The best novels where ordinary people rise to a challenge with heroic courage

Who am I?

I believe all writers must have curious minds and be avid readers. I read my first real novel at age 11: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Conan Doyle. In retrospect, I realize that it sparked a love of novels that do more than simply tell a story. I crave narratives about coping with this thing called life, and about characters that do so with resilience and tenacious grit – usually against steep odds. As Hamlet put it: “I could be bound in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” For me, this quote is the soul of every great story.


I wrote...

Flight of the Fox

By Gray Basnight,

Book cover of Flight of the Fox

What is my book about?

A run-for-your-life thriller with a key difference. Sam Teagarden is not a macho secret agent or former Green Beret. He knows next to nothing about guns, and does not have a black belt in karate. He is a middle-aged man who works as a university math professor and cryptologist.   

Suddenly forced to flee his home with nothing but the clothes on his back, he uses his natural intelligence and will to survive while trying to learn who wants to kill him and why. He eventually learns there’s a connection with an encoded file in his inbox. When decrypted, he uncovers historic crimes committed by the FBI that, if released to the public, will forever alter American history.   

The books I picked & why

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The Bourne Identity

By Robert Ludlum,

Book cover of The Bourne Identity

Why this book?

I think of Ludlum as the master of page-turner suspense at its simplest. This thriller spawned a franchise that’s still going strong after more than four decades, an accomplishment I greatly respect.

While Jason Bourne is not an ordinary man, he is seriously handicapped by total amnesia. This clever invention of vulnerability taught me something important as a writer—be inventive, color outside the lines, keep the reader guessing, and keep the writing sharp!

For me, The Bourne Identity is the best study guide for writing thrillers, and an exciting ride as a reader.

The Bourne Identity

By Robert Ludlum,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jason Bourne is back in the forthcoming major motion picture starring Matt Damon and Alicia Vikander. Go back to where it all began for Bourne in his first adventure - The Bourne Identity

'Watch your back 007 - Bourne is out to get you' - Sunday Times

He was dragged from the sea, his body riddled with bullets. There are a few clues: a frame of microfilm surgically implanted beneath the skin of his hip; evidence that plastic surgery has altered his face; strange things he says in his delirium, which could be code words. And a number on the…


Deliverance

By James Dickey,

Book cover of Deliverance

Why this book?

I love to travel and frequently wonder how I’d react if an ordinary trip suddenly turned dangerous. In this novel, I learned that survival could mean being forever haunted by the experience.

Instead of a beer swilling weekend and white-water recreation, four suburbanites endure a Homeric odyssey into malevolent American darkness. Dickey’s story chronicles more than a dangerous adventure. It is extreme. It can be so extreme it challenges the reader’s tolerance.

And that gave me a powerful lesson in storytelling: do not shy away from breaking the boundaries of readerly comfort.

Deliverance

By James Dickey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“You're hooked, you feel every cut, grope up every cliff, swallow water with every spill of the canoe, sweat with every draw of the bowstring. Wholly absorbing [and] dramatic.”—Harper's Magazine

The setting is the Georgia wilderness, where the states most remote white-water river awaits. In the thundering froth of that river, in its echoing stone canyons, four men on a canoe trip discover a freedom and exhilaration beyond compare. And then, in a moment of horror, the adventure turns into a struggle for survival as one man becomes a human hunter who is offered his own harrowing deliverance.

Praise for…

The Magus

By John Fowles,

Book cover of The Magus

Why this book?

Like most people, I love a good scary story. Ironically, I consider this non-horror novel to be the scariest book ever written. That alone is an extraordinary accomplishment.

The Magus centers on a young teacher who moves to an isolated Greek island where he becomes so manipulated by a Svengali-type character that he loses his sense of self and even of reality.

For me, it did something else. Something personal. It got to me. It totally wigged me out. It triggered my own instinctive fears and apprehension about losing control to malicious mental trickery. Now that is scary.

The Magus

By John Fowles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Magus is the story of Nicholas Urfe, a young Englishman who accepts a teaching assignment on a remote Greek island. There his friendship with a local millionaire evolves into a deadly game, one in which reality and fantasy are deliberately manipulated, and Nicholas must fight for his sanity and his very survival.

Robinson Crusoe

By Daniel Defoe,

Book cover of Robinson Crusoe

Why this book?

How do I love this novel? Let me count the ways.

First, published in 1719, it’s by Daniel Defoe, the father of the English language novel to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude.

Second, it’s the best story ever written about playing the cards you’re dealt. Crusoe, as we all know, was stranded on a deserted island. What you may not know is that over 28 years he not only prevails, but creates a one-man utopian world through tenacious hard work and faith in himself and his God. This narrative taught me the importance of addressing obstacles with the means available.

Third, I love this novel for the sheer adventure of a great tale about surviving overwhelming isolation and hardship. Pandemic anyone?

Robinson Crusoe

By Daniel Defoe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Robinson Crusoe has a universal appeal, a story that goes right to the core of existence' Simon Armitage

Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, regarded by many to be first novel in English, is also the original tale of a castaway struggling to survive on a remote desert island.

The sole survivor of a shipwreck, Robinson Crusoe is washed up on a desert island. In his journal he chronicles his daily battle to stay alive, as he conquers isolation, fashions shelter and clothes, enlists the help of a native islander who he names 'Friday', and fights off cannibals and mutineers. Written in…


Treasure Island

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Book cover of Treasure Island

Why this book?

Simply the greatest adventure story ever. Jim Hawkins is about 12 years old and possessed of great personal character when he embarks on a journey filled with sailing ships, pirates, deserted islands, treasure, mutiny, and murder.

Between film, TV, theatre, video games, and radio, there have been several adaptions—including sequels and prequels. I’ve read and viewed many of them, but for me, the original novel is the most masterful and remains the most exciting.

It touched me as a child, again as a teenager, and still thrills me as an adult. I also love reading passages aloud to audiences. It never fails to thrill listeners, young and old, including me.

Treasure Island

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Treasure Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Penguin presents the audio CD edition of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Following the demise of bloodthirsty buccaneer Captain Flint, young Jim Hawkins finds himself with the key to a fortune. For he has discovered a map that will lead him to the fabled Treasure Island. But a host of villains, wild beasts and deadly savages stand between him and the stash of gold. Not to mention the most infamous pirate ever to sail the high seas . . .


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, islands, and Pirates?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about survival, islands, and Pirates.

Survival Explore 127 books about survival
Islands Explore 44 books about islands
Pirates Explore 55 books about Pirates

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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