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Patrick O'Brian is one of the best authors of the 20th century.
His most famous novels are the Aubrey-Maturin (aka Master and Commander) series. Less well known is that O'Brian authored a variety of works including novels, short stories, critically acclaimed biographies and translations of French literature.
Read on to explore O'Brian's diverse range of works and interviews with him before his death in 2000.
Photo Credit: WW Norton
Three reasons to read Patrick O'Brian
1. "The best historical novels ever written." - The New York Times Book Review
2. His attention to detail and character development are incredible.
3. A captivating and challenging writing style that draws you into the story and doesn't let you go.
O'Brian's First Book
O'Brian wrote Caesar at the age of 14 and it was published by the time he was 15.
O'Brian The Biographer
Given his passion for research and attention to historical detail, it's not too surprising that O'Brian was a successful biographer.
O'Brian knew Pablo Picasso personally and wrote what some reviewers consider the best biography of him.
Sir Joseph Banks was an 18th century British naturalist who explored the globe with Captain Cook and served as president of the Royal Society.
Interviews with Patrick O'Brian
O'Brian was notorious for protecting details of his private life during interviews. The NY Times article in the first link below captures this aspect of O'Brian's personality well.
- The NY Times - 1993
An interview by Francis Clines of the NY Times following the release of the 16th Aubrey-Maturin book, The Wine-Dark Sea.
- Audio of NPR Interview - 1995
The article itself is about the 2003 release of the movie, Master and Commander, but there is a link at the top for an NPR interview with O'Brian from 1995.
- Recollections of America
Technically not an interview, O'Brian documented some of his reflections on his trip to the United States in 1993 for a publicity tour. This is followed by answers to a few reader questions.
- Barnes & Noble - 1999
A brief bio followed by a Q&A with O'Brian.
An Evening with Patrick O'Brian
The following video is from a 1995 interview with Patrick O'Brian at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, before the release of The Commodore, the 17th book in the Aubrey-Maturin series.
The audio quality is poor in some spots making it difficult to hear bits of the conversation, but it's well worth watching the entire piece.
O'Brian's wit, knowledge of naval history and literature; and humor come shining through during the session. His humor is especially evident during the audience question and answer period.
Early Adventures at Sea - Predecessors to the Aubrey-Maturin series...
O'Brian's first naval adventure about a young midshipman sailing on his first voyage. This was the first book I read after finishing reading the "Master and Commander" series. Check out my detailed review of "The Golden Ocean".
A parallel story to "The Golden Ocean".
The Master and Commander Series - aka the Aubrey-Maturin series
The books of the Aubrey-Maturin series are O'Brian's most well known and widely read works. There are 20 books in the series plus an unfinished 21st novel that O'Brian was working on when he died. To learn more about the series and see the full list of books in order, please visit my Master and Commander lens.
This first novel of the series introduces Aubrey and Maturin to each other and is a thrilling read. Plenty of action at sea and detail about life aboard ship.
After you read the first one, you'll want to read the whole series. This hardcover set is a great value.
Not part of the fictional series, O'Brian wrote this non-fiction book as a reference to provide more detailed descriptions of daily life at sea in Nelson's Navy.
Other O'Brian Novels
O'Brian authored novels on a variety of subject matter. Here is a sampling of them.
How many Patrick O'Brian books have you read?
O'Brian Short Stories
O'Brian Tribute Sites
- In Memoriam by Geoff Hunt
A tribute to O'Brian by Geoff Hunt who created the cover art for each of the Aubrey-Maturin books.
- The Patrick O'Brian Compendium
A site honoring the author complete with glossaries, additional reference links and a comparison of the 2 most popular O'Brian biographies.
- Gunroom Guide to Patrick O'Brian
A very comprehensive guide to O'Brian web resources.
A collaborative project to provide "information and analysis intended to increase readers' understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of O'Brian's work and world."
Books Translated by Patrick O'Brian
In addition to writing his own novels, O'Brian also translated classic French works into English. Two of those are listed here...
Original French version by Simone de Beauvoir
Biographies of Patrick O'Brian
As noted above, O'Brian was very protective of his private life. In the interview video above, at the start of the question and answer session, the moderator tells the audience that all questions should be limited to his books only. When answering one of the questions, O'Brian states that he hopes a biography of him is never written.
Two unauthorized biographies were written about him...
An interesting biography of Patrick O'Brian that relates elements of O'Brian's life to his Aubrey and Maturin characters and their stories.
The author, Dean King, is well versed in the Aubrey-Maturin series and has also co-written two non-fiction companion books to the series.
Written by O'Brian's stepson, this biography covers the first half of O'Brian's life before he began writing the Aubrey-Maturin series.
Share your opinions of Patrick O'Brian's work in the comments below. What's your favorite O'Brian book?