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Why Keith Richards loves the 'Master and Commander' books

The Rolling Stones are esteemed for their unapologetic take on rock ‘n’ roll. Bursting onto the rhythm and blues scene in London in the early 1960s, the band arrived with an edge that set them apart from their peers: Keith Richards.

Danger and Keith Richards come hand in hand, and whether it be on stage, in the studio, or otherwise, he is well known as being music’s resident bad boy. Something akin to a musical Evel Knievel, he’s had many brushes with death over the years owing to excess and has come back from the brink on countless occasions. Bringing a genuine scent of danger into music, there will never be anyone like Keith Richards. 

This propensity for danger helped The Rolling Stones establish their USP, differentiating themselves from the sugary pop of The Beatles and the introspective soul of The Kinks. They appealed to anyone who had a penchant for the darker, raunchy side of rock and roll that was first championed by Chuck Berry.

Nothing was going to get in the way of them having a good time, the police, the media or otherwise. It was Richards who led the charge, and none of this would have happened without him, a testament to his rough and rowdy ways. 

There have been many instances of musicians who claim to live on the edge in public, but at home, they love nothing more than a mug of hot Horlicks and getting cosy under a blanket watching Friends. This is not Richards though. Even his detractors cannot argue that he is not genuine. To this day, he lives out the rock ‘n’ roll dream, something that puts many wannabees who are three times younger than him to shame. 

Although he has lived a wild life and one that has spawned countless insane anecdotes, every so often, Richards does allow himself a period of downtime, which is crucial for a man who has notoriously kept the wick lit at both ends. During these times of quiet, out of the media eye, the musician likes to keep himself busy by reading. The pictures of his vast library confirm this, and in terms of size, it gives us laymen something to aspire to. He loves fiction, non-fiction and everything in between.

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One thing is clear, though, he is a lover of tales set on the high-seas, which may come to little surprise, given his iconic pirate-esque garb, role in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and position as music’s resident swashbuckler. 

One of the series he loves the most is Patrick O’Brian’s classic Aubrey-Maturin series, the first of which is the iconic Master and Commander. The book was adapted into a celebrated feature-length film starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany in 2003. The 20 novel series is renowned for its well researched and detailed portrayal of early 19th-century life, so there’s no surprise that Richards loves it as he’s an avid lover of history. 

Of the books, he said: “You can never go wrong with any of Patrick O’Brian’s books. If you’ve seen the movie Master and Commander, it’s the first movie they made out of his books, they’re very, very interesting.”

If you’re ever struggling with what to read next, Richards is right. The Aubrey-Maturin series makes for a captivating experience, and for history lovers wanting to immerse themselves in the chaotic lives of seamen in the Napoleonic Wars, look no further. 

Watch Richards talk about the books below.