Classic sailing novels
October 23, 2017 11:15 AM   Subscribe

I read all of the Aubrey-Maturin novels a few years ago. I recently got an Audible account and I'm close to the end of Moby Dick narrated by Frank Mullerm and I am really enjoying it. Can you recommend more audio books that are centered around the lives of seamen in the age of the sailing ship?
posted by night_train to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Naomi Norvik, for a good A/M pastiche with extra dragons.
Eric Newby's The Last Grain Race, capturing the veryend of the Age of Sail
posted by runincircles at 11:23 AM on October 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

horatio hornblower would be the most obvious suggestion but i don't have any specific audiobook references, alas. there have been a few radio shows done of it though.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:23 AM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Check out the Alan Lewrie series by Dewey Lambdin. Looks like the first dozen or so are available on Audible and he's the author I usually send folks to when they finish Aubrey-Maturin and Hornblower.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:33 AM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you're open to really excellent nonfiction, you want Nathaniel Philbrick, in particular Sea of Glory and In The Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, which is about the ship sinking that inspired Moby Dick. They read like fiction, and both are available as audiobooks.
posted by Orlop at 11:36 AM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr., is on Audible.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:36 AM on October 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

Mr. Midshipman Easy written in 1836 by a retired British Navy captain (so he'd actually *done* all those things). Very funny, though the politics have not aged well.
posted by Mogur at 11:39 AM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

There are several of the Horatio Hornblower books available on Audible!
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:57 AM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Herman Melville wrote other books based on his experiences at sea. LibriVox has audiobooks of Typee (based on a whaling voyage in the South Pacific and his escape on Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas), White-Jacket (based on a voyage on a U.S. Navy ship, with much criticism of the practice of corporal punishment), and Redburn (based on his time as a merchant sailor in the Atlantic).
posted by cyanistes at 12:08 PM on October 23, 2017

Strong second on "Heart of the Sea." Amazing book.

Also strongly recommend "Endurance," which is about Shackleton's failed trip to Antarctica in 1914 and the miraculous survival of him and all his men. Probably just about the tail end of the sailing era.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:08 PM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Please forgive what's clearly a stretch, but one of my reactions to William Finnegan’s excellent (and Pulitzer Prize-winning) Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life was that it felt almost like a modern version of Moby Dick, where the protagonist, growing up as a California transplant in the alien (to him) culture of Hawaii, embarks upon an obsessive, decades-long ocean-crossing quest to ride waves only few (if any) have ridden before. And while you don’t need to be a surfing fan to enjoy it, his eloquent and vivid descriptions of the art and science of surfing, and of the ocean and waves in particular as complex, sometimes malevolent entities, might make you one.
posted by jalexei at 12:24 PM on October 23, 2017

Jack London has a few: "The Sea Wolf" is the one that comes to mind.

Julian Stockwin's "Kydd" series follows the Hornblower formula, about a young man who grows from a polywog into a great Admiral in the Age of Sail. Looks like Audible has most if not all of them; I'm not sure.

For some great but short non-fic, how about Joshua Slocum's "Sailing Alone Around the World." He was the first recorded person to have done this.

Also non-fic: David Cordingly's "The Billy Ruffian: The Bellerophon and the Downfall of Napoleon," a kind of biography of HMS Bellerophon (74). She distinguished herself at the Glorious First of June, and fought at Trafalgar. Weeks after the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon surrendered himself to the crew of Bellerophon, ending the war. I don't see that one on Audible, but I see two other works by the same author there, both of which look relevant and interesting.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:24 PM on October 23, 2017

This is at the edge of your requirements, but the mid-20th-century movie star Sterling Hayden was, as a younger man, a hand and later a captain on the last commercial sailing ships. After a lucrative stint in Hollywood, he left a life he despised, and took (legally, kidnapped) his four children with him on his schooner outward bound from San Francisco. I'll admit, I haven't finished the book because he's slipped into the third person talking about himself once too often, but when he's telling the facts of his life it's fascinating. And there's lots of sailing. Oh yeah, the book is Wanderer.
posted by bricoleur at 4:34 PM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth is SUCH an amazing novel and perfectly meets your criteria. I haven't listened to it, just read it. But seriously, this book is fantastic.
posted by flourpot at 8:18 PM on October 23, 2017

The North Water Is set on board a 19th C whaling ship. Warning: very brutal.
posted by cardinalandcrow at 12:46 AM on October 24, 2017

Sorry, I missed that you were looking for audio books: The North Water.
posted by cardinalandcrow at 12:50 AM on October 24, 2017

Response by poster: Many thanks for all the great suggestions. I really appreciate your responses. I've recently started to listen to audio books while I walk my dogs. I have enough material now to keep me going for a few years and I foresee that the walks may increase in length.
posted by night_train at 2:21 AM on October 24, 2017

I would strongly recommend Joseph Conrad, Youth (1898), which is also on Audible. It's a short story, so not a long listen (just over an hour), but it is one of the great sea stories.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:05 AM on October 24, 2017

Nonfiction: Audible has two versions about The Wreck of the Whale Ship Essex from the original narrative of one of the survivors, as well as some other contemporary works about the story.
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 7:40 AM on October 25, 2017

Two Years Before the Mast written by a Harvard student who decides to leave college to work on a sailing ship, that sails around Cape Horn.

It became very popular when it was published because of the descriptions of sailing life and because it provided the first glimpse of pre-goldrush California for people on the East coast.
posted by eye of newt at 12:14 AM on October 26, 2017

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