The ill-fated ship sank 100 years ago next month, but a slew of titles are keeping its memory alive

By Stephan Lee and Marc Snetiker
March 23, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Titanic: The Tragedy That Shook the World: One Century Later
Editors of LIFE
No one can commemorate an iconic historic moment in deluxe coffee-table-book form like our colleagues at LIFE. This photo history captures the human drama behind the Titanic at all stages, from the hubris of those who built it to the heroism of those who perished in its tragic sinking on April 15, 1912. A curious number of pages are devoted to James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster and its 3-D rerelease, but this handsome volume feels definitive and timeless nonetheless. B+

Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From
Richard Davenport-Hines
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who wrote his own four-part Titanic miniseries, called this book ”astonishing.” It’s easy to see why he’d be a fan. The in-depth examination of the ship’s passengers — from the lowliest steerage travelers to the likes of John Jacob Astor in first class — paints a provocative portrait of the ”upstairs, downstairs” social stratification in play aboard the doomed ship. A-

The Titanic Notebook: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Ship
Claire Hancock
Insight Editions
Flaps, foldouts, and pop-ups will keep kids interested in this inventive, family-friendly book, while the dozens of authentic photographs and documents (including copies of the original distress radio telegrams) make it an informational extravaganza that adults will appreciate. The pièce de résistance is a 27-inch-long build-it-yourself Titanic model, designed with fantastic precision by paper engineer David Hancock. B

Titanic, First Accounts
Tim Maltin, ed.
Penguin Classics
With its detailed stories from survivors of the disaster, Titanic, First Accounts is hugely engaging and adroitly debunks some of the event’s great myths. (”Nearer, My God, to Thee” wasn’t actually the last song played by the ship’s band.) The eyewitness testimonies are equal parts illuminating and haunting, revealing intimate conversations with surviving passengers who didn’t fully grasp the scope of the unfolding devastation until it was too late. B+