Paperback: The Line Upon a Wind, by Noel Mostert

Notable for self-sufficiency, humour and kindness, the British seaman is the real hero of this enthralling epic on the naval war that swept from the Nile to New Orleans between 1793-1815. We learn, for example, of Collins, a sailor who swam through seas "churning with shot" to take a line to a stricken vessel. Inevitably, Mostert's masterly narrative focuses on the protagonists of the era. Nelson's "ache for glory" always took him to the heart of the action. But before Trafalgar, he told midshipmen: "I shall not live to know about it myself." A great book for the beach, to be read within earshot of the breakers.