16 South Pacific Books That Will Take You To An Island Paradise At Home

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This month’s book club. theme is books set in the South Pacific. This list is overwhelmingly South Pacific travel books but there is some fiction in here as well by a Tahitian author.

I pretty much want to read everything on here that I haven’t yet, which is most of it, but I have read a few of them.

There are survival stories, contemporaries, travel adventures, and some sailing as well. There’s pretty much something for everyone in here, even a little romance (but not like romance romance.)

  • If you want to listen to some of these, consider trying Audible! You can get your first month free (one free book) plus tons of others they have for free.  Get that Audible deal here.
  • If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd!  You can get your first month free there. You can read books and listen to audiobooks. It is unlimited (especially the reading) but if you listen to tons of new audiobooks you may be restricted after a few. I don’t listen to enough to confirm this, but I do use Scribd myself and like it a lot. Sign up for Scribd here!
  • Shop my collection of bookish goodies on Etsy! These aren’t my shop items, but other shops I’ve curated into a book-themed collection. Shop my Etsy bookish goodies here!
  • If you want to read more on your Kindle but don’t want to buy books, Kindle Unlimited is a wonderful option. It’s $9.99 a month but if you read a lot and like to read more than just new releases, it could be worth it. Get Kindle Unlimited here!
  • Get $5 off of $25 from BookOutlet! This is a great place to find new books for pretty cheap. They also have sales quite a bit, so keep an eye out for those. I tend to check here for books I want if they’re more expensive other places. They don’t have everything but they do have a lot. Shop BookOutlet here!
  • Thrift Books has become my go-to when I’m looking for a book and want it cheap. It’s great if you like buying used books. With this you can get a free book after spending $30!
  • Shop my book lists here! You can find every book list I have on Bookshop.org (except my monthly round-ups) and I add everything I can but they occasionally won’t have some. I do occasionally add extras though. If any lists are empty, they’ll be filled in shortly! Shop my bookshop.org book lists here.

Capsized: Jim Nalepka’s Epic 119 Day Survival Voyage Aboard the Rose-Noelle

I watched this movie years ago before I knew it was a book. I could go either way on reading this one, I’m sure it is interesting, though.

This is the story of the four-month struggle for survival of Jim Nalepka and his three crew members on their capsized catamaran, the Rose-Noelle.

A storm capsized them in the South Pacific, causing them to lose most of their gear. They huddled in a dank 20-inch-high hull compartment as wide as a double bed for shelter. They were soaked and freezing almost constantly.

They caught fish and collected rainwater for sustenance before the wind finally carried them to New Zealand’s Great barrier Island.


In Tahiti, everyone knows women are wisest, mothers know best, and Materena Mahi knows best of all. Well, everyone but her own daughter.

Soon, they’re embroiled in a tug-of-war that tests the bonds of their mother/daughter love.

If you’re looking for a book set in the South Pacific by an author from there, then Célestine Hitiura Vaite has you covered!

The Sex Lives of Cannibals

I got this on a Kindle deal last year and would like to try and read this one in July!

At twenty-six, Maarten Troost decided to move to Tarawa, a remote island in Kiribati. This is the hilarious story of him finding out Tarawa isn’t the romantic island he dreamed it was, but and island of misadventure, suffocating heat, polluted seas, and toxic fish where he spent the next two years battling incompetent government officials with his girlfriend Sylvia.

Among the Islands: Adventures in the Pacific

Tim is one of the world’s most influential scientists, credited with discovering more species than Darwin.

This is the chronicle of a series of expeditions he made to the tropical islands of the Pacific at the beginning of his career.

If you’re looking for a South Pacific travel book, this is almost it. It’s a little more sciencey than travel but it’s still good.

Getting Stoned with Savages

This next adventure with Troost takes us through Fiji and Vanuatu. After his two years on Tarawa, he never wanted to return to the South Pacific, but over time, he felt out of place in twenty-first century America. The next thing he knows, he and his wife, Sylvia, are packing their bags for Vanuatu.

This time they face earthquakes, kava, typhoons, and giant centipedes. Oh, and a baby. That’s when they head over to Fiji and their son takes to island living quite naturally.

Solomon Time: An Unlikely Quest in the South Pacific

Quick pet peeve here: this book description is TOO LONG! It’s practically as long as the book. I hate that. Anyways.

Will Randall is presented the opportunity to leave home and move to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific and he takes it.

This is the witty account of his adventures in the paradise that is the Solomon Islands.

Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Island

This is one of the first books I got for my Kindle and I read it like, three times. I loved it.

Just a month after his 21st birthday, Peter moved to Ujae, a remote atoll in the Marshall Islands, 70 miles from the nearest phone, car, tourist, or store, to teach English.

This is the touching yet funny account of living with the island’s 450 inhabitants, yet confronted with the harsh reality of life on Ujae.

We hear about his personal experiences as well as political, linguistic, and ecological digressions of the Marshall Islands and the ways they’re being effected by global warming. It’s both entertaining and educational.

Adrift: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea

I watched this movie over the winter and now I really want to read the book. This is a crazy survival story (a true survival story) set in the South Pacific.

Tami and her fiance Richard have their whole lives ahead of themselves when they set sail from Tahiti to San Diego.

Less than two weeks into their voyage, though, they sail directly into one of the worst hurricanes recorded in history. Richard ties himself to the boat and sends Tami to safety below. Hours later, all is quiet and she’s awakened to find the boat in ruins and Richard nowhere in sight.

This is the miraculous story of her forty-one days alone with no mast or sails and little hope of rescue.

438 Days

Salvador Alvarenga left the coast of Mexico for a two-day fishing trip.  That turned into the longest time spent adrift at sea by anyone in history – 438 days.  A terrible storm killed his boat engine and dragged his boat out to sea where he drifted all the way to the Marshall Islands, 9,000 miles away.

For fourteen months, he was surrounded by sharks, learned to catch fish with what he had on board: empty plastic bottles he collected from the ocean, making fishhooks from his dismantled outboard motor,  and using fish vertebrae as a needle to stitch his clothes back together.  He contemplated suicide multiple times but kept an alternate reality in his mind that carried him on until he was dumped onto the remote island thousands of miles away.

Headhunters on My Doorstep

One last story from Troost here. This time, his return to the South Pacific is after a struggle with alcoholism where he decides to retrace the steps of Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island.

He travels to the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, Tahiti, Kiribati, and Samoa facing one adventure after another.

The Happy Isles of Oceania

I also got this on a Kindle deal last year and can’t wait to read it.

This is the story of Paul Theroux’s adventures through the South Pacific where he visited fifty-one islands by collapsible kayak.

He started in New Zealand’s forests and ended his journey thousands of miles away in Hawaii.

He paddles alone over isolated tolls and through shark-filled waters, meeting the king of Tonga and investigating a cargo cult in Vanuatu.

Plunge: One Woman’s Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary

When Lisebet trades the life she knows for living on a sailboat, she succumbs to seasickness and a growing desire to be alone.

She enjoys the impulsiveness and alternative lifestyle but must face personal storms, US immigration, adverse weather, and doubts about her newfound love.

All the Colours of Polynesia

This is another one I have and can’t wait to read! My South Pacific book list is quite long now.

This is the three-year journey across French Polynesia on a sailboat, from Bora Bora to the Tuamotus. We get to experience the ups and downs of life on a sailboat along with Jasna, meeting heavily tattooed men, sailing under the stars, and diving with sharks and dolphins.

Love with a Chance of Drowning

Torre isn’t looking for love when she meets a soulful Argentinian man in San Diego. But he’s about to set sail around the world on his small sailboat. Lovesick, she decides to join him on this terrifying and life-changing journey through deep waters. Somewhere mid-pacific, she’s finding it hard to keep everything afloat.

I read this one over the summer and liked it! It was a nice change of pace from my usual solo female travel memoirs.


When Pito gets drunk and proposes, Materena first thinks it’s just the booze talking.

As she starts planning, she juggles everyday life only to have Pito act like he’s forgotten the proposal.

I’m not sure if these Celestine Yaite books are a series or not, but they seem to have the same people in them. Either way, I want to read them and love the covers.

Tiare in Bloom

Now Matarena has a radio talk show and is a big star, but Pito can’t help noticing some changes in her. She’s spending more time at work and with friends, not coming home to cook for him. And why does she need to know how to drive?

He decides to shrug it off but when she gives him the silent treatment and doesn’t come home from a night of dancing, he’s had enough.

luckily, when three-month-old Tiare, rumored to be their son Tomatoa’s daughter, is left on their doorstep, he has a chance to prove himself to his granddaughter, his wife, and himself.

Have you read any of these South Pacific books? Which ones? What is your favorite books set in the South Pacific? Any others I should check out?

Author: Megan Johnson

I'm Megan, a cheesehead at heart currently residing in the Sunshine State. You can probably find me reading, watching Forensic Files, or both.

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