The best thrillers that will also make you laugh

G. Craig Vachon Author Of The Knucklehead of Silicon Valley
By G. Craig Vachon

Who am I?

My hero and mentor in life was my mother. She was a remarkable human being. Her lifelong coaching was that there were only two worthwhile pursuits in life: Learning and laughter. Comedic thrillers fulfill this maxim remarkably well. They ask you to think, while also reminding us that life is pretty funny when you can take a step away from the fray. (I am an entrepreneur and venture capitalist in Silicon Valley with over 7 million airline miles cumulatively. Yes, of course, my butt is entirely flat and fat.)  


I wrote...

The Knucklehead of Silicon Valley

By G. Craig Vachon,

Book cover of The Knucklehead of Silicon Valley

What is my book about?

Comedic-thriller examines Silicon Valley's unbridled innovation culture.

Ralph Gibsen isn’t your typical spy. In fact, he may not be a spy at all. He's lumpy, blundering, and abysmal at chatting up the fairer sex. Yet, he is attracting a significant amount of attention from the intelligence community. After all, as a 30-year Silicon Valley mainstay, he can phish your passwords, bust firewalls, and has developed software used by millions to circumvent government censorship. And now his world is closing in as he thinks he has stumbled upon a cabal who is pushing to misuse his own technology for world domination.

The books I picked & why

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The Road to Gandolfo

By Robert Ludlum,

Book cover of The Road to Gandolfo

Why this book?

I have always loved spy thrillers (Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum, John le Carre, Jason Mathews) because of the plot's intellectual twists and turns, and with the characters' struggle and moral flexibility necessary to survive. But in most spy thrillers, you know who the good guys are supposed to be. Ludlum’s The Road to Gandolfo (and sequel The Road to Omaha) takes an absurd (but plausible) turn on that contention. The characters are loveable and the comedy (plus thriller are equally) fast-paced. I laughed until I cried on more than one occasion while reading this (these) book(s). 

The Road to Gandolfo

By Robert Ludlum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Road to Gandolfo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

War hero and infamous ladies’ man General MacKenzie Hawkins is a living legend. His life story has even been sold to Hollywood. But now he stands accused of defacing a historic monument in China’s Forbidden City. Under house arrest in Peking with a case against him pending in Washington, this looks like the end of Mac’s illustrious career. But he has a plan of his own: kidnap the Pope. What’s the ransom? Just one American dollar—for every Catholic in the world. Add to the mix a slew of shady “investors,” Mac’s four persuasive, well-endowed ex-wives, and a young lawyer and…


Slow Horses

By Mick Herron,

Book cover of Slow Horses

Why this book?

When my editor (Harvard University’s Randy Rosenthal) first read my debut novel, his feedback was that my characters lacked enough significant flaws. “Readers want to share common ground and empathize with the characters in your novel. No one ever fell in love with a perfect character.” Herron’s novel has abundant characters with egregious flaws. And those flaws do make them so very intriguing. The plot is thick with manipulation and humor. Perhaps the best spy thriller written in the last 20 years. 

Slow Horses

By Mick Herron,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Slow Horses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Now a major TV series starring Gary Oldman*

'To have been lucky enough to play Smiley in one's career; and now go and play Jackson Lamb in Mick Herron's novels - the heir, in a way, to le Carre - is a terrific thing' Gary Oldman

Slough House is the outpost where disgraced spies are banished to see out the rest of their derailed careers. Known as the 'slow horses' these misfits have committed crimes of drugs and drunkenness, lechery and failure, politics and betrayal while on duty.

In this drab and mildewed office these highly trained spies don't run…


A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles,

Book cover of A Gentleman in Moscow

Why this book?

Towles' elegant prose is simply beautiful. I got lost in the deep relationships between his multi-layered characters. And his humor is understated, but wonderful. I’ve never wanted to meet a fictional character more than the protagonist in this terrific literary thriller. Having travelled to Moscow extensively, this novel’s setting was perfect.

A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked A Gentleman in Moscow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The mega-bestseller with more than 2 million readers, soon to be a major television series

From the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Lincoln Highway and Rules of Civility, a beautifully transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and…


Cryptonomicon

By Neal Stephenson,

Book cover of Cryptonomicon

Why this book?

Neal Stephenson makes his readers think and learn. I love the complexity of the plot. The shifting timelines. The assorted and wildly different locales. And Neal doesn’t let his characters take themselves too seriously. There are many laugh-out-loud moments throughout his thriller.

My absolute favorite endorsement of my novel was a thoughtful comparison to Cryptonomicon. Such very high praise.

Cryptonomicon

By Neal Stephenson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With this extraordinary first volume in an epoch-making masterpiece, Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

In 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse—mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy—is assigned to detachment 2702. It is an outfit so secret that only a handful of people know it exists, and some of those people have names like Churchill and Roosevelt. The mission of Waterhouse and Detachment 2702—commanded by Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe-is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence…


Just One Damned Thing After Another: The Chronicles of St. Mary's Book One

By Jodi Taylor,

Book cover of Just One Damned Thing After Another: The Chronicles of St. Mary's Book One

Why this book?

Time travel thrillers are fun because of the incredible imagination they take to make them feel real. Ms. Taylor does an incredible job making it feel not artificial, with all the warts, giggles, and feels that we humans all experience. Her historical research is impressive (as is her prodigious chocolate consumption, or so I am told). This series (and the characters therein) is thoughtful, intricate, and damn funny. I had a hard time putting it down, (and then bought the entire 13 book set). 

Just One Damned Thing After Another: The Chronicles of St. Mary's Book One

By Jodi Taylor,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Just One Damned Thing After Another as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Time Travel meets History in this explosive bestselling adventure series.

`So tell me, Dr Maxwell, if the whole of History lay before you ... where would you go? What would you like to witness?'

When Madeleine Maxwell is recruited by the St Mary's Institute of Historical Research, she discovers the historians there don't just study the past - they revisit it.

But one wrong move and History will fight back - to the death. And she soon discovers it's not just History she's fighting...

Follow the tea-soaked disaster magnets of St Mary's as they rattle around History. Because wherever the…


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Interested in time travel, popes, and kidnapping?

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