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The Best Sea Books
July 1, 2006 8:06 AM   Subscribe

101 "Crackerjacks". The best sea books.
posted by stbalbach (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'll never understand the love for The Old Man and the Sea, which was one of Hemingway's least works. On a positive note, I'm on O'Brian's third Aubrey-Maturin book, and I'm more than hooked.
posted by goatdog at 8:49 AM on July 1, 2006


101 best books of the "sea" genre? Aren't they worried it might get a little watered-down..
/rimshot
posted by tetsuo at 10:34 AM on July 1, 2006


Two Years Before the Mast is VERY good, and you can find it online for free. Project Gutenberg has it.
posted by Malor at 11:04 AM on July 1, 2006


I was delighed (though I expected) to see Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World on the list. A fascinating book of which Arthur Ransome (author of We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea, another worthy entry) said, ""Boys who do not like this book ought to be drowned at once."
posted by QuietDesperation at 11:13 AM on July 1, 2006


Shouldn't the Aubrey & Maturin series count for 20 of the top 101 books? It's a series, not just one book. But seriously, they are wonderful books!
posted by Quietgal at 2:09 PM on July 1, 2006


I just started "The Surgeon's Mate", and I swear to God this is the last one I'm going to read if Diana Villiers isn't dead by the end of it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:33 PM on July 1, 2006


Oh, and the author of the piece, Dean King, wrote a fantastic biography of Patrick O'Brian.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:34 PM on July 1, 2006


Once you start reading Aubrey/Maturin, you won't stop. I'm about 4 books into my 4th (I think) run through the series. I read them all every couple of years.

This 101 is a good list. I've read many of them, and see a few more I would like to read. Nice FPP. Thanks.
posted by mmahaffie at 4:05 PM on July 1, 2006


I second (or seventh or whatever) all the Aubrey/Maturin love. I'd advise, though, against any fan of O'Brian's reading any biography of the man. His life in no way illuminates the work (Dean King's life suffers from some major errors, which are, alas, corrected in Nikolai Tolstoi's [his step-son] more recent account). He was a bitter, misanthropic, small-minded sonofabitch whose knowledge of the sea comes entirely from books.

A great counter-example, though, to that tired old "write what you know" saw.
posted by yoink at 6:06 PM on July 1, 2006


Anyone who likes the books on this list would love "The Journeying Moon" and "The Wind Off The Island" by Ernle Bradford - two volumes of memoirs about cruising the Mediterranean in a Dutch cutter in the 50s..
posted by nonemoreblack at 6:37 PM on July 1, 2006


Beautiful. I stopped re reading The Yellow Admiral for a couple of days to read The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault- now that I'm done with that, there's a whole bunch of books on this list I'd love to read. A nice change from reading Aubrey/Maturin over and over again. Thanks for posting this.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:58 PM on July 1, 2006


Great post. Bookmarked.

There was a story that I believe was posted here a while back about a man who lived on an island that was occupied by Italians during WWII, far from the shipping lanes. It was less about sailing than survival but seemed an adventure only a sailor would endeavor. Anyone remember that?
posted by snsranch at 8:02 PM on July 1, 2006


I tried to read Moby Dick but gave up before even getting out to sea. I was enjoying it but then decided I didn't give a rat's ass about Queequeg, so what point. Also I wondered if the whole book was a homosexual parable, which is like when you go out on a date and you can't stop looking at a zit on your date's chin. You don't mean to notice it, you don't think it's important, but there it is again, Queequeg kissing Ishmael and polishing his harpoon.
posted by fleacircus at 1:02 AM on July 2, 2006


Hmm, no Tristan Jones?
posted by Joeforking at 4:54 AM on July 2, 2006


I am reminded of my place in the minority, preferring Hornblower to Aubrey.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:01 AM on July 2, 2006


[O'Brian's] knowledge of the sea comes entirely from books

Though this may be true, and what you say about the man is also true (in addition to the fact that he purposely obfuscated and fabricated portions of his own biography), the details he provides of sailing maneuevres and general experience of square-rigged sail are all quite true-to-life. I've done a fair bit of sailing on vessels of similar rigs, and when I read O'Brian I'm always awed at how right he gets the complicated interaction of forces, the mechanics of a rig, and the series of processes and subprocesses, often simultaneous, that are needed to manage a ship. He may have achieved his understanding through 'book knowledge,' but he didn't just read the books and spit back jargon. He applied his intelligence to the creation of mental models of various square rig varieties, and then put them through their paces in such a way as to gain a depth of understanding of sail technology that is not always developed even by people who use the system daily.
posted by Miko at 6:53 PM on July 2, 2006


Piling on the Aubrey/Maturin love. I try to re-read them every five years or so.
My list would include "My Old Man And The Sea" and "The Boat Who Wouldn't Float."
posted by Floydd at 6:30 AM on July 3, 2006


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