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The Student News Site of Green High School

Paw Print

The Student News Site of Green High School

Paw Print

Literature Recommendations

Rae’s back with maritime literature for your next binge read

Before we delve into the world of maritime literature, please note that there are so many more choices out there. To be forthright, we have all forced ourselves to finish a book we loathed (or, just didn’t have the energy to absorb at the time fully) because we felt we needed to. So, if you aren’t particularly drawn to any of the titles on this list, you’re entirely valid. Maritime literature isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. You deserve to read literature that brings you joy, not literature you’re expected to appreciate. But for those of you whose day-to-day speech is littered with jargon such as, “batten down the hatches” and “sqaured away”, who speak in knots instead of miles, which measure in fathoms, and who believe a compass and a watch is all you need to find your way, here are three nautical novels to accompany you on passage.

Looking for: The perfect combination of action, intrigue, and humor
The book: Master and Commander is the first volume in a series of maritime novels during the Napoleonic era. The enduring friendship between the garrulous Captain Jack Aubrey and eccentric ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin carries throughout the series as they sail around the world, fight the French, and chase after the assorted wild animals Maturin brings aboard. There’s absolutely exhilarating action, all based on real historical naval battles, and a perfect balance of pithy humor and Austenian interpersonal drama.
Notes: O’Brian’s prose is notoriously jargon-heavy. However, Maturin’s frequent nautical faux pas serve as a conceit for the author’s exposition. Also, please note that the lighthearted tone of the first installment does not continue throughout the series; HMS Surprise (no. 3) and The Reverse of the Medal (no. 11) are comparatively somber.

Looking for: A light yet fast-paced beach read, complete with swashbuckling action, pirates (!), and high-seas romance (!!!)
The book: Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini follows once respected doctor Peter Blood as he awakens from his upper-class existence to understand oppression firsthand. Becoming a pirate on the high seas in his own personal odyssey against injustice, Blood is driven by his utter distaste for the despotic King James II as well as romantic pursuits. This book has everything — adventure, heroism, romance — and most importantly, boats (which you can never have enough of).
Notes: Captain Blood is quintessentially the “swashbuckling” standard. Modern audiences may find it unbelievable but it is nevertheless to nautical fiction what James Bond is to spy novels. That said, it is still not for everyone, so please be aware of several heavier scenes and take care, as always.

Looking for: A retelling of historical events (beyond the Napoleonic wars, but still during the Golden Age of Sail)
The book: Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall is a classic tale told from the perspective of a non-mutineer who is left behind. The HMS Bounty, commanded by inconceivably fastidious Lieutenant Bligh, finds itself in peril as the crew forcefully takes over the ship and sets Bligh, along with many of his still-loyal crew members, adrift. The narrator, although not a mutineer himself, stays with the Bounty as there is not enough space on the small boat given to Bligh. Eventually, the shorthanded Bounty ends up in Tahiti. Tahiti becomes just as much of a character as the mutineers as the narrator watches as many of his shipmates come under its spell, completely abandoning naval discipline and even desire to regain their British home.
Notes: It’s an absolute must-read if you enjoy maritime history!

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