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Also, what else should one have to maximize their enjoyment of the series? I have seen a lexicon and an almanac mentioned, are these printed resources or are they online? Any other great tips for a newbie?
I have Harbors and High Seas which is the atlas, which has maps (usually more than one) for each book, A Sea of Words which is the lexicon (which also includes diagrams of ships), and (though I haven't read it yet The Frigate Surprise which is a beautifully illustrated (by the same artist who did the covers for the series) history of both the real and fictional career of the Surprise (apparently she was a real ship; O'Brian hands her off to Aubrey when she was decommissioned in reality.) Which one to prioritize depends on whether you're more baffled by nautical lingo or whether you'd rather have detailed maps available. Both of these are available in several editions; make sure you get the newest one or it will be incomplete.
The other companions I've heard of, but am not familiar with, are The World of Jack Aubrey and Lobscouse and Spotted Dog (a cookbook).
I've enjoyed Musical Evenings with the Captain both while reading and alone:
I've read perhaps six of the titles, and not in order, and encourage you to soldier on: O'Brian is good about clarifying terms, but not always the first time he uses them. I like this approach, as it means I've had the pump primed, and also that he doesn't interrupt the passage just to explain a new term. When he does explain it, it is very much in keeping with the tone of the tale, seldom seeming like an aside or an interruption, or a forced "conversation" between two characters.
Clearly, these books benefit from repeated reading, so it's a bit beside the point to try to get it all in one go.
Maturin is a good standin for the reader, especially early on, as the hopelessly clueless landlubber who knows no nautical terminology. But Maturin isn't always around, and isn't asking questions in the heat of battle or complicated maneuvering, so those explanations aren't always forthcoming when we might want them.
'Harbors and High Seas' is very useful too, and 'Lobscouse and Spotted Dog' is essential!
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