Even if you are one of those who know nothing about sailing, or think of sailing as “the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while going nowhere at great expense,” you will be absolutely nuts about this book. Narrated beautifully and eloquently in her own words, almost tack for tack, have your foul-weather gear handy, you’ll

Since she was a little girl growing up in rural England (far from the ocean) and going on to sail around the U.K. singlehanded at the age of 19 in a 21-foot boat, this little girl dreamed large dreams. She continued on, winning the Route de Rhum, a transatlantic singlehanded race from France to the Caribbean, then to a record-setting time around the world singlehandeding in the Vende Globe, the World Series and Super Bowl of sailboat racing, then to the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest time around the world in a crewed sailboat, at the age of 22. Rushing through this book, your foul-weather gear at the ready, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

Ellen MacArthur, a cute as a bug, 100-pound 22-year-old ball of fire is an almost verbatim powerful personification of the poem “If,” by Rudyard Kipling. From the first verse, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you,” to the last, “Yours is the earth and all that’s in it, and what is more you will be a man (woman) my son (daughter).” Great book to read on your next cruise. Especially, if you happen to be cruising the Southern California Channel Islands.

Taking on the World by Dame Ellen MacArthur (McGraw-Hill Publishers, 2005; 353 pages)