The best thriller novels with fast-paced action scenes

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a thriller author – and a former karate champion, bouncer, and soldier – and I’ve always loved action, both on the page and on the screen. My whole life, I’ve enjoyed books that deliver the same kind of visceral thrills as a blockbuster action movie. Pacing is the key here, and I feel that too many books can drag in places. And that’s why plotting is also so important – because you need a story that really hooks the reader in, to provide a reason for the action. This is what all the novels on my list accomplish so well, and also what I try and achieve in my own work.


I wrote...

The Thousand Dollar Man

By J.T. Brannan,

Book cover of The Thousand Dollar Man

What is my book about?

The Thousand Dollar Man is a myth. An urban legend, his appearance prayed for by the poor and downtrodden of the United States. They say he goes from town to town, helping people who have problems. Any kind of problems.

They put adverts in their local paper, put notices up in the local stores, always hoping that one day he will walk through their town and see them, act upon them. And if he does – and as long as the client can gather the money to pay – their problems will disappear. All he asks for is one thousand dollars a job. Whatever it is. Whatever it takes.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of First Blood

J.T. Brannan Why did I love this book?

I could have chosen any one of several titles by David Morrell, but the novel which had the most influence on my own writing is First Blood. This is one of the classics of the action thriller genre, and one of my all-time favorite novels. Morrell not only introduces us to Rambo – and where would the action genre be without this character? – but also spends equal time with Teasle, the chief of police who proves to be his nemesis. The constant movement between the two main characters adds not only pace and drive to the narrative, but also pathos, allowing us to explore their characters and what motivates them to their violence. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys fast-paced action-adventure novels – and if you think you know the character from the movies, you might just be in for a surprise.

By David Morrell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?



From New York Times bestselling author, David Morrell, comes a classic thriller that introduced the character of Rambo, one of the most iconic action heroes of the twentieth century.

Called “the father of the modern action novel,” FIRST BLOOD changed the genre. Although the book and the film adaptation have similarities, they are very different, especially its unexpected ending and its greater intensity.If you’ve only experienced the film, you’re in for a surprise.

Once they were soldiers. Rambo, the ragged kid whose presence in town is considered a threat. And Teasle, the Chief of Police of Madison, Kentucky. Both have…


Book cover of Clear and Present Danger

J.T. Brannan Why did I love this book?

Can a novel of more than eight hundred pages ever be said to be fast-paced? Well, somehow Tom Clancy manages it with this, his fifth – and in my opinion, best – novel. He not only describes the political backdrop with well-researched erudition, but also manages to convey the adrenaline-fueled nature of small-unit military operations as well as anyone I’ve ever read. This was very influential on the way I write, and I still remember the effect it had on me even now, thirty years later. A superb book, and a fantastic introduction to the world of Jack Ryan.

By Tom Clancy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Clear and Present Danger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Don't Miss the Original Series Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan Starring John Krasinski!

In this #1 New York Times bestselling thriller from Tom Clancy, Jack Ryan gets caught in a war between the United States and a Colombian drug cartel and uncovers a shocking conspiracy.

When Colombian drug lords assassinate both the U.S. ambassador and the visiting head of the FBI, their actions trigger a covert response from the American government—a response that goes horribly wrong...

As the newly named Deputy Director of Intelligence for the CIA, Jack Ryan should be privy to operations like the one in Colombia, but he’s…


Book cover of Memorial Day

J.T. Brannan Why did I love this book?

My personal favorite of Vince Flynn’s action-packed Mitch Rapp series, this sees the CIA counter-terror agent foil a plot by al-Qaeda to detonate a stolen nuclear device in Washington D.C. Flynn knows how to write a rattling yarn, and the pace is frenetic, moving like a freight train towards its explosive climax – exactly how an action thriller should be.

By Vince Flynn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When the CIA receives word about an upcoming terrorist attack, they immediately look towards their superagent Mitch Rapp to do whatever it takes to protect American lives in this “page-flipping extravaganza” (Publishers Weekly) from the #1 New York Times bestselling author Vince Flynn.

Just as Washington, DC, prepares for a grand Memorial Day tribute to the veterans of World War II, the CIA receives intelligence about a potential major terrorist attack. Racing to Afghanistan, Mitch Rapp leads a commando raid on an Al-Qaeda stronghold in a remote border village—and defuses plans for a nuclear strike on the nation’s capital. But…


Book cover of Where Eagles Dare

J.T. Brannan Why did I love this book?

MacLean wrote this novel at the same time he wrote the screenplay for the movie – starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood – and you can tell; it’s almost like seeing a movie on the page. This is also how I try and write my action sequences – I want the reader to visualize everything, and feel that same kinetic sensation that you get from the cinema. MacLean achieves this beautifully with this classic novel, but not only does he sell us the action scenes, he also has a fantastic plot that keeps the audience engaged even when the bullets aren’t flying.

By Alistair MacLean,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The classic World War II thriller from the acclaimed master of action and suspense.

Winter 1943, and US General Carnaby has been captured by the Nazis. He is being held in a fortress high in the Bavarian Alps. headquarters of the German Secret Service, and in his head are plans for the invasion of Normandy.

A special team of British commandos, a US Army ranger and a female secret agent is hurriedly assembled. Their mission: parachute into the area, break in to the alpine Castle, and rescue General Carnaby before the Germans can interrogate him.

But unknown to all, there…


Book cover of The Terminal List

J.T. Brannan Why did I love this book?

The most recently published novel on my list, but it brings exactly the same qualities to the table – incredible action scenes which are held together by a plot that really works. I really enjoyed the story, but where the novel really shines is in the author’s obvious knowledge and expertise about what he writes. He’s been there and done that, and it shows – not only in the little details and insider knowledge he transmits, but in the wider context of how people react psychologically under combat conditions. This elevates The Terminal List above many other similar works, and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting a truly exciting action thriller, with a heart.

By Jack Carr,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Terminal List as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**SOON TO BE A TV SERIES STARRING CHRIS PRATT**

'With a particular line in authentic tradecraft, this fabulously unrelenting thrill-ride was a struggle to put down' Mark Dawson, bestselling author of The Cleaner

James Reece has nothing to live for and everything to kill for in the debut thriller from former Navy SEAL Jack Carr, perfect for fans of Lee Child and David Baldacci.

On deployment in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Commander James Reece's entire team is killed in a catastrophic ambush. But the deaths don't stop there, and Reece soon discovers that this was not an act of war by a…


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Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

What is my book about?

Stopping Russian Aggression with milk, coal, and candy bars….

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians will starve unless they receive food, medicine, and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour, and children’s shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in the West. Until General Winter deploys on the side of Russia...

Based on historical events, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader delivers an insightful, exciting and moving tale about how former enemies became friends in the face of Russian aggression — and how close the Berlin Airlift came to failing under the assault of “General Winter.”

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

What is this book about?

Fighting a war with milk, coal and candy bars....

In the second book of the Bridge to Tomorrow Series, the story continues where "Cold Peace" left off.

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians in Hitler's former capital will starve unless they receive food, medicine and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour and children's shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in…


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