In the world of literature, one particular genre resonates with readers of all backgrounds and tastes. Human beings love immersion, drama, a good story, and, yes, action. From witnessing a cat-and-mouse chase among spies and murderers to all-out military warfare, action tends to transfix and captivate.
Let’s look at the top 10 action books of all time that have entirely changed the landscape for the genre, setting the bar for adrenaline-inducing titles in the future.
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
We’re kicking off the list with a renowned author in the genre. Modern action lovers may have heard about Tom Clancy from the famous video game series. But little do they know, before the pop fame, The Hunt for Red October pioneered action-content consumption.
The read takes audiences into the Cold War setting, brimming with politics and naval warfare. It was published in 1984 and immediately established Tom Clancy as one of the most talented writers in the world.
The story revolves around Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius, who violates orders in an undetectable submarine heading for the U.S. The American government fights to determine if he’s trying to defect or start a war.
The beauty of the story lies in its riveting action sequences, Clancy’s attention to detail, and a high-stakes action at sea.
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
Next, we have a classic, personifying what can be achieved with the genre. Ludlum’s book introduces us to Jason Bourne, a character you might have heard of if you love cinema. The story takes us back to the protagonist suffering from amnesia, where he discovers that he is, in fact, a highly skilled operative with a perilous past. The mystery unravels as he navigates through his “Bourne” identity. In the process, Jason gets tangled in an international conspiracy.
The book was also adapted into the 2002 action thriller movie directed by Doug Liman. But make no mistake, the true essence of the action sequences is vividly experienced through Ludlum’s talents as an author. The impeccable pacing, high stakes, and conflict of international proportions are the perfect recipe for a fantastic action read.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
This next pick is a book that needs to be in every literature lover’s library, regardless of their love for action adventure. Dan Brown’s genius book, The Da Vinci Code, is well-known as a literary phenomenon that mixes art, history, and action in a delectable concoction for readers to consume. The story follows Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who is drawn into a head-scratching murder investigation at the Louvre.
Readers are invited along a complex narrative filled with hidden codes and peppered with symbols. In the process, Langdon discovers a deeper caveat to the investigation: a far-reaching conspiracy comprising secret societies, religious history, and a quest for a mysterious artifact.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Masterfully blending themes of crime and mystery, Larsson delivers one of the most iconic action reads of our time. The international bestseller features Lisbeth Slander, an unconventional hacker who teams up with investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist to help investigate the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. The duo dives deep into Vanger’s family secrets, discovering corruption, deceit, and myriad nuances to keep the reader engaged.
Larsson’s book, published in 2005, quickly became a fan-favorite, pushing the boundaries of how authors can incorporate action into a story full of mystery, intrigue, and danger.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Moving on from the crime/thriller aesthetic, we’re going prehistoric with this one. Jurassic Park is a cultural phenomenon written by Michael Chrichton. Published in 1990, it took a unique take on the action genre: resurrecting dinosaurs in a theme park. With ambitious storylines, it is easy for the writing to fall short of doing justice to the premise. However, Chrichton delivered in every aspect possible with Jurassic Park. The action sequences are incredibly immersive, even without the CGI-fueled J.A. Bayona and Steven Spielberg adaptions.
Jack Reacher Series by Lee Child
The read kicks off strong with Lee Child’s Killing Floor. With the author’s incredible writing prowess, the series consistently ups the stakes with each sequel and manages to become iconic. Jack Reacher is the star of the show. Reacher is a former military police major traveling through the United States, encountering conspiracies, corruption, and criminal activity, hailing his unique brand of justice. Reacher’s intense fight scenes keep the action fresh and engaging, and the audiences keep returning for more.
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Going back to the classics, The Three Musketeers is a look back into the action genre in the 1800s. The Three Musketeers was first serialized in 1844 and became an evergreen classic. Athos, Porthos, and Aramis welcome D’Artagnan, who engage in numerous duels, political drama, and intoxicating romantic adventures to supplement the action in the book. As the lot give it their all to defend the queen, we can’t help but be hooked to the novel.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Meet Robert Neville, the last living human in a world ravaged by vampiric creatures. As he fights for his survival, Neville makes futile attempts to find a cure for the pandemic that has destroyed humanity. The novel delves deep into loneliness, survival, and the plight of monsters and man. The supernatural elements in the book are incredibly engaging, giving the readers a rollercoaster ride to immerse themselves in.
Die Hard by Roderick Thorp
You can’t simply have a list of ten of the best action books of all time and not include Die Hard in it. Many will immediately associate Die Hard with the iconic film series. Not many are aware that it was, in fact, Roderick Thorp’s genius that was behind it all. The story revolves around Detective Joe Leland fighting terrorists in a Los Angeles skyscraper. Thorp’s skill as a writer is relentless, which exudes throughout the book—a must-have on everyone’s shelves.
Wichita U.S. Marshall by Jedediah Ravine
The last, but certainly not the least, on the list of top action books is a tale set in the action-western genre. It has everything you would want in a story: violence, love, adventure, intrigue, mystery, resolution, revenge, you name it. Jedediah Ravine brings you Wichita U.S. Marshall, a story taking you back to 1878, where a young man finds his way to Durango, Colorado, after years of service with the Texas Rangers and Pinkerton detective agency. Leaving behind a life of action and adventure, he aims to spend the rest of his life with his one true love.
Wichita dreamt of a family, of settling down; little did he know that in 1888, this dream would be shattered. Thus begins his mission to follow a trail of outlaws who left nothing but death and heartache behind in his home.
The book is available in audiobook format, adapting the sounds of the Wild West to provide users with an incredibly immersive experience. On top of that, we have the wise voice of Jedediah Ravine narrating the story, which is the icing on the cake.
Will Wichita be successful in his plight? Only one way to find out.
Wichita U.S. Marshall is now available on Amazon.