Shelf Life Blog

If you like Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian

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.
 

 

Alabama Moon by Watt Key

Alabama Moon by Watt Key

Alabama Moon, by Watt Key, is a great adventure taleThe story starts with Moon on his own--completely on his own. His dad, who has just died, was a recluse who hid in the woods and had very little contact with the outside world. He raised Moon to be suspicious of people and to trust his own skills for survival. But Moon is only 10 years old when he is left all alone, and he questions what his father has taught him. Can he survive and build a life for himself? Is that the life he wants? Is there anyone he can trust? He ends up getting caught by "Authorities" and is sent to an institution for troubled youth. But, they can't keep him for long. He escapes! And is on the run...

Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen

Lucky You

Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen is about a young black woman named JoLayne Lucks who has one of two winning tickets to the Florida lottery--and when she cashes it in she will win $14 million. As a vet assistant, she is very involved with raising the baby turtles that she finds and plans on using her money to buy a section of Florida swampland to create a wildlife refuge.  However, two con men named Chubb and Bodean Gazzer--who have formed a white supremacy militia--own the other winning ticket. When they find out that JoLayne is also a winner, they decide that $28 million would be even better to help them finance the White Clarion Aryans.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond reviews parts of history in order to theorize how different cultures became civilization's haves and how others became its have-nots. Diamond is a biologist, and here he seeks to explain why Eurasians--rather than Native Americans, Africans, and Native Australians--became successful conquerors. Diamond argues that rather than race and culture, factors such as food production and animal domestication allowed Eurasians to economically dominate the world.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

In the dark of night, a monster approaches Conor’s bedroom window. The massive, human-like gnarl of branches with its thunderous voice fails to frighten the boy. You see, Conor has already glimpsed the source of his personal terror. It lives in his nightmares.

A Monster Calls was written after Patrick Ness used outlines and ideas from the British writer Siobhan Dowd, a Carnegie Medal-winning author who died of cancer in 2007. The final product is a taut, suspenseful reflection on losing a loved one, accompanied by the message to be honest with one’s self.

If you like Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

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.

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin: New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake--orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl, who is dying. Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man, because of a love that, at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle, in a city ever alight with its own energy and beseiged by unprecedented winters, is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature.

If you enjoyed "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin, you may enjoy these titles for the great writing, the philosophical undertones and a dash of romance:

The Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen
"In the fall of 1900, Dr. Gustav Uyterhoeven left the chess garden that he and his wife, Sonja, had created together in Dayton, Ohio, and journeyed to South Africa to serve as a doctor in the British concentration camps of the Boer War. Over the next ten months he sent twelve chess pieces and twelve letters back to Sonja. She set out her husband's gifts as they arrived and welcomed all the most faithful guests of the garden to come and hear what he had written - letters which told nothing of his experience of the camps but described an imagined land called the Antipodes, where all the game pieces that cluttered the sets and drawers of the garden collection came to life to guide the doctor through his fateful and wondrous last adventure."-catalog summary

Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres
"Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, 'Corelli's Mandolin' is the story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history. The place is the Greek island of Cephallonia, where gods once dabbled in the affairs of men and the local saint periodically rises from his sarcophagus to cure the mad.  Then the tide of World War II rolls onto the island's shores in the form of the conquering Italian army.  Caught in the occupation are Pelagia, a willful, beautiful young woman, and the two suitors vying for her love: Mandras, a gentle fisherman turned ruthless guerilla, and the charming, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, a reluctant officer of the Italian garrison on the island.  Rich with loyalties and betrayals, and set against a landscape where the factual blends seamlessly with the fantastic, 'Corelli's Mandolin' is a passionate novel as rich in ideas as it is genuinely moving."-catalog summary

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

Liesl and Po

"Coincidences; mix-ups; harmless mistakes and switches.  And so a story is born."  Imagine Cinderella with a really, really wicked stepmother and a lonely, yet helpful ghost. 

In Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, 11- year-old Liesl is confined to a tiny attic bedroom, locked away and totally isolated by her cruel stepmother while her father falls ill and dies.  Her only friends are the shadows and the mice -- until one night two shadows move and speak.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die." -Cersei Lannister

I think epic fantasy literature offers the best kind of escape. In a well-constructed fantasy you can lose yourself in mastering the intricacies of plotlines, character charts, and the physical environment of the world. George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, the first in the Song of Fire and Ice series, is the perfect book to hook you and then submerge you in its rich, imaginative prose peppered with bravery, cowardice, betrayal, loyalty, violence, lust, and death. In other words, it's great fun all around.

A Game of Thrones follows three main storylines, each populated with a complex number of characters and sub-plots. In the Seven Kingdoms we have the plotting Lannisters, ever eager for power and riches; and the duty-bound, severe Starks, proud to the last. Along the Wall in the north there is John Snow, Eddard Stark’s illegitimate son and part of the Brotherhood of the Knights Watch, who guards the Seven Kingdoms from the savage barbarians, undead, and beasts in the wild beyond the Wall. And in the East there is young Daenerys Targaryen, an exiled princess now wed to a Dothraki horse lord, dreaming of reclaiming the Iron Throne.

The Children of Men by P.D. James

The Children of Men by P.D. James

T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men” ends with a description of anticlimactic destruction: “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” In The Children of Men, the world is facing a similarly unspectacular, silent annihilation. P.D. James’s novel explores a dystopia that is not dominated by a totalitarian regime. The sky has not been blackened, nor has nuclear fallout rendered the world unlivable. The collapse of human society is being expedited by the simple fact that a child has not been born in 25 years.

Tropical Secrets by Margarita Engel

Tropical Secrets by Margarita Engel

Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engel is a historical novel in verse about holocaust refugees in Cuba. Daniel is a thirteen year old Jewish boy. His parents can only afford one ticket out of Germany and they give it to their child in hope that he will be able to escape Nazi Germany. They send him on a ship out of Germany, hoping that they will be able to meet him in New York City one day once they have saved enough money to pay for their tickets.