The best books for heart-pounding thrills

Who am I?

I grew up reading stories of heroes, of adventures in fantastical worlds, and my time in the Marines expanded my sensibilities, adding grit and an understanding of real-world crises and conflicts. Give me compelling characters, unique worlds, and fast pacing, and I’ll be up until the wee hours glued to the page. Those are the kind of books I featured in this list, as well as what I try to write. 


I wrote...

Fireline

By Anthony DeCapite,

Book cover of Fireline

What is my book about?

Shattered by his brother’s brutal murder, resourceful California convict Mason “Mace” Jones joins an inmate firefighting crew to exact revenge on the man who got away with it. Mace will make him pay, even if it costs his own life. Danger mounts as he takes on monstrous blazes, crooked correctional officers, and hired killers. But when Mace meets a daring female firefighter, he can’t help but dream of a life beyond his plan. As he fights to protect a town threatened by a deadly wildfire, he is forced to confront the equally destructive flames that burn within. Can Mace survive the crucible of the fireline?

The books I picked & why

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Dark Places

By Gillian Flynn,

Book cover of Dark Places

Why this book?

I love Flynn’s visceral style and this book blows me away every time I read it. The survivor of a brutal childhood trauma, protagonist Libby Day has a sardonic, hard-edged voice that sucks you in while also ringing clear and true. As a writer and a reader, I strongly identify with that voice and with Flynn’s style. The brisk pacing, clever turns of phrase, and hard-hitting descriptions make this an intense read. 

Dark Places

By Gillian Flynn,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dark Places as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE BESTSELLING PHENOMENON

'Eerily macabre... Wonderful' Guardian
'A nerve-fraying thriller' New York Times
'Every bit as horribly fascinating as In Cold Blood' Daily Mail

Libby Day was seven when her family was murdered: she survived by hiding in a closet - and famously testified that her older brother Ben was the killer.

Twenty-five years later the Kill Club - a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes - gets in touch with Libby to try to discover proof that may free Ben. Almost broke, Libby agrees to go back to her hometown to investigate - for a fee.

But when Libby's…


Ghosts of the Fireground: Echoes of the Great Peshtigo Fire and the Calling of a Wildland Firefighter

By Peter M. Leschak,

Book cover of Ghosts of the Fireground: Echoes of the Great Peshtigo Fire and the Calling of a Wildland Firefighter

Why this book?

I read this to get an authentic perspective on wildland firefighting for my novel, but I got so much more out of it than that. The book interweaves the author’s firsthand account of his crew’s battles during a hellacious fire season with the history of a priest saving townspeople from an infamous 1871 inferno. Those echoes of the past do a good job of supporting Leschak’s story, which is the real meat of the book.

Leschak is a legit badass as the commander of a helitack crew battling fires across a large region—but what I related to, deeply, was his approach to leadership, his intellectual struggle with organized religion, and his contemplative nature.

Ghosts of the Fireground: Echoes of the Great Peshtigo Fire and the Calling of a Wildland Firefighter

By Peter M. Leschak,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ghosts of the Fireground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In October 1871, a massive forest fire incinerated the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. It was the deadliest fire in North American history, an event so intense that its release of energy was not approximated until the advent of thermo-nuclear weapons. At least 1,200 people perished-some in bizarre and disturbing ways-and the actual number of fatalities is unknown, perhaps as many as 1,500 were lost. Since the Great Chicago Fire occurred at the same time, Peshtigo was overshadowed and almost forgotten.

In 2000, veteran wild-land firefighter Peter Leschak was faced with a hot and challenging fire season, tasked with the leadership…


Timeline

By Michael Crichton,

Book cover of Timeline

Why this book?

I like Michael Crichton’s novels because they dive deep into the science of their science fiction concepts. His books spring from the cutting edge of real science into speculative wonders, like cloning dinosaurs or quantum time travel. I learned a ton about quantum physics from Timeline—all while enjoying a fast-paced story with a ticking clock that kept me glued to the pages.

Even more, I was so enthralled by the gritty medieval world Crichton depicted that I was inspired to write my own medieval story. This became my first novel, a buddy-knight epic that I drafted when I should have been paying attention during various high school classes. Was my book any good? No. But it taught me what it took to write something significant from start to finish.

Timeline

By Michael Crichton,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Timeline as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this thriller from the author of Jurassic Park, Sphere, and Congo, a group of young scientists travel back in time to medieval France on a daring rescue mission that becomes a struggle to stay alive.
 
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
“Compulsive reading . . . brilliantly imagined.”—Los Angeles Times
 
In an Arizona desert, a man wanders in a daze, speaking words that make no sense. Within twenty-four hours he is dead, his body swiftly cremated by his only known associates. Halfway around the world, archaeologists make a shocking discovery at a medieval site. Suddenly they are swept off to…


The Stand

By Stephen King,

Book cover of The Stand

Why this book?

If you see this on a bookshelf, it looks intimidating. It’s a tome, to be sure. But The Stand is beloved for a reason. It’s an epic story of good versus evil that manages to feel biblical while still having nuance and compelling characters. The narrative of the main characters is propulsive, because you really care about them and root for them as they face terrifying odds. You’ll find it hard to put down even if you’ve read it many times over like I have. 

The Stand

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Stand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephen King's apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by virus and tangled in an elemental struggle between good and evil remains as riveting and eerily plausible as when it was first published.

Soon to be a television series.

'THE STAND is a masterpiece' (Guardian). Set in a virus-decimated US, King's thrilling American fantasy epic, is a Classic.

First come the days of the virus. Then come the dreams.

Dark dreams that warn of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of…


The Call of the Wild

By Jack London,

Book cover of The Call of the Wild

Why this book?

This is one of those books you’re supposed to have read growing up, but I never did. Instead, I read it during the pandemic—and I loved it. While it’s definitely a product of its time, it still holds up a hundred years later. It moves at such a fast clip, and the unsentimental, often brutal tribulations of the sled dog Buck kept me glued to the page. The quality of the writing and richness of the Yukon world adds to the intense ‘how’s he going to get through this’ tension. Plus, as a dog person, it’s always great reading a story about a dog or from a dog’s perspective. This is both.

The Call of the Wild

By Jack London,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Call of the Wild as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Puffin Classics bring together the best-loved stories to a new generation.

In The Call of the Wild life is good for Buck in Santa Clara Valley, where he spends his days eating and sleeping in the golden sunshine. But one day a treacherous act of betrayal leads to his kidnap, and he is forced into a life of toil and danger. Dragged away to be a sledge dog in the harsh and freezing cold Yukon, Buck must fight for his survivial. Can he rise above his enemies and become the master of his realm once again?

Jack London (1876-1916) was…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in good and evil, France, and dogs?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about good and evil, France, and dogs.

Good And Evil Explore 88 books about good and evil
France Explore 689 books about France
Dogs Explore 272 books about dogs

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Hot Zone, The Glass Castle, and The Lord of the Rings if you like this list.