13 Mermaid Books You Should Bring To The Beach
Mermaids have been big for a while now. We have mermaid hair trends and mermaid fashion, mermaid TV shows and actual, factual mermaid tails that you can swim in. The animated mermaid film The Little Mermaid kicked off the great Disney movies of the 90's. The live action mermaid film Splash is widely credited with popularizing the name Madison for baby girls (and it's being remade with Channing Tatum as a beautiful merman). Mermaids are fun. So if you're heading to the beach this summer to live out your merperson dreams, you've simply got to bring one of these excellent mermaid (and merman) books along with you for a very on-theme read.
Myths about mermaids and water spirits and sexy sirens are as old as storytelling itself. Even before sailors were mistaking manatees for aquatic women, there were plenty of stories about beautiful ladies living in various bodies of water. Usually, these tales involved mermaids or ocean nymphs luring men to a watery grave. You might get the occasional story about a sad little mermaid yearning to be where the people are. But more recent mermaid fiction has brought us more nuanced, complex mermaids, and these stories explore every facet of life under the sea:
'Monstrous Beauty' by Elizabeth Fama
The mermaid Syrenka falls in love with a human man so, naturally, she must abandon her life underwater for him. Unfortunately for Syrenka, though, life on the land has unforeseen consequences. One hundred and forty years later, a girl named Hester finds herself inexplicably drawn to a mysterious stranger who just might be the key to unlocking her tragic family history.
'The Pisces' by Melissa Broder
There are many (many) stories of merladies falling for landlocked men. But now we're finally seeing an upswing in stories about hunky mermen and human women. The Pisces is one such story, as well as a darkly funny novel about a woman struggling to stay afloat between heartbreak, mental health struggles, a 13-year-long dissertation, and caring for her sister's sickly dog.
'The Mermaid's Sister' by Carrie Anne Noble
Clara lives with her sister Maren and their guardian, Auntie, high up in the mountains. They spend their time gathering herbs and listening to stories of faraway lands. But then one day Clara discovers shimmering scales just under her sister's skin, and their sheltered lives begin to unravel: Maren is becoming a mermaid, and she must be taken to the sea or she will die.
'The Gloaming' by Kirsty Logan
Mara lives on an enchanted island. She already knows that she will end her days turned to stone atop a cliff, gazing out to sea. Before that, though, her family will suffer through a terrible loss, leaving Mara permanently scarred. It's only the magnetic Pearl who can bring the light back into Mara's life in this lovely, lyrical novel (and we all need more romances where the mermaid falls for a landlocked lady).
'Into the Drowning Deep' by Mira Grant
Look, not all mermaid stories have to be strictly romantic. Mermaids can be scary, too. Take Into the Drowning Deep, for example: seven years ago, a "mockumentary" film crew was lost at sea, somewhere near the Mariana Trench. Now a new crew has been assembled to retrace their steps... and possibly come face to face with the horrific truth of their fate.
'The Surface Breaks' by Louise O'Neill
Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale gets a dark, fierce, feminist upgrade with The Surface Breaks. I mean, yes, we all know the story of the mermaid who sells her voice for a boy she just met. This retelling is hardly a romance, though. It's more of a rallying cry for any mermaids out there who've made sacrifices for the idea of love (even when that "love" turns out to be not so great in practice).
'Of Poseidon' by Anna Banks
Alternatively, if you're looking for a sweet, funny, romantic, gender-swapped retelling of The Little Mermaid (well, kind of), then Of Poseidon might be the book for you. It starts off with Galen, a prince of Syrena, and Emma, a human girl hanging out at the beach, who bump into each other (literally) and realize that they might have some sort of connection that bridges the gap between their two worlds...
'The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock' by Imogen Hermes Gowar
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock follows Jonah Hancock, who comes into possession of a mermaid corpse. This marvel utterly upends his life, but it also brings him in contact with Angelica Neal, a courtesan of great accomplishment. This book isn't really an under the sea fantasy, but it is a fascinating, beautifully written, semi-historical take on mermaid mania, with two complicated human beings at the center of it.
'The Mermaid' by Christina Henry
A mermaid gets caught in a fisherman's net. But when the fisherman goes to free her, the mermaid decides that she'd much rather use her magic to stay with him, on the land. This is all well and good, until the day that the fisherman rows away into the sea, and the mermaid is left on the shore, where she meets a man named P. T. Barnum. The Mermaid is a re-imagining of Barnum's real life mermaid hoax, except this time with a real, live mermaid who's not so sure she wants to stay in show business.
'In Great Waters' by Kit Whitfield
The land-dwelling citizens of Venice once made a pact with the deepsmen of the waters, an alliance cemented by a marriage. However, dalliances between human and deepsmen have since been forbidden, and the "bastard" children of these unions have a tough time living in either world. Enter Henry, a child of the sea and the land, and Anne, a spare princess trying to survive her life at court, in this darkly brilliant alternate history tale.
'Lies Beneath' by Anne Greenwood Brown
Creepy mermaids living beneath the waters of Lake Superior? Yes, please. Calder is the only brother in a family of vicious mermaid sisters, and he's out for revenge. His job is to seduce a young women, in the hopes of luring her father to a bloody, aquatic end. But of course, this evil, charming merman falls head over heels for the fascinating Lily, which is not going to go over well with the rest of his family...
'Sea Witch' by Sarah Henning
Retellings of The Little Mermaid are great and all, but we're really all just waiting to hear Ursula's side of the story. Or rather, the Sea Witch's side: why did she "help" that mermaid in the first place? Was she always so evil? Is there more to her story than a great villain song? Sea Witch is a smart, unique new take on the story, finally giving the witch a voice of her own.
'Lost Voices' by Sarah Porter
Luce is alone in the world. Her father is gone, her uncle is cruel, and she has been abandoned on the cliffs near her Alaskan fishing village, left to die in the icy waves below. Except Luce doesn't die. She is saved by an impossible transformation. She becomes a mermaid. At first Luce is thrilled by her new life under the sea, but there is one catch: as a mermaid, she is expected to lure sailors to their deaths with her beautiful, enchanted voice.