
  8. Paddle the Thames: A Guide for Canoes, Kayaks and Sup’s by Mark Rainsley


Before you began paddling, did you know you might not be able to just hop on a river and paddle anywhere? Actually, only 4% of rivers in England and Wales are classed as ‘uncontested.’ On the other 96%, you could run into some sort of difficultly. Whether that’s confrontation from other waterway users, or just running into waterways which haven’t been maintained.

But how did we get to this point!? Our top picks tell you exactly how we got to the point where river access is so hotly contested…

Top picks

  1. Who owns England? by Guy Shrubsole
  2. The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes


Canoes have been used for hundreds if not thousands of years to get around, explore, trade and even fight. From the importance of canoes in WW2 to exploring how canoes and rivers played a part in some of the worlds most influential civilisations. Canoes have a lot of history to offer.

Top picks

  1. The Cockleshell Canoes: British Military Canoes of World War Two by Quentin Rees
  2. A thousand miles in the Rob Roy canoe on rivers and lakes of Europe by John MacGregor
  3. The Canoe Boys: The First Epic Scottish Sea Journey by Kayak by Alastair Dunnett & Ninian Dunnett
  4. Rivers of Power: How a Natural Force Raised Kingdoms, Destroyed Civilizations, and Shapes Our World by Laurence C. Smith

Nature & Environment

We could go on FOREVER with this list, but as we’ve already given you many options in the adventure section, we thought we’d keep this one brief. Too much choice makes actually choosing something to read quite difficult! So, the below are our favourites and are great to understand the impact our world we live in now has on the environment.

Top picks

  1. Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegle
  2. Rivers: A natural and not-so-natural history (British Wildlife Collection) by Paul Raven & Nigel Holmes
  3. Still Water: The Deep Life of the Pond by John Lewis-Stempel

For kids

We didn’t want to miss the sprogs off the list! Got a keen young paddler, or a young adventurer you place in your canoe or on your paddleboard? This is a great ‘eye spy’ and learning style book, to get them used to spotting animals on your adventures.

  1. National Trust: Who’s Hiding on the River? by Katharine McEwen

Hopefully there’s something on the list for you to get stuck into. Learning around the subject of paddling can be just as interesting and powerful as paddling itself! So put your feet up, grab a cuppa and get reading.