Good Minds Suggest: Robert Kurson's Favorite Books About Pirates

Posted by Goodreads on June 1, 2015

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Dead men may tell no tales, but the treasures, clues, and odds and ends they leave behind can fill volumes. Robert Kurson has made a career out of teasing true stories from such artifacts. His bestselling nonfiction book, Shadow Divers, took readers beneath the surface to a sunken World War II German U-boat mysteriously discovered off the coast of New Jersey. In his new true story, Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship, two men risk everything to find the Golden Fleece, the ship captained by notorious pirate Joseph Bannister, who was at large in the late 17th century, during the Golden Age of Piracy. The pirate hunters travel the globe, sifting through countless documents and relics, to retrace the ship's final voyage. Kurson shares his favorite books about true pirate exploits that will shiver your timbers (though a real pirate wouldn't be caught dead saying that).

The Buccaneers of America by Alexandre Exquemelin
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"The gold standard account of pirate life by a man who sailed pirate ships and chronicled the exploits of Captain Henry Morgan. Exquemelin's pirates are wilder than in any movie, more treacherous than in any novel. They conquer entire cities, devise ingenious methods for plundering, and strike terror into the hearts of enemies. By a single act alone—perhaps by eating the still-beating heart of a merchant captain who refused to surrender—they broadcast their reputations across oceans. Even their downtime was epic, so packed with debauchery and fast living, it would have spun the heads of modern millionaire rock stars. And yet these pirates lived by a code of conduct and honor so far ahead of its time, it made them nearly invincible. This is the pirate book to start with."

The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates by Peter T. Leeson
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"A fascinating look at the influence of economics on pirates during their Golden Age (1650-1720). Leeson, an economist (and obvious pirate enthusiast), digs into the buccaneers' real motives, examining the cool reasoning behind their swashbuckling ways. Pirates might have looked crazed and out of control, but so much of what they did was grounded in a cost-benefit business analysis far ahead of its time. There were reasons the pirates flew terrifying flags, avoided violence when possible, and took votes on everything, much of which will resonate with anyone living in a modern and free democracy."

The Pirate Primer: Mastering the Language of Swashbucklers & Rogues by George Choundas
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"Pirates never said 'Arrgh' or 'Shiver my timbers.' But they did use terms and phrases like 'Ahoy,' 'A merry life and a short one,' and several curses, oaths, threats, and greetings. Especially handy for International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), but also useful for those times you're angry and modern-day four-letter words just don't cut it. (Tell your boss, 'I'll cleave your skull asunder!' or 'I come from hell and I'll carry you there presently!'—and watch the surprise!) For anyone who loves language, The Pirate Primer is a wonderland of pirate color and proof that the real thing is better than any Hollywood screenwriter could invent."

Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates by David Cordingly
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"Among the best general accounts of pirates in their Golden Age. This is the modern history I recommend first, and I've owned several copies since it was first published in 1995. Reading this general primer is like sailing aboard a pirate ship—you don't stay anywhere too long and can change ports on an exciting moment's notice. There's fascinating information in every chapter, and it all goes down easy with Cordingly's good writing. A warning to ye, however: The descriptions of pirate violence are detailed and lurid—just the kind you want in a good pirate tale."

The Pirate Wars by Peter Earle
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"Earle is a first-rate historian and a very good storyteller. But he's also sober about pirates. In the preface to this book, which describes how navies pursued and did bloody battle with the pirates during the Golden Age, he warns readers, 'I was brought up to admire the navy and my instincts are on the side of law and order.' Still, he cannot hide a certain admiration for the cunning and power of the buccaneers. 'Even I am susceptible to pirate charm and romance,' he admits. And in the end, aren't we all?"

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Books About Pirates

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Marilee (last edited Jun 03, 2015 09:09AM) (new)

Marilee I read Shadow Divers a couple years ago, which I enjoyed very much. Pirate Hunters [ARC copy] is up next in my "too read" stack. I hope to start it in a couple days as time allows, and I will post a review here at Goodreads when I do.

I've been fascinated by pirates for years, as I've always seemed to live or visit in coastal areas with a robust pirate history. I don't romanticize their activities or expect to find buried treasure, but still, the notion of swashbuckling seafarers has a certain appeal. On a personal note, it may be my Viking ancestry influencing my interest.

Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* I don't think there's many who don't find at least some allure about pirates. Added a few of these on my wishlist, thank you. Look forward to reading 'Pirate Hunters'

message 3: by Cherie (new)

Cherie Pugh My novel 'Mary Read - Sailor, Soldier, Pirate' is also available on Goodreads (as well as Amazon and Kindle).
I found the court records for Jack Rackam's crew at the Colonial Records Office at Kew, and researched and wrote Mary Read's amazing life.
My most useful research book was Marcus Rediker's 'Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea', which makes it clear that the pirates were sailors abandoned by the Royal Navy once they had won the War of the Spanish Succession.

message 4: by David (new)

David Carter Hi Robert
There's one book missing from your list which i read recently and is getting some great reviews;
The Assiduous Quest of Tobias Hopkins by James Faro
here's the link:

It's a great story set in 17th century Caribbean

message 5: by W. (new)

W. Gallagher What I find amusing is how, through the mists of time, criminals are transformed into romantic figures. I suppose the same will eventually be the case for the Somali "pirates".

message 6: by Cherie (new)

Cherie Pugh The United Nations claim that Somali pirates were fishermen who had their traditional fishing grounds fished out by massive international commercial fishing ventures. Really, people don't leave their families and go to sea on dangerous ventures unless they have no choice. Not so amusing really, either for them, their families, or their victims.

message 7: by W. (last edited Jun 05, 2015 04:53AM) (new)

W. Gallagher Yes ... That makes raping and pillaging OK. Let's feel sorry for them. After all, they're merely victims of an unjust system. All criminals have some kind of hard-luck story.

message 8: by Cherie (new)

Cherie Pugh I wrote "or their victims". And if it is true that all criminals have some kind of hard luck story, maybe you could learn from that. Because, if the conditions are bad enough, we can all crack. Or are you too privileged to understand that?

message 9: by W. (new)

W. Gallagher Well, that just about excuses anything, doesn't it?

message 10: by Marilee (new)

Marilee I think it's important to understand what drives people to extreme behaviors, so hopefully, civilized people can help prevent or divert them. No one is excusing lawlessness on the high seas, but we see all too often, desperation leads to terrible and tragic consequences for victims as well as perpetrators, as violence begets violence.

In any case, Kurson's book is about the modern day search for information about 17th century pirate Capt. Joseph Bannister and the wreck of his ship, the Golden Fleece.

message 11: by Cherie (new)

Cherie Pugh As you are interested in Vikings, were you aware that the re-examination of Viking skeletons in England now shows that half were women? The original investigators had assumed that if they were carrying swords or shields, they must be men. It is taken as evidence that they were seeking to colonise England, not just raid, as climate change was making their northern countries too inhospitable.

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