I'm reading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin stories, in order. At the moment I've just finished Treason's Harbour, and am waiting for my next trip to the library to get The Far Side of the World. I find the books better than C. S. Forester's Hornblower series.
What's missing from the books are some footnotes, to let us know what's going on in the world. OK, you can pick up some of the things (like the War of 1812, which lasts through about five of the novels, each of which takes about a year of time), but it would be nice to have some more details. This was done best by George MacDonald Fraser in his Flashman series. The footnotes there could almost form a history book. If Harry didn't screw everything in sight we could probably get the school system to use the books.
There is some hope, though. A site called The Gunroom has much information about the series, including a timeline. I'd really like an annotation site, as been done with Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Maybe there's one out on the web already? If not, can someone with a better knowledge of Napoleonic history than mine set one up? Thanks.