This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse the book matches here.
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian: This, the first in the splendid series of Jack Aubrey novels, establishes the friendship between Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and intelligence agent, against a thrilling backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Details of a life aboard a man-of-war are faultlessly rendered: the conversational idiom of the officers in the ward room and the men on the lower deck, the food, the floggings, the mysteries of the wind and the rigging, and the roar of broadsides as the great ships close in battle.
If you like Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, here are some suggestions of books dealing with men and the sea, from times gone by.
Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Peter Blood, a physician and English gentleman, turned pirate out of a rankling sense of injustice. Barely escaping the gallows after his arrest for treating wounded rebels, Blood is enslaved on a Barbados plantation. When he escapes, no ship sailing the Spanish Main is safe from Blood and his men.
Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling
Harvey Cheyne is the over-indulged son of a millionaire. When he falls overboard from an ocean liner her is rescued by a Portuguese fisherman and, initially against his will, joins the crew of the We're Here for a summer. Through the medium of an exciting adventure story, Captain's Courageous (1897) deals with a boy who, like Mowgli in The Jungle Book, is thrown into an entirely alien environment.
Devil's Own Luck by David Donachie
"Royal Navy officer-turned-privateer Harry Ludlow might get rich capturing French trade ships, an activity sanctioned under the wartime rules of 1793. In David Donachie's first book, The Devil's Own Luck: The Privateersmen Mysteries, Harry's brother James is accused of murder, and they find themselves in trouble with corrupt naval officers as the war rages
around them." (Publishers Weekly). First in the Privateersman Mysteries.
Fire Down Below by William Golding
The conclusion of the trilogy he began with the Booker Prize-winning Rites of Passage (1980) and followed with Close Quarters (1987), Nobel Laureate Golding's densely complex, subtle and exacting latest novel tussles intriguingly with thematic and formal problems that have occupied the author in his previous works. The present trilogy enriches
itself by self-consciously playing off its fictional precursors in a number of dimensions, including, most obviously, that of the voyage of self-discovery. In relating an almost year-long voyage (in the Napoleonic era) from England to the Antipodes of a motley band of passengers and the crew of a decrepit former man-o'-war as they experience many of life's dramas, the trilogy evokes tales by Melville, Voltaire and Homer among others. (Publishers Weekly)
King's Coat by Dewey Lambdin
"Lambdin's Alan Lewrie stacks up well with C.S. Forester's Hornblowe r and Alexander Kent's Bolitho as
a fictional naval officer. In this first novel, Lewrie, at 17, is unwillingly made a midshipman in the British navy of 1780. He sails first in a ship-of-the-line, later in a schooner, and finally a frigate. Storms, battles, duels, and difficulties begin to change him from a spoiled fop into a competent officer who is slowly coming to take pride in his hard service. Lambdin makes his character very human and believable. Questions about his background and prospects are left intriguingly unanswered. Lambdin also demonstrates a good enough grasp of sailing and 18th-century sea warfare to satisfy readers of this genre, who are quick to catch any mistakes. A good yarn that promises to become a good series." (Library Journal) First in a series.
Kydd by Julian Stockwin
This is the debut novel in a thrilling new series of the seafaring adventures of Thomas Paine Kydd, a young man pressed into service who comes of age in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. (catalog
Midshipman Bolitho by Alexander Kent
"The year is 1772, and Richard Bolitho is a sixteen-year-old midshipman about to undergo a severe initiation into the game of seamanship. Two novels in one, Midshipman Bolitho follows young Bolitho's adventures as he intercepts and destroys a band of vicious pirates, and then is swept away on a dangerous mission through the treacherous stamping ground of smugglers, wreckers, and murderers." (Book Description) First in a series.
Moby Dick, or The White Whale by Herman Melville
A masterpiece of storytelling and symbolic realism, this thrilling maritime adventure and epic saga pits Ahab, a brooding and vengeful sea captain, against the great white whale that came to dominate his life.
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester
"Horatio Hornblower was born in C.S. Forester's fertile imagination and became arguably more famous, certainly more personal, than Nelson, Cook and Drake combined. He fought in a dozen major campaigns during the Napoleonic wars, and it was in these pages that we first got a glimmer of just how much Bonaparte was hated, and why.
Forester's genius was not tidy, and so this story, which sets Hornblower on course at age 17, is Forester's sixth book about him, though it should have been the first. Lieutenant Hornblower, which follows it, carries the intrepid young man another step forward in his career." (From the Publisher). Part of the Horatio Hornblower Series.
The Odyssey by Homer
Now Robert Fagles presents us with the Odyssey, Homer's best-loved and most accessible poem, recounting the arduous wanderings of Odysseus during his ten-year voyage home to Ithaca, after the Trojan War. If the Iliad is the world's greatest war story, then the Odyssey is literature's grandest evocation of everyman's journey through life. Odysseus' reliance on his wit and wiliness for survival in his encounters with divine and natural forces is at once the human story and an individual test of moral endurance.
The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd by Richard Zacks
"Though Kidd, better known as Captain Kidd, was inextricably bound with piracy and has popularly gone down as a marauding buccaneer himself, Zacks (An Underground Education) argues that he was actually a mercenary backed by the English government and several New World investors to track down pirates and reclaim their stolen wares. The book is cogent and replete with supporting evidence without the heavy-handed feel of some scholarly work. What really sets the book apart is Zacks's gift as researcher and storyteller. He highlights the role of an undeniable pirate, Robert Culliford, in Kidd's tale and pits the two men against each other from the outset, constructing his book as an intriguing duel." (Publishers Weekly)
Ramage by Dudley Pope
"The young lieutenant takes up special orders direct from Nelson himself which bring news of a mission close to his own heart. In a daring foray, under the very nose of the French Mediterranean fleet, Ramage is to sail his tiny cutter close in
to the Italian shore and rescue a party of stranded aristocrats from Napoleon's fast-advancing army." (From the publisher) First in the Lord Ramage series.
The Rising Sun by Douglas Galbraith
Roderick Mackenzie, the superintendant of cargoes for the ship The Rising Sun, describes a daring expedition to establish a Scottish colony in Central America, and the tragic consequences of the mission. (NoveList)
The Sea-Wolf by Jack London
A thrilling epic of a sea voyage and a complex novel of ideas, The Sea-Wolf is a standard-bearer of its genre. It is the vivid story of a gentleman scholar, Humphrey Van Weyden, who is rescued by a seal-hunting schooner after a ferryboat accident in San Francisco Bay. London uses Van Weyden's ordeal at the hands of a schooner's devious crew to explore powerful themes of ambition, courage, and the innate will to survive. The Sea-Wolf also introduces Jack London's most memorable, fully realized character, Wolf Larsen, the schooner's brutal captain, who ruthlessly crushes anyone standing in his way. As Gary Kinder states in his Introduction, "Wolf Larsen is one of the most carefully carved characters in American literature....London, himself, seems as fascinated as the reader with his own creation." (amazon.com) (We have this story available in a book titles Novels and Stories, by Jack London)