5 Swashbuckling Books About Pirates

Happy Arrr-gust! It’s officially International Pirate Month! Don your favorite pirate gear and pick up these epic books to learn more about pirates and pirate history!

Book Culture Just For Fun Non-Fiction On This Day Pop Culture Recommendations

August is International Pirate Month, or more appropriately Arrr-gust! This unofficial, month-long holiday is dedicated to “celebrating all things pirate” according to the community Facebook page. Not only are participants encouraged to take a day to dress up and talk like a pirate, they are also encouraged to hold at least one pirate-themed event and raise money for charity.



In celebrating Arrr-gust as International Pirate Month, here are five amazing nonfiction books about pirates, piracy, and life on the high seas.


A General History of the Pyrates – Daniel Defoe




Although the author attributed to the work is listed as Captain Charles Johnson, scholars have come to the consensus that A General History of the Pyrates was most likely written by Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe.

First published in 1724 in Britain, the work is generally accepted as the primary source for pirate biographies. The book also introduced pirates to the general public, thus creating popular conceptions of these figures. A General History of the Pyrates details “graphic stories on the high seas” and contains images of the famous pirate flag the Jolly Roger. Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island) and J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan) both acknowledged that Defoe’s work was a major influence on their own novels.


Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates – Eric Jay Dolin




Within this history, Dolin explores the “Golden Age” of Piracy, lasting from the late 1600s through the early 1700s. He delves into the complicated relationships American colonists had with the pirates, examining how the colonists went from supporting the pirates to “violently opposing them.” Dolin also focuses on some of the most famous pirates in history: Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, and Edward Low as well as their enemies. Lastly, Dolin aims to correct popular stereotypes and misconceptions commonly attributed to pirates. Accompanied by various illustrations, Black Flags, Blue Waters is a must-read for anyone looking to learn more about piracy.


Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas – Laura Sook Duncombe




Men weren’t the only ones who partook in piracy and set sail to the seven seas. Duncombe narrates the stories of female buccaneers (real and legendary), showing how they sailed both alongside and even “in command of” their “male counterparts.” While these women may have come from different places, all of them had one desire: freedom. You’ll read about historical and fictional figures such as the Norse warriors Awilda and Rusla, Sayyida al-Hurra from the Barbary corsairs, Grace O’Malley, and Cheng I Sao.

Duncombe further examines what the storytellers and mythmakers behind these women left out, and what they chose to include. She even looks at how stories are passed down and told, and how such stories are changed throughout history, depending on who is telling them or recording the given story.


Under the Black Flag – David Cordingly




In addition to narrating the adventures of famous male and female pirates from the Golden Age of Piracy, Cordingly also provides readers with fascinating insights into the ships these pirates sailed on, the weapons they fought with, how they fought, and how they won (and lost) their fights. Cordingly even “charts the paths of” popular fictional pirates like Captain Hook and Long John Silver. This history is highly educational, entertaining, and enthralling all at once.


Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean: The Adventurous Life of Captain Woodes Rogers– David Cordingly




Cordingly is not only an esteemed pirate historian, but he also was a film consultant for the original Disney Pirates of the Caribbean movie. In this work, Cordingly chronicles the history of the man who “fought the real pirates of the Caribbean”: Woodes Rogers, privateer, sea captain, and colonial governor.

Rogers led a mission to fight the Spanish in the Pacific in 1708, right in the middle of Britain’s war with Spain. During this time, he battled against hurricanes, scurvy, and mutinies. He also took a treasure galleon and rescued Alexander Selkirk, who was shipwrecked. King George I appointed Rogers governor of the Bahamas after the enactment of the Treaty of 1713 sparked an “explosion of piracy in the Caribbean.” Rogers soon found himself battling against the likes of Blackbeard, Charles Vane, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read. This adventure-packed, suspenseful work is absolutely one any pirate enthusiast won’t want to miss!