OK. This is a big one. If you take my advice on this recommendation, you have 270 hours of entertainment ahead of you.
It is so, so good.
It is my very favorite audiobook series of all time: the novels of the 19th-century British Navy, written by the incomparable Patrick O’Brian.
You may have heard of the movie version, Master and Commander, a 2003 movie starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. It’s a really great movie—the ultimate bromance/buddy movie.
But the books are better.
And the audiobooks are the best. When the reader is Patrick Tull, you find yourself scrambling to get back to the story. Tull is the narrator for the entire series, and he shifts among English, Scottish, Irish, Spanish, and French accents so beautifully that you can dial into a scene and instantly know who is talking.
Captain Jack Aubrey meets Dr. Stephen Maturin at a chamber music concert. It’s 1801, on the island of Menorca in the Mediterranean. They have dinner and before you know it, Captain Aubrey has talked Dr. Maturin into being his ship’s surgeon for his first cruise on his sloop, HMS Sophie.
It’s the Odd Couple—if Oscar and Felix put to sea and periodically had to clear for action and bomb the daylights out of unfortunate passing ships. But for all the naval talk in these books—and you will absolutely get the hang of your sails and masts and riggings and ship categories—it’s so much more.
I listened to the first eleven books of this series a number of years ago. But I got distracted and lost my momentum, so I decided to start all over again.
I’m almost done with Book 2: Post Captain, and I’m not stopping until I get to Blue at the Mizzen.
The first novel was published in 1970; the final, unfinished 21st volume was published four years after O’Brian’s death in 2004.
If, say, you’re on a road trip driving 60 miles per hour, this audiobook series will take you 16,200 miles—from New York to Argentina and halfway back.