The best political thrillers that promote peaceful solutions to the world’s most challenging problems

Who am I?

I quit my job in 1994 to write. Fiction. It took me a while to find my niche, but what I realized is that I wanted to write political thrillers that were about more than how to stop the bad guys from killing the good guys by killing them first. There is another way. Starting with Priority One, and continuing to what is currently my tenth novel in the series, I imagine an American foreign policy that promotes the building of a more peaceful world through a combination of economic justice and humanitarianism, applied practically and pragmatically. It’s my dream for my fiction, as well as the real world.

I wrote...

Priority One

By Bryant Wieneke,

Book cover of Priority One

What is my book about?

The first novel in Bryant Wieneke's groundbreaking series of contemporary political thrillers, Priority One, unfolds in the Sahara Desert. Water expert Kendall Jackson Smith is pressed into action when a Homeland Security agent informs him that terrorists are producing weapons-grade uranium in West Africa. Distracted by a mysterious and beautiful Russian agriculturalist, Smith walks a tightrope between his principles and the need to avert catastrophe. As a Stealth bomber makes its way toward the enrichment plant, this riveting novel explores the question of how much violence is required to deter violence in the complex world of global terrorism.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Cat's Cradle

Bryant Wieneke Why did I love this book?

Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite writer of political fiction because he makes me laugh, even as he describes a totally screwed-up world. He grounds the reader in an absurd reality and then has his characters either ignore this reality or overcome it through bizarre means. Vonnegut is intolerant of greed and selfishness and violence, making all of these seem absurd in the extreme, then he takes us back through his sublimely creative fiction to simple truths. He gives his readers a wonderful gift: hope based ultimately on our humanness, humility, and sense of humor. 

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Cat's Cradle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of America's greatest writers gives us his unique perspective on our fears of nuclear annihilation


Told with deadpan humour and bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut's cult tale of global destruction preys on our deepest fears of witnessing Armageddon and, worse still, surviving it.


Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding fathers of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he is the inventor of ice-nine, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker's three eccentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to…

Book cover of Eye of the Needle

Bryant Wieneke Why did I love this book?

I have been transfixed by this novel for as long as I can remember. It describes in compelling detail the complexities of global politics and the human cost of war. Follett sets this novel during World War II and presents the intrigue of spies trying to outwit spies, as well as ingenious people using remarkable survival skills to stay alive. The characters are as compelling as the storyline, and the prose catapults the reader forward. Eye of the Needle was the book that made me want to write political thrillers.

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The worldwide phenomenon from the bestselling author of The Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, A Column of Fire, and The Evening and the Morning

His code name was "The Needle." He was a German aristocrat of extraordinary intelligence-a master spy with a legacy of violence in his blood, and the object of the most desperate manhunt in history. . . .

But his fate lay in the hands of a young and vulnerable English woman, whose loyalty, if swayed, would assure his freedom-and win the war for the Nazis. . . .

Book cover of Hard Rain

Bryant Wieneke Why did I love this book?

As I set about the task of writing political thrillers, I read many gifted novelists in this genre. I found that the plots often revolved around shoot-‘em-ups and egregiously evil militant groups. Barry Eisler is an exception. He is a superb writer who casts a talented and likeable character into a career as an assassin. John Rain chooses this life because his actions deter greater acts of violence. And isn’t that the choice many of us face in the modern world? Isn’t going to war about saving lives by killing the bad guys? In my books, I try to be sensitive to the issue that peace does not come easy in a violent world, and sometimes the trade-offs to secure peace are not at all pleasant.

By Barry Eisler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hard Rain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Previously published as Hard Rain and Blood from BloodAll John Rain wants is to get out of the killing business. But with his discretion, his reliability, and his unique talent for death by "natural causes," no one is willing to let him just retire. So when an old nemesis from the Japanese national police force comes to him with a new job-eliminate Murakami, a killer even more fearsome than Rain himself-Rain knows he can't refuse.Aided by an achingly desirable half Brazilian, half Japanese exotic dancer he knows he shouldn't trust, Rain pursues his quarry through underground no-holds-barred fight clubs, mobbed-up…

Book cover of Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?

Bryant Wieneke Why did I love this book?

Destined for War is a brilliant study of the circumstances surrounding the global economic competition between the U.S. and China, with the goal of predicting whether or not war is likely. This is a real-life political thriller. Allison cites cases throughout history of a pre-eminent economic power being challenged for supremacy, and then describes why, in many cases, the competition became fierce enough to erupt into war. He also describes situations in the past where there was no war, and he explains how and why war was avoided. To me, as a fiction writer, who actually pushes the U.S. and China to the brink of war in his novels, this book was an important education and resource.

By Graham Allison,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Destined for War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Sunday Times and FT Book of the Year

When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one, the most likely outcome is war.

In this razor-sharp analysis, Harvard scholar Graham Allison examines the phenomenon known as Thucydides's Trap, which is currently playing out between the world's two biggest superpowers: the US and China.

Through uncanny historical parallels, Destined for War shows how close we are to the unthinkable. Yet, stressing that war is not inevitable, Allison also reveals how clashing powers have kept the peace in the past - and what painful steps international leaders can and must…

Book cover of Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India

Bryant Wieneke Why did I love this book?

If I want to write novels that promote steps toward peaceful solutions to seemingly intractable global problems, I must invoke Mahatma Gandhi’s spirit. His practical application of nonviolence was pivotal to achieving India’s independence from England, and it is a model for us all. In Great Soul, Lelyveld depicts a man beset by doubt, who recognized his own fallibility, and yet he was able to change the world – without violence and without sacrificing his principles. I would hope that in reading this excellent biography, I have learned something about how to get things done peacefully in our complex world, and to imagine a better day.

By Joseph Lelyveld,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Great Soul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A highly original, stirring book on Mahatma Gandhi that deepens our sense of his achievements and disappointments—his success in seizing India’s imagination and shaping its independence struggle as a mass movement, his recognition late in life that few of his followers paid more than lip service to his ambitious goals of social justice for the country’s minorities, outcasts, and rural poor.

Pulitzer Prize–winner Joseph Lelyveld shows in vivid, unmatched detail how Gandhi’s sense of mission, social values, and philosophy of nonviolent resistance were shaped on another subcontinent—during two decades in South Africa—and then tested by an India that quickly learned…

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By Laurie Woodford,

Book cover of Unsettled

Laurie Woodford

New book alert!

What is my book about?

At the age of forty-nine, Laurie Woodford rents out her house, packs her belongings into two suitcases, and leaves her life in upstate New York to relocate to Seoul, South Korea. What begins as an opportunity to teach college English in Asia evolves into a nomadic adventure.

Laurie spoon-feeds orphans in Ethiopia, performs 108 bows at a Buddhist mountain temple, walks shelter dogs in Peru, milks goats in Fuerteventura, and gets lost in Mexico, all the while navigating dating at midlife.

After four years of traveling, Laurie’s return “home” becomes an unexpected adventure of its own when she ends up in Arkansas and meets Bruce, a bird-loving, bearded Quaker, and then struggles to reconcile her need for freedom with her longing to feel settled.


By Laurie Woodford,

What is this book about?

At the age of forty-nine, driven by an urgent restlessness, Laurie Woodford rents out her house, packs her belongings into two suitcases, and relocates to Asia. What begins as an opportunity to teach college English overseas, evolves into a nomadic adventure as Laurie works and volunteers in South Korea, Ethiopia, Peru, Spain, and Mexico. After four years of traveling, Laurie's return "home" to the U.S. becomes an unexpected adventure of its own when she ends up in Arkansas and meets Bruce, a bird-loving, bearded Quaker, who challenges her to reconcile her life of fierce independence with her longing to feel…

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